World Cup in Small Towns

I have new sports buddies. They are: the high school freshman who works the 6 a.m. to noon shift, a nine-ish boy and his father, and a handful of loose acquaintances who walked in and out of the pro shop of the Lake Pleasant Golf Course this morning during the ninety minutes of play between the Netherlands and Brazil.

As today’s quarterfinal match approached, I had two problems. The first was that I was nervous about the Dutch surviving against the favored team in the World Cup. Although I subliminally instructed them to watch Miracle and The Sandlot and Cool Runnings and any other underdog sports movie they could get their hands on, I didn’t know if they got the memo.

The second problem was finding a location where I could actually watch the broadcast, since 1. I am sure my support is invaluable and 2. I was going to be in Speculator, NY. My husband’s family’s cabin has no TV, no Internet, and a sign over the door that reads: Will the last one out of Speculator turn off the lights? Just to give you an idea of the situation.

At the Four Corners, Speculator’s key intersection, there were a couple of local restaurants and a townie bar that might have carried the game… if it weren’t 10 a.m. on a Thursday. My leading plan was to take my laptop to the parking lot of the library so that I could mooch public WiFi and follow the game online—at least, that was the plan until Tim remembered that the local golf course had a TV in the shop, usually showing sports.

So problem two was solved with surprising ease when I showed up at the golf course and heard the Het Wilhelmus coming from a large vintage television in a low-key lobby/shop/concession room. I told the girl behind the counter that my husband and his friends were out on the course (true; I could see Tim’s orange NL jersey five holes away), and asked if I could hang out and watch the match. She said sure, since she was going to watch it anyway, and we were off.

In the first ten minutes, Brazil scored once and I explained to my host (very friendly and seemed glad for some company) my interest in the Dutch. Clusters of golfers came in and out to pay the low cash-only green fee and to be told that all the carts were rented (and one broken down on hole seven). At the half, Brazil looked better, sleek and fast and artsy. But they’d only scored once.

When the first goal for the Netherlands came in the second half, I jumped out of my seat and shouted, drawing a couple of passersby into watching for a few minutes. The shop sells oily hot dogs out of a carnival-style contraption for $1.50 on the honor system, and in several ominous minutes I watched a man down three consecutively and the second Netherlands goal cross the net.

If after the first goal I believed a win was possible, after the second I allowed myself to believe it was…nearing…probable. Brazil, unaccustomed to falling behind, seemed frazzled even to my eye, less coordinated, desperate. A red card put them down a man. The Dutch gained momentum and nearly scored a third goal. Yellow cards were flying, and the match seemed on the brink of dissolving into brawling chaos. I watched the clock anxiously, counting up the seconds, the minutes, nearer and nearer to ninety plus three. I wanted to tell every person who walked through why I was so wrapped up in the Netherlands team, how I’d become so passionate about them in the last month: because as of Monday, I LIVE there.

Monday. We’re here in Speculator this weekend, a place where daily life seems distant to begin with, a grateful interlude before we drive our car for the last time back to New Jersey on Sunday, eat burgers and try to keep our checked luggage under fifty pounds, sleep in my old bedroom, and then on Monday: off to Newark Airport. My visa arrived on Tuesday, and I was waiting for the FedEx man in my pajamas on the front porch. It is the prettiest legal document I have ever seen.

When, unbelievably, the whistle blew and the score stood at 2—1 NL, I was wired with energy, uncertain who to hug, wishing I had my vuvuzela. My new friend congratulated me and wished me luck overseas. My phone buzzed immediately with texts from my sister (“DAG, BRAZIL”) and dad, and a call from my mom.  I texted Tim, who called me from somewhere in golf land. Without any doubt, I was the happiest person in the Hamlet of Lake Pleasant at that moment. We are… the new Dutch.

World Cup viewing area

Look for the orange dot. It's Tim.

[As an added bonus, I believe we have a LADIE’S LEAGUE sign in the photo!]

[And if you’re wondering how I’m posting this, to get Internet I went to the former plan for the game: public WiFi at the Four Corners.]

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