Friday, July 30, 2010

My World Cup Life

Admit it.

You thought that after a 2 month hiatus I had “dropped off the blog earth”.

Ready for justifications and excuses? The hiatus from the blog was due in part to the time I spent changing lives, diapers, channels and time zones. That is to say that I spoke in several settings (summer camp and church), have two healthy boys, enjoyed the World Cup and got to do a little traveling to visit family.

There are really no legitimate excuses, though. In the end, life is about finishing what you start, and while it was tough, I have managed to scratch and claw my way back onto the “blog earth” once again.

Should I make up for those two months with a lengthy manifesto? I spoke with one of my readers that advised me to consider “micro-blogging”. You know, fewer words require less commitment from the reader.

In the future, there may be some quick hitters headed your direction, but for today I’m taking this ship the exact opposite direction.

Dear reader, saddle up your horses…we’ve got a trail to blaze.

The last blog post that blessed your life was from May 31st…and the World Cup started less than two weeks later. If you are even a marginal soccer fan, which I hope you are, you are well aware that the World Cup is only the most important sporting event known to man. As such, when it arrives every four years I am filled with great anticipation and unmitigated glee.

So it is my pleasure to present to you the following recap of my life, told through the lens of the past six World Cups.

The first World Cup that I remember took place 20 years ago. The summer of 1990 found me as a flat topped 10 year old getting ready for 6th grade. We lived in Africa and I went to a boarding school in Cote D’Ivoire. My friends from my dorm would gather with me and watch as our adopted team, The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, took the tournament by storm. Their aging star, Roger Milla, was our hero. We learned his celebratory dance at the corner flag and would copy his moves on the field. Cameroon was ousted in a close game against England in the quarter finals, and so we jumped on the West Germany bandwagon (remember, this was BEFORE the fall of the Berlin Wall…I feel old). Klinsman and his band of West Germans won the final in a nail biter over Maradona’s Argentine squad, and to commemorate the occasion I purchased a huge, hard cover picture book that detailed the outcomes of every game that I still have to this day.

Four years later the World Cup moved to the United States. I had just completed my freshman year of high school and watched in awe along with the rest of the U.S. as police pursued OJ Simpson in the white Ford Bronco. That chase took place at the beginning of the tournament and was a harbinger of crazy stories to come. The United States squad, featuring fellow red-head Alexi Lalas, was not expected to make much noise at the tournament. However, against all odds the team managers to slip past heavily favored Columbia due to an unfortunate own goal from Andres Escobar. Escobar was killed in Medellin shortly after the team got back to Columbia.

The tournament (and everything else in life) took on life and death meaning for me as 14 year old. I visited my boarding school buddy Matt Clason and we watched the dull final game together in Wisconsin. Romario and Brazil ended up beating the Italians when Roberto Baggio missed from the penalty spot after 120 scoreless minutes. In all reality, the highlight of that trip wasn’t the World Cup final – we were actually more excited to see Kirby Puckett smash a home run into the upper deck of the Metrodome. We got on TV with our “Hit It Here, Kirby” sign, featuring a huge target for Kirby to hit. Getting on TV was about as cool as it got for us those days.

I don’t remember much about the 1998 World Cup. I know it was hosted by France and won by France in a surprising 3-0 result over Germany, but the rest of the details are fuzzy. I had just finished my freshman year at Wheaton College and was home in Colorado for the summer, but I literally don’t remember watching one game. My best guess is that I was still bitter at soccer after some really frustrating experiences playing high school soccer. Plus, I was busy finding myself as a college student, so I probably didn’t have much time to watch soccer.

2002 found me back in Colorado as a college graduate. The World Cup was hosted by two nations, Japan and South Korea. The geography made for a wicked 12ish hour time difference and I remember a lot of the games were played in the middle of our night time in Colorado. I was a brand new youth pastor with unbridled energy and actually went to the homes of youth group kids to watch games with 2:00 am start times. We would often pick up BOMB burritos at 7-Eleven and consume them with no fear of the horrible morning repercussions that were headed our way. My sister was an exchange student in Ecuador at the time, and we donned our yellow jerseys and traipsed over to a friend’s house to watch Ecuador games on cable since we didn’t have cable at our place. Those were the days! The United States had a great run in that tournament and actually beat arch-rival Mexico in the round of 16 before being eliminated by eventual runner-up Germany.

