Not long ago I was talking to a neighbor about soccer.
About the intensity, the passion, and the excitement. About how the World Cup tournament actually starts two years prior with qualifying games and friendlies. About how the Jools' household nervously gathers around the television to watch the all-important draw, the event where teams are placed into their groups. About how we collectively hold our breaths hoping that Argentina doesn't end up in a "Group of Death." About how that day is more or less the official kick-off of the tournament and it's when the pounding hearts, shallow breaths, and the dreams begin once again.
The countdown starts. Banners, flags, and decorations fill the house. The giant white erase board is nailed to the wall next to the flat screen. There are empanadas and barbeques and Dulce de Leche. Team jerseys are worn, scarves are wrapped around necks even though it's summer, and there is a continuous analysis of both past and present teams, stories of games told and retold.
"Maybe this is the year," we whisper. "Just maybe...."
Argentina has always been our team. Mr. Jools is from Argentina and our two daughters have passionate Argentine soccer hearts. We usually watch every one of those 64 games in the tournament. It's fun research, and we are looking ahead, seeing what teams need to be knocked out, what teams we need to be worried about.
This year the World Cup was incredible, with so many exciting moments. So many stories and so much drama. Tim Howard in the goal box. Costa Rica. Mexico pushing through. Holland looking fierce. Germany looking strong and focused. James Rodriguez. And then there were the surprises: Spain, Italy, and England all losing in the group stage and going home early. And, of course, Brazil's epic meltdown.
But back to my neighbor....
She didn't understand and she dismissed the conversation with, "Well, over all these years, surely you've come to realize that there's more to life than just a game."
It took me a little while to figure out what she was really saying. It wasn't just a matter of not understanding the sport, it was a matter of not understanding what it means to so many people around the world.
It's love, pure and simple.
And with love come all those emotions: passion and excitement and hope.
And, of course, heartbreak.
Buttercup: You mock my pain!
Man in Black: Life is pain, Highness.
When it's all said and done, I've come to realize that soccer is mostly about pain. And this World Cup, at least for us, was no different. Argentina made it into the Final only to lose to Germany in overtime.
So what does any of this have to do with writing and the 44 series?
Well, everything. Love and pain and happiness and agony are always at the heart of a good story. And
Book 10 is coming soon.....