Over the years I have bought my father some pretty sad birthday gifts. Books, mugs, ties, gift cards — it’s a challenge shopping for someone who, in all of your life, says he doesn’t need or want anything. (Mothers are invariably easier as they’ll gush and fawn over the same bouquet of flowers, dinner and/or spa day you present them year after year. But dads, if they want something, they generally go out and buy it themselves.)
This year I thought I might redeem myself in some measure given it was a World Cup year.
Unfortunately The Star-News didn’t come through with a massive raise or bonus this year and I thought the unimaginative accountants at our corporate office might balk at my expensing a trip to Brasil with an interpreter, so a round-trip jaunt to South America with my dad for his birthday was out of the question.
The next, next, next best thing — taking him to lunch at a Brasilian restaurant — to watch the Selecão win the world futbol championship two days after his birthday would have to do.
Germany, on the other hand, had other ideas and now rather than watching my father’s favorite team in the championship game Sunday while gorging ourselves on Brasilian barbecue and samba, we’ll be ... I don’t know .... bitterly crying into our wine and whiskey respectively.
I learned the passion for futbol/soccer from my father. It was a gift he, I assume unwittingly, shared with me over time. As some fathers and sons have baseball and football as a bond that connects them, my father and siblings and I have futbol.
In my early youth I watched my father send a swerving ball from its spot on the corner into the back of the opponent’s goal. The ball flew like a drunken dove returning home to its roost in the top corner.
Over time that memory has become clearer, painted with greater embellished detail. It rests next to the memory of my father and me just outside the Rose Bowl in 1994 when Brasil defeated Italy in the World Cup final that year.
Tickets for that game were unobtainable for a reasonable price and so we — along with at least 50 other people — crowded around a miniscule portable television in a nearby park. Our group, of course, was surrounded by dozens of others doing the exact same thing that afternoon.
Decades later we still watch other soccer games and tournaments together but the World Cup remains the marquee event.
Unlike baseball and football, which hold their championship games every year and are not internationally contested, the World Cup is a quadrennial event. So when I do the math I realize the Cups we have left together are fewer. Thus, my chances of giving him the perfect birthday gift dwindle.
And so I’m left this year giving him an IOU. In four years there’ll be another Cup, Dad. Brasil will win it then. Happy future birthday.