Why I’m happy about last week’s U.S vs. Belgium soccer match

No, it’s not because I’m a closeted Belgium fan, or particularly anti-American. Truth be told, I’m not that into soccer, or sports for that matter.

But I do like people.

So on Tuesday I joined my boyfriend, a buddy, and 50 others at a tavern for the last 15 minutes of the game. Belgium had just scored, and then scored again. It was not looking good for the U.S.

Most people in the bar were watching the screens on the west end of the room. The three of us were positioned under those screens so instead watching the TVs on the other side of the bar. This meant I also got to observe everyone’s faces as they stared just above our heads. I watched their eyes moan, light up, wriggle, rise and fall. When the U.S scored a goal, they erupted with more joy than I can remember seeing in a long time. Friends and strangers high-fived. Our elation built off each other and matched that of the players on screen.

Alas, with just 2 minutes left in the game, Belgium was still ahead. I felt pretty sure we could slip out the bar, get some dinner and not miss much. Shoulders drooped, eyebrows raised, knuckles clenched. Each attempt at a goal brought only momentary excitement.

And then.

“I believe that we will win! I believe that we will win!” The refrain started, and almost immediately filled the bar. “I believe that we will win” with clapping and pounding. Being musically inclined, the rhythm caught me up and my words fell in sync. I watched bodies chant, eyes glued overhead. A distantly familiar feeling.

The last time I felt this was the night of Obama’s first election as we screamed “Yes We Can” and later “Yes We Did” and we danced in the streets of Oakland, high-fived and hugged everyone around us. That night we celebrated so much more than one man’s election. We celebrated all of us having made it where we were, that all of us did and all of us can.

Later, we wound up disappointed. We knew we would be. And we were disappointed on Tuesday night too when the U.S lost the soccer match.

But I was happy. I was reminded that we have a huge potential for hope. You wouldn’t often think it from talking to us humans. Many of us have already given in to the inevitability of climate change and environmental degradation, we’ve accepted that oppression runs the day and that isms like racism and sexism just are what they are. Even individually it seems many of us have decided our lives have already hit the peak, and there’s nowhere else to go.

But Tuesday night I saw the truth: we actually want to hope. Even with just a minute left of the game we were already losing, we wanted to band together, we wanted to clench fists, we wanted to chant and stomp, to sweat and grumble, to throw our arms around a stranger, and hope hope hope.

After Tuesday night it doesn’t matter that we lost. I believe that we will win.