Argentina lost to Germany today and it made me sad. I didn’t know that I cared. But my roommate got Argentina’s national team logo tattooed on his forearm and because I care about my roommate I care about Argentina. He actually went further than the tattoo. He convinced a local bar that never opened before 4pm to let him open the bar early every day and show the games. He plastered the Mission with posters wheatpasted over advertisements for 3-D movies. He bought several flat-screen TVs (and stole my projector) and created something of a sensation, especially for Argentina fans. Their motto: Every Game. Every Day.
Today they were standing on the street watching through the windows because they couldn’t all fit inside. Waiters who weren’t really waiters brought the people on the sidewalk eggs and coffee. And there was Germany, methodically pushing the ball up the field, their best player a Turkish striker that looks like Peter Lorrie. In the worst moments it was like World War II and Argentina was Belgium. Except, World War II Germany wouldn’t have a Turkish player on the national team. Or a black player…
It seemed like the Germans always had one more player in position, and they didn’t need to look around to know where their teammates were; they had run drills. Perhaps they had been training blindfolded. And Argentina, all blue and white and long haired and beautiful…
Last night, in preparation, his younger brother and sister and her boyfriend and their parents and all their friends filled the front of our apartment. There was a cake and someone cooked empanadas. Someone else brought pizza. The younger brother and his friends had been working the bar with him since the beginning of the tournament, the owners never arrived and the story of how my roommate convinced a bar owner to turn over his bar to my roommate (who is sober) and his alcoholic younger brother and his college friends is a story I’ll never understand. They’ve been sleeping on the floor and the couches. I step over them in the middle of the night. When I see them at the bar they don’t charge me for Ginger-ale or nachos. I think they were afraid I wouldn’t want eight people sleeping in the living room, but I liked it.
When the game was over all the girls surrounded my roommate’s younger brother. He had been out all night drinking and hadn’t gone to sleep. They wanted to comfort him. He was smiling, because he’s always smiling, well adjusted and happy. Different from my roommate, who is wonderful but also slightly tense, who is hard on himself sometimes. In a couple of years the younger brother will have to start going to meetings or he’ll wind up in a bad place, but right now he’s young and handsome and doesn’t seem to feel the strain. The girls huddled around him, older women as well. They wanted to hug him. They wanted to get their picture taken.
My roommate stood by the door to the bar smoking a cigarette. He’d been crying. Just three weeks ago or something he’d stood in our kitchen talking about what a “good team” they were. He said, “we’ve got a good team,” and he meant my other roommate and his brother and also his younger sister who was bartending and probably too young to drink. Everybody else was drunk and this morning when I hugged him after he had stopped crying, though his face was still wet and red and the tears seemed to have dug canals in his cheeks exaggerating the lines on the side of his mouth, I told him he was the drunk whisperer. He was able to take drunks and persuade them to run a bar. He was like a one-armed general leading an army of misfits. He’d created the best bar in the state of California to watch a soccer game, particularly if you were an Argentina fan, and they came. The sidewalks were thick with them, their faces painted blue and white, holding flags. Some wore blue button shirts, or wigs. The walls had tourney brackets pasted and deliberately filled out. There was a section for sitting and a section for standing crushed together, which is of course the best way to watch a game, and he had built this from nothing and for no other reason except the World Cup was the most important thing in his life.
I should say, I don’t understand why that is. Why soccer could be so important that someone would tattoo a team logo in full color on their forearm. But it doesn’t matter. It makes more sense than war. And it makes more sense than tax breaks for the rich. It probably makes more sense than writing a book, but I’m not ready to think about that. To love something that much, or even to watch someone so in love, is a sight. I thought I should film my roommate at the glass door. It was so hot outside, and inside. Everything felt like a construction site. I had even set my alarm for the game on a Saturday. Because that kind of passion is contagious. And it made me think that it’s worth it to build things and I felt good about something having to do with people in general even if I wasn’t sure what that thing I felt good about was. And then I went home and I went back to sleep.
p.s. Saturday is one of the best days to make a donation.
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