Before every game, Jensen listens to “Stacy’s Mom.”
No, not the cheap, half-assed cover by Bowling for Soup—the real fucking deal, the original, the best by Fountains of Wayne. And Jensen knows it might be wrong, but he’s in love with Stacy’s mom. This is how intensely he loves that song; he knows every line, will quote it at any opportunity regardless of relevance, and recalls the music video fondly. He remembers when it used to play on MTV all the time—fuck, he remembers when MTV actually played music—and those were the glory days.
Greatness is always underappreciated.
But results are results. In their match against Ecuador last October, what was he playing on his iPod right before? Stacy, can’t you see, you’re just not the girl for me. Two to one—I’m all grown up now, baby can’t you see?—and that’s all that mattered. They qualified for the Cup with that game.
As he waits with the rest of the team, tinkering around in the locker room, he has Stacy playing full blast in his ear buds. They’ve been in Brazil for three weeks now, having arrived a few days earlier than the kickoff celebrations. Their first game was against Australia, who held out longer than previously predicted. Today they get to serve the Spanish some humble pie.
Spain won the 2010 World Cup, in a match against Holland that Jensen watched, screaming at a television in a Dallas bar. Soccer has always been his thing. When his parents moved them from Texas to Santiago, Chile, Jensen’s entire life clicked. He was no longer the black sheep of his family or amongst his classmates. Instead of wearing the maroon and gold football uniform of his elementary school in Richardson, he was given a white Colo-Colo jersey by his great uncle and told to andalé. From the junior Colo-Colo league, he rose in rank and switched positions as soon as he hit a growth spurt at the age of thirteen. Most Chilean men top out at about five foot nine or ten; it was a minor existential crisis to him when he reached six foot one. But under his favorite junior league coach, he shifted from a midfielder to a forward. He’s played every position throughout his career—including goalie—yet striker remains his favorite.
Soccer is more than running through a prime, open field. That’s what most Americans—his extended family included—don’t realize. Again, greatness is always underappreciated. The beautiful game is all about strategy, finesse, calculation, and consistency. The Germans are structured and controlled, but fuck, can they adapt. Brazil is creative, but they get carried away with their own reputations. The Spaniards do a lot with a little; got to watch their footwork. Over their meal three hours ago they argued about the Spanish. Jensen maintains that they’ve become too arrogant, too pitucos. For them to lose against the Americans five to one? How the fuck does that happen? They aren’t whining and crying and flying home midway through the Cup—fuck the French—but losing five to one is like being asleep on the fucking field. No team is without its embarrassing matches, but Spain is the defending champ. ¿Qué les pasó?
Whatever. She’s all I want and I’ve waited for so long.
Today they’re going to show Spain who is la verdadera roja. Madre patria or not—Fountains of Wayne don’t lie. No one wants to bow before a team who loses five to one against the EEUU. No fucking way.
Felipe, the youngest in their squad, announces that it is time—ya es tiempo, webones.
With a deep breath, Jensen neatly puts away his iPod. The rest of the guys finish up their own pre-game superstitions and habits that they have, and everyone gathers in the center of the brightly lit locker room. In between Alexis and Miiko, Jensen joins the huddle. Claudio delivers a motivational speech, threatening each and every man with their testicles being fed to Brazilian tourists if they don’t play their fucking best.
Every man cringes. Every man prays.
Marching out onto the field, in front of 50,000 souls, Jensen hums Stacy’s Mom.
He wishes his testicles the best of luck.