World Cup Massacre

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World Cup Massacre

I was sitting in Gate E at Logan Airport, waiting for my plane and reading through the Apache massacre section of “Blood Meridian” when the Germany vs. Brazil World Cup semifinal game started. My wife and I had just finished eating lunch at the airport bar that boasted the terminal’s only six televisions and, though we’d been following the tournament with the same sort of in-principle fervor that most soccer fans do once their team has been booted, we knew we’d have to sit and drink if we wanted to be allowed to stay and watch. The Smuttynose Porter was good, but we were full and tired from a straight week of traveling in the North Atlantic — tack on the fact that the Puerto Rican businessman sitting next to us was already getting a very weird variety of hammered on steady stream of light beer, Diet Coke and pinot noir, and it felt time to duck out.

Before the first goal was scored, a three-deep semicircle of people was gathered around the two frontmost monitors at the bar, unconsciously mimicking the environment and atmosphere around the FIFA Fan Zone on Brazil’s beach. There were different team jerseys sprinkled throughout the crowd — they were in the same boat as me — but predominantly, predictably, an almost 50/50 mix of red and white to yellow and blue. All of the servers, bussers and cooks — plus one bartender — at the restaurant wore Brazil jerseys.

There would be cheers no matter who scored, so when the crowd huzza’d after Thomas Muller knocked a slick little side-foot shot past keeper Julio Cesar, I barely paid attention; ditto for Miroslav Klose’ follow-up shot off a ricochet from a saved goal by Cesar. But after the two quick successive goals Toni Kroos hammered home, people around me started to get up and go see what all the excitement was about. I was about to join them when my wife, already having taken to the “Explore the World Cup” bar on Twitter, blurted out “Holy s***, Germany is up 4-0!” This was at about the 26-minute mark.

By now, you’ve all heard the story, watched the highlights, witnessed the fallout. Germany would continue the beating, eventually winning the match 7-1. Even for those who don’t follow soccer — nay, especially for those who don’t follow soccer — the sheer magnitude of the ass-kicking that took place that day was evident. In boxing, it would be like knocking a man out six times with one punch. By the time the Germans made it 6-0 in the second half, Cesar’s “attempts” at blocking the shots looked like Daria playing volleyball during the show’s opening credits.

Along the way, several records were set, several milestones touched: it was Brazil’s first home loss since a 1975 defeat to Peru, breaking their 62-match home win streak; it was the worst defeat in World Cup semifinal history; with their appearance here, Germany set the mark for most semifinal appearances at 12; Klose scored his 16th goal, now a standalone record, and Kroos’ two goals in 60 seconds will perhaps never be matched.

The fallout has been immense, telling. Germany went on to capture the title in a long-scoreless thriller against Argentina, while Brazil would lose the third-place match against a Netherlands team that was openly grumbling about not wanting to play.

Brazil’s formerly beloved coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari, will probably be fired; scapegoats are an essential part of this equation. In a way, I can’t help but think that Brazil as a nation, in the context of the World Cup, had this coming. The lead-up to the tournament has been nothing short of controversial, with mishandled logistics and sometimes violent protests by Brazilian citizens against the economic sacrifices made by their government for what was seen by many to be a blatant publicity grab; it doesn’t bode well for the nation’s Olympic preparations and, indeed, London is being prepped as a backup.

It’s hard to say that someone, let alone a nation, deserves misery. But this is a multi-tiered cautionary tale against pinning hopes on a single event or entity: Brazil as a nation based their economic well-being and socio-political good standing on the execution of these games; the team based their success on Neymar and Thiago Silva, both of whom were absent in the Germany loss (the team would have probably still been routed, all things considered), and completely fell apart when their two prime leaders and attention-getters were out of commission. Fans — and Brazilians are not alone here — saw escapism in their team’s success; each match was an opportunity to experience the sort of fleeting elation life so seldom has to offer most of us.

For sure, we’re all guilty of this, whether it pertains to politics, sports, relationships or work: “If I could just have this…” or “If this would just happen…,” then everything will turn out alright in the end. For the lucky few, maybe so. For the rest of us, should we enter such mindsets retaining little of our good sense, the results can be jarring, ugly. We’ll turn on what we previously loved, as the Brazilian fans did, jeering, booing, walking out on that which we had only just professed to love.