Weekend Recap: Game of Thrones was amazing, the world ended, and a personal victory

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It's time for us to reflect on the weekend. And that's "weekend" with three Es, not the misspelled Canadian R&B singer. Sometimes things happen in the world that are so significant, you just have to say something about it.

Game of Thrones
Okay, so it's not from the finale, but that was one of the best moments in GoT history

For the record, I'm not one of those insane Game of Thrones fans. Don't get me wrong, I really did like the show for a time, but after a while, when you see the characters the show works so hard for you to instantly and feverishly love and support rack up so many tallies in the L column, you start to close yourself off. And when you don't let yourself get involved emotionally in the characters, you begin to view it more like an educational film; and in an educational film about dragons, incest, and brutality, you quickly begin to see there's not much to learn. But over the past season, the good guys started to pick up some Ws, and in really satisfying ways. If you haven't seen it, I won't spoil it for you, but I will say this: if you feed your guests bread and salt and then massacre them, you really should be looking over your shoulder for the rest of your life. Also, don't set people on fire; that's not nice.

If you have seen it, you know what I'm talking about, and I'm sure that offices around the world will be buzzing about what's happened. I know mine will be.

The End of the World

No, I'm not talking about Brexit (though that's got its own implications which I'll not get into here), I'm talking about the Copa America Centenario and the fallout from Argentina's loss. If you weren't following, the Copa America is a tournament that pits CONMEBOL national soccer teams (South America) against CONCACAF teams (North and Central America and the Caribbean) in a battle for the best of the region. This year's was a special tournament played in the United States to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Copa America.

Now that the background is done, last night was the final. And yes, I stayed up to watch it while letting my DVR handle the Game of Thrones finale. It was an insane match. Chile played Argentina in a repeat of last year's final, in which Chile won on penalties and Lionel Messi failed to take his team to victory again. Argentina's had a rough time, coming up 2nd place in a lot of major tournaments lately. This time around, it looked like a golden opportunity. Messi was injured at the beginning of the tournament, but when he came back, he came back with ferocity. He was scoring and getting assists, culminating in him and Argentina running roughshod over my beloved US team in the semi-finals, keeping the USMNT to 0 shots for the entirety of 90 minutes while banging in four goals to advance the finals. Nothing seemed to stand in their way. Then there was Chile. Defending champions, the ones that broke Argentina's hearts a year ago, and who put a special kind of beating on an in-form Mexico team, tearing them to shreds in a 7-0 rout and then beating Colombia 2-0 in a drawn out, storm-delayed semi-final. The two highest scoring teams in the tournament would meet in the final, and it really should have been Messi's chance to take his country out of their rut and bring back glory to Argentina. But it wasn't.

I'll pause here. Messi is the best player in the world. Not just now, but always and forever. I pledge my sword to Messi like he were the White Wolf (sorry, GoT reference; I had to). Cristiano "Where'd My Shirt Go?" Ronaldo is no match for the Argentine magician, who moves the ball so gracefully through so much opposition that you'd think he had it attached to his boots by a string. He's an excellent finisher. He's incredibly quick. He's unselfish. He's even rocking a pretty good beard (although also a somewhat unfortunate sleeve of tattoos). Luis Suarez, my former Liverpool striker and the man who made me hate Branislav Ivanovic because he had the audacity to be bitten by the Uruguayan, moves with aplomb, grace, and skill, but it's the aplomb, grace, and skill of the second best in the world (yes, I rank him higher than Ronaldo). No one can touch Messi. Messi is a swan and figure skater and ballet dancer who can curl a ball around a wall of men and put it into the top corner of the net. Though he couldn't last night. Right, pause over.

The clash of the two goal scoring leaders was an exciting 0-0 draw through 120 minutes. There were chances. There were red cards. One on each side (both were a bit baffling; a little harsh on a second yellow for Chilean Marcelo Diaz when the Argentine wonder completely bamboozled him into committing a foul and a straight red for Argentine Marcos Rojo for a strong, but largely legal tackle on Arturo Vidal), which I'd never seen before in my life--outside of this tournament, where it also happened to the US against Ecuador. The refereeing in this tournament was atrocious, and I'm not just saying that; over in France, the Euros are happening where it often seems that the referees have forgotten their cards in their dressing rooms, but over here, it felt like the referees accidentally glued the cards to their hands.

120 minutes of 10 on 10 is like playing hot potato with a live grenade. Something was going to explode, but it was anyone's guess who would be holding the pineapple when it happened. When it went to penalties, I could feel more hairs on my head turn gray, because even though Messi and Argentina sent my home country packing to another disappointing third place match, he deserves to win. Arturo Vidal stepped to the plate (not literally, that's baseball) for Chile who won the toss and Sergio Romero, the man forgotten by his own manager, came up with a massive save. Lionel Messi walked up to face club teammate Claudio Bravo. Lionel Messi has never missed a penalty in a shootout in his career. But in New Jersey, the land where dreams go to die, he put it over the crossbar and into the stands. No harm, no foul right? One penalty down for each of them, and it's honors even. But in the end, it was Chile who came out on top again, taking Argentina to their fourth straight loss in a major tournament, and again on penalties, after losing to Germany and Chile in the last two.

