I forget which Life-Changing World Cup Event it was when I had this conversation the other day - probably Luis Suarez - but it went like this:
"This has to be the weirdest World Cup ever."
"We're only in the first round. Maradona didn't hand the ball until the quarterfinals. Zidane didn't head-butt Materazzi until the Final. We haven't SEEN weird yet."
Well, as I write this, there are two games left. They could be 1-0 games that make Blackburn-Sunderland look like Brazil-Italy 1970, and this would still be the wildest tournament of my lifetime.
This one even lulled us into a false sense of security. "Okay, we all had fun with Costa Rica and Colombia, but now it's the semifinals and we've got four perennial powers. Order has been restOH MY GOD WHAT IS HAPPENING"
Historically, while World Cup Finals themselves can be tense, exciting, but objectively terrible games because of the pressure, semifinals are a different matter. You can usually depend on at least one amazing, glorious game out of the final three.
What you don't get is what happened yesterday. As suspense in semifinals go, this was the worst one since the first one, when in 1930 Argentina won a stroller that helped make American soccer what it is today.
(Okay, that sixty or seventy year pause for breath probably wasn't Argentina's fault. But it didn't help.)
Early indications are that this was a watershed moment, if not a Katrina moment, for Brazilian football. Yesterday replaced 1950 as the before/after moment when recounting Brazilian - well, you know what, I'll go on and say history.
That may seem childishly irresponsible, but a win would have papered over a lot of the cracks in the world game and in Brazilian society. We read a lot about the incredible social and economic injustice leading up to the tournament...and, if you're anything like me, you weren't even aware you were ignoring it once the games started. Needless to say, games being played didn't do a damn thing to ameliorate any of the pain the World Cup actually inflicted on Brazil. All that was left was for Brazil to actually win the tournament...and with many of the other favorites left in a ditch, that seemed like a safe bet. A World Cup win might well have been "worth it."
Hey, remember how the Saints winning the Super Bowl made Katrina all better? You don't? That's weird.
Well, whatever tangible or intangible benefits a World Cup win would have brought to Brazil will have to wait for another day. Maybe a World Cup win would have been worth it, but emptying the favelas and bankrupting a nation for the privilege of hosting the worst semifinal loss in World Cup history?
The only way it could get worse for Brazil is if Argentina wins.
I've sat through a lot of games where my high hopes were dashed to smithereens within smithereens. Although this is very much a case of the man with no shoes meeting the man with no feet. Or, in this case, 23 men with no feet.
In any case, I know better than to tell fans to look for a silver lining in a loss like this. But the fact remains that while the game itself is wonderful, the game off the field is broken. When the circus goes this bad, it's time to ask who's taking all the bread. At the very least, Sepp Blatter will not be standing in front of the Brazil team on Sunday pretending the cheers were for him.
And enjoy this World Cup while we can. The next one will have both Blatter and Vladimir Putin.