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Football, Not Soccer

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Steve had an event in DC. Some horrible Independence Day celebration that he was supposed to be the guest of honor at. Steve wasn't looking forward to it.

But, he didn't mind the excuse to visit DC. He texted Peggy and let her know that he'd be in town. Peggy was adamant on texting. The first time he'd tried to call, she answered the phone, said "It's the 21st century, Rogers." and hung up. He hadn't tried to call again.

When he saw her in person, Peggy explained that phone calls were basically impossible with her hearing these days. Anyways, who said old ladies couldn't use newfangled technology. And, Steve had no excuse, did he? He was still twenty-something.

Steve hadn't bothered to remind her that just a few years ago it was still 1945 for him. She knew. And, in his experience, she didn't care. Peggy never had brooked any excuses. She hadn't changed a bit.

She texted back. Told him it was the day of the game. But, that was all well and good, because he could cheer for her girls. Steve had no idea what she meant. He also knew better than to ask.

She texted him the name of a bar and a time. He looked the bar up using the internet. Because, it had been three years by now, and even he knew how to use Google Maps. Thank you very much. It was a sports bar, which didn't make much sense, because he hadn't really figured Peggy for a sports fan. Besides, the time she'd sent was midday, which didn't really seem like a standard time to go to a bar.

He still showed up. Turned out, Peggy was a sports fan. And, right now she was decked out in all white and red, with flags painted on her wrinkled cheeks. Apparently, England was playing for third place in the World Cup, and they were going to be watching the game.

It took a bit of back and forth with the bartender to actually make that happen. "I checked online. And, your website said you'd be showing the game." Peggy lectured, stern and foreboding. "I'm sorry, ma'am." The kid behind the bar shrugged. Steve supposed he probably wasn't much younger than he was himself. But, he looked young. "I'm telling ya, the World Cup was last year."

Peggy glowered. "The Men's World Cup was last year." She drew each word out, as if the bartender was particularly slow. Steve almost felt for him. But, really he was caught up thinking about how much he adored Peggy. She'd only intensified as she grew older. "The Women's World Cup is this year. And, my friend and I are here to watch the England/Germany game."

Steve blinked. It was still weird to hear Germany casually mentioned. Even talked about positively. The thought of England and Germany happily playing in a sports tournament together felt odd. But, the war had been a long time ago. Sure Germany had hosted the Olympics in 1936, but that had been a big deal.

By the time he got out of his head, the bartender was already fumbling with the remote. Eventually finding the right channel for the game. They were still just talking about the teams. It didn't seem they had missed much of anything yet.

Peggy pulled herself up onto a bar stool. Steve was inclined to suggest that they sit at a table. Maybe even a booth. She seemed so fragile now. But, he stayed silent, simply  maneuvering onto his own barstool. His knees barely fit. He didn't complain.

"So, soccer?" He asked, trying to make small talk.

Peggy waved at the bartender. "Put on the captions. Will ya? Can't you see I'm practically a hundred years old?" She directed. Only turning to Steve once the poor guy had started to comply.

"Football." She stated firmly. "Not your soccer nonsense." Steve smiled. "Football then?" He asked.

"Football." She repeated with a nod. Then, shushed him as the players came out on the field. He waited silently while each country's national anthem played. And, during the kick off.

"England's in white?" He asked. Peggy shook her head. "No, that's Germany. We're in the red kit." Steve nodded.

He settled in to watch the game.

It wasn't very interesting. Even Peggy seemed bored. "You can play better than that!" She yelled at the tv, startling the single other person in there. Watching golf on a different tv.

When the clock ran out, the two teams were still tied. The match went into overtime.

When England finally did score, it was through a penalty kick. They won the game. Peggy cheered, but she still seemed a bit annoyed.

"Rubbish game." She complained, downing the rest of her drink. "And a poor introduction to football for you. It's like they weren't even trying." She scowled.

They lingered for another hour, ordering a fresh round of drinks and some snacks. Enjoying the chance to simply talk and catch up. But, all too soon Steve had to leave for the bloody event.

He invited Peggy to come. Promised a VIP seat. She turned him down. I may have lived here most my life, but I still don't make a practice of celebrating your American holidays." She said with a smile. "But, it was good to see you, Steve." And, with that she wrapped him in a tight hug.

"Tomorrow's game will be better. Your girls should win." Was the last thing she said before walking out.

The event was even more miserable than Steve expected. Apparently, they'd planned a giant birthday surprise for him. He'd forgotten anyone had even listed July 4th as his birthday. What the hell was the point anyways? Captain America couldn't be born in October? He took the train home immediately after, just wanting to get back to his own bed.

The next day, he looked up the game Peggy had mentioned. Apparently, the USA was playing against Japan. Apparently in the finals. Steve found it on tv.

Sure enough, it was indeed a much better game. Steve found himself amazed. Watching with rapt attention. The players were ridiculously talented. And, he found himself wondering how some of them got across the field as fast as they did. He could have sworn the blonde one, Rapinoe not the other one, had just been all the way down on the other side. But, there she was. He was totally caught up in it. Lloyd alone was incredible. And, both teams played fantastic.

At the end of the match, he was still feeling the excitement of the win, when his phone buzzed. He fumbled it out of his pocket. "You won." From Peggy.

He texted back. "I know." And, even though all he got in return was a smiley face emoji, he still knew she was happy he watched the game.

Peggy died later that year. He didn't see her again prior to her death. And, when he went out for the funeral, he thought about the game they'd watched together. He was glad they were able to watch it.

After the funeral, he went back home and found himself looking up when the next World Cup was. Not for another four years. The Women's at least. And, that was the one he wanted to watch.

Four years from then, he sat down to watch another World Cup. And, while he cheered for the US. He cheered for England too.