You can't blame Messi. This was an insane match that saw Messi, a man of unwavering integrity on the field, booked for diving (it wasn't a dive; it was a no call--there can be contact that is neither a dive nor a foul, and that's what this was) and playing in a 10 v. 10 match for 80 minutes. It's not like he was out there alone. Gonzalo Higuain came up short again, when he had a goal served to him on a plate due to Gary Medel's mistake, but he sent it wide. Sergio Aguero, one of the most clinical finishers in English Premier League history, also missed a chance to end Chile. This wasn't a match that Messi lost all on his own. But he doesn't seem to see it that way. After the match, the 29 year old phenom announced that he doesn't think he'll ever play for Argentina again, after losing in four finals in a row.

Look, it's not like I haven't come up short. The highlight reel of my life is just a cycle of disappointments. I've never lost on such a large scale, of course, but I think I know a little about what Messi's feeling. He's hurt. He captained this team. He had them on his shoulders. He made fans feel like they were invincible because they had Messi. Messi would paper over any cracks, Messi would find any hole in opposition defense, Messi would do the impossible because so many times in the past he simply has. But Argentina came up short again. He's feeling pretty much like shit on the bottom of a shoe right now. But that's no reason to throw in the towel. 2014 was 2014, but 2018 is right around the corner. The next World Cup is two years away, and Argentina has a gaggle of promising young players, like Erik Lamela and Paulo Dybala, who will be entering their prime years then. But they'll need the steady hand and cool head of Lionel Messi to guide them. Win the next World Cup, then retire from your international career at a much more appropriate (but still kind of young these days) age of 31. No one can guarantee that they'll win the World Cup, but you have to try. If you're going to end your career, don't do it here. If you can't win the World Cup, at least give it all on the biggest stage in the world; don't do it after a match aired on Fox Sports 1.

I know this is tough. I watched it happen recently with the club I support, when Liverpool came so close to ending a two decade title drought, and the team captain Steven Gerrard lost his footing, allowing Chelsea to snatch victory and put a serious damper on Liverpool's chances. Liverpool eventually finished in second place and Steven Gerrard, a hometown boy who lost a family member in the Hillsborough disaster, eventually couldn't keep going with Liverpool because he felt the entirety of the weight of the loss on his shoulders and his alone. He left and came to play in the MLS for the LA Galaxy.

Yes, it's incredibly disappointing. If I didn't need to switch over to Game of Thrones immediately after the end of the final so I could get to bed at a decent hour, I would have sat there, staring in disbelief at the screen until they ended coverage. I was crestfallen, heartbroken, and in emotional disarray. And I was just watching. I'm not even from Argentina. I can't imagine how he feels. It must feel like a freight train is crashing into a plane, that's then crushed by the trash compactor from the Death Star in the man's heart. That can't be comfortable. But, Lionel, for everyone everywhere, please, don't stop. Step up again. Our hearts break with you, but we get to celebrate with you too. Please, just one more go. Because I just can't accept that this is how an era ends.

And on a Personal Note

About two and a half weeks ago, I heroically sidestepped a hot clothing iron that I had sitting on my floor (for reasons out of my control--and some reasons in--I don't currently have an ironing board) and walked my right foot full speed into the metal leg of my platform bed. In what, for a normal person, would be the stubbing of a toe, I seemed to manage to break my damn toe, which is not nearly as pleasant an experience as people would lead you to believe. Sure, I didn't scream about it like Aragorn did when he kicked that Orc helmet, but damn, did it hurt (if you're not familiar, go watch Lord of the Rings, it only takes about 15 hours, I'll wait). I get injured by furniture more than the average person, and this really takes the cake. But, after all this time, I was finally able to exercise again, which was a pretty nice victory for me, since I've really been trying to live a healthier lifestyle. My mood is noticeably worse when I don't get a good bike ride in first thing in the morning while watching an episode of The West Wing on Netflix. And if you know me, you really don't want my mood to get worse. So, you know. The world may have ended this weekend, but small victories.

Updated Jul 1, 2016 at 09:23 PM by Raza



  1. wschofield3's Avatar
    Thanks for this Raza, and while I can't stand GoT or Futball, I enjoyed reading it. The toe part really sucked....from a pain perspective, not what you wrote.
  2. Raza's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by wschofield3
    Thanks for this Raza, and while I can't stand GoT or Futball, I enjoyed reading it. The toe part really sucked....from a pain perspective, not what you wrote.
    Thanks Walt!

    What do you have against GoT? Just curious....there are plenty of reasons not to like it.
  3. wschofield3's Avatar
    Nothing against it, just that my wife is a super fan and all I see in the background is carnage and the lack of character development you mentioned, as they get whacked before you get to know them. I may give it a chance when the series is over....I do that quite often like with The Sopranos...watched the first couple of seasons and lost interest, went back after and marathoned it in two weekends. Same with Dexter and Breaking Bad.
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