I was pleased to get your card a few months back. I’d almost forgotten what your handwriting looked like; you have granddaddy’s handwriting. I think that’s the first letter you’ve ever written me. Isn’t it odd that you can know someone for so long--our entire lives in fact--and never once write them a letter?
In direct contrast to that, I have friends who I’ve known for much shorter stretches of time where the majority of our relationship is built almost entirely on written correspondence. I think you share different parts of yourself when you write someone a letter. The person I am face to face, over text, on the phone, in Instagram DMs, is entirely different from the person that I am when I sit down to write someone a letter.
I thought I’d write you this letter because I don’t have enough energy to write enough text messages to encompass my excitement for the World Cup and I haven’t had time to call you on the phone so I thought this might be the most effective means of communication.
I’ve been giddy since last Thursday. The timing of the group stage has made it so that I’m able to watch the first half of the first day’s match on my bus in to work. I’ve gotten better at controlling my outbursts for every missed shot and dramatic foul but haven’t gotten so good that I’m not at least a little entertaining to the folks around me.
When I watch the World Cup, I feel like I’m a kid again. I remember how much I love the sport. Not the league drama or the player history or the national pride--though that’s all great and adds an extra dimension to enjoying the matches--but just the touch and pass and pace and movement of a game. After the 2026 announcement, I saw a tweet that said it doesn’t matter how old I am when the World Cup finally comes to America because I’ll be the same age I was when I saw my first World Cup match, the same age I am for every World Cup match.
Every time a World Cup comes around, I think about being at a soccer clinic at the fields out by the airport when they played the final match of the 2002 World Cup and watching it under the tin roof of the concession stand while it rained (admittedly, in the middle of a field under a scrap of metal is probably not the best place for a bunch of children to take shelter during a thunderstorm). After Brazil won, the rain stopped and we got to take shots on goals for the rest of the afternoon, diving in mud puddles. I don’t remember which side we were rooting for but it just felt like we were celebrating getting to play the game.
I’ve had to do a lot of explaining the last few weeks about why I love soccer so much. I talk about the sport as much as I talk about any sport--which is not at all--so I guess people need some context for my passion. I talk about growing up in a soccer family, knowing all of the refs by name, growing up playing with the same kids all the way up until high school, inheriting tournament shirts and old socks and that one Brandi Chastain poster from Katie (which, if anyone knows where that still is, I will pay to have it framed and shipped to me in DC).
In high school, some guy who played for the boy’s team made me feel like I didn’t get to be a real soccer fan because I didn’t follow the Premier League, because I’d never been to a professional match, because I didn’t own a Barça jersey. For a stupid amount of years, I didn’t talk about soccer because I didn’t feel like I had enough to say (I still refuse to follow the Premier League, based mostly on principle). But when it’s the World Cup, I don’t have to worry about league politics or team standings or favorite players: people the world over who’ve never watched a match can sit down and enjoy the sport. I could say that I’m rooting for this team because I like their jerseys or that team because their keeper is a babe and I don’t have to justify myself to some 16 year old idiot.
All of this to say that I am unapologetically enjoying the World Cup. I wish we could be watching it together but I can’t wait for 2026 when we get to go here at home.