In 2006, the tournament was held in Germany, and I watched several early games with my father-in-law and rooted hard for Cote D’Ivoire. I had married Lover in November of 2004, and she did a lot to help me in my role as a youth pastor. That summer we took the youth group kids on a mission’s trip to an Indian Reservation in Wyoming right in the middle of the World Cup. This created a huge gap in my memories of the tournament because we didn’t have TV access for quite a few days. I did get to watch an epic Germany vs. Italy semifinal game by myself in a hotel room in Denver while the rest of my family went to an art show, and I was sad to watch the Germans (my favorite non-US team) lose in such stunning fashion. And I’ll never forget the France-Italy final that I watched with about 20 stud high school soccer players that were part of an upcoming trip to Thailand. The now infamous image of Zidane bowing out of the final after the Materazzi head butt was a shock to everyone.

And so, in early June of 2010, the sixth World Cup that I could remember was about to commence. I was so excited for the World Cup and the US team carried sky high expectations as well. The first game on the US schedule was against a powerhouse England squad, and I felt like the best way to commemorate the Saturday game was to order a cookie cake for us to consume along with friends.

And then it got awkward.

When I called to order the cookie cake from Wal-Mart, the helpful lady on the other end of the phone line asked me if I wanted it to be decorated. Feeling a rush of patriotic pride, I asked her to ice the cookie cake with the words “GO USA!” She said this would not only be possible but would only set me back $8. I was shocked. Who knew cookie cakes were so cheap?

With both boys in the car when we went to pick up the cookie cake on Friday night before the big game, Lover decided to run in quickly and pick up the decorated treasure. Upon arrival in the bakery section, she stated her name and described the cake she was looking to retrieve.

The hapless bakery clerk returned minutes later with a confused expression on her face.

“There’s no cookie cake here under that name.”

Lover quickly called me, and we went over the details of the order. I was adamant that the cookie cake was there. I had confirmed the order and knew that we were at the right place at the correct time.

Lover pleaded with the bakery clerk to go back and look one more time, just in case she had missed it. “It’s a cookie cake…D-A-V-I-D. It says Go USA!”

The clerk came back a second time and said once again that there was nothing like that in the bakery. She said that the only item she saw back there was actually for someone with the last name Gousa, and she apologized that they didn’t have our order.
“Gousa!?!?” Lover yelled. “That’s our cookie cake.” I think that poor bakery clerk is still confused.

Do you get it?


Think about it...

GO USA is gousa...gousa is GO USA!

Massively relieved, we kicked off the United States World Cup run in grand style and watched a ton of games throughout the tournament. We loved the USA vs. Algeria game and shared the anguish/hope/disappointment/ecstasy with the rest of the nation as Landon Donovan came through late in the game to provide the game winner.

And when it was all said and done, Spain shed all its baggage and finally won the coveted trophy while the Netherlands added another notch to its “Lovable Losers” belt.

My predictions for the 2014 World Cup to be held in Brazil? I’ll be a little older, hopefully a little wiser, with perhaps a little red-haired princess added to our brood, and most likely a few pounds added to my waistline. At this rate of one blog post every 2 months, I will have made about 24 additional posts to this blog.

There will probably still be a confused bakery clerk in Texas and my sister will still be gallivanting around the globe on some new adventure. Those 20 high school soccer studs that I went to Thailand with will be in their late 20s, and BOMB burritos will probably be recalled by the FDA because of their toxic qualities. Oh, and I’ll probably be chanting “Gousa” along with the rest of you.

I’m struck by how much life has changed since I was a 10 year old kid in West Africa dancing like Roger Milla. Twenty years later I find myself with a wife, 2 little red-headed boys, a mortgage, academic degrees, a life insurance policy, and an old VW with no air condition. These have been good years and I am constantly amazed to see the ways that God has blessed the journey.

And you thought soccer was boring…geez.


  1. Hey Gousa! I laughed out loud reading this. Ron asked about the laughter, so I read it to him. :) Don't wait for two more months to's too good to wait that long. :)

  2. That was possibly the longest blog I've ever read, but I feel famous for being included :) So funny!!