The end of the World Cup is near. One game remains. I've been in South Africa for over five weeks, living in a hotel, taking a bus back-and-forth to work, watching every single match, Skyping my wife. It's been a bizarre existence.
I've been doing de facto preparations for over two years, since before Euro 2008 and the United States qualifying process began. This feels like the end of an extremely long season. The closest emotional approximations for me are the end of college or perhaps the end of my high school basketball career. I know that I'll wake up tomorrow, and things will be a little different, in a good way.
In the short term, that means getting back to my remarkable wife and spending the next two weeks with her, away from everything. She has been amazingly supportive, and I am blessed beyond words to have her in my life. In the long term, I don't quite know what's next for me professionally. That's a little unnerving, but I know that God has me where I'm supposed to be, which is perhaps the most reassuring feeling in the world. In the longer term, who knows what lies ahead. Maybe another World Cup in four years...maybe not. A lot can change in four years.
During the 2006 World Cup, I was traveling Israel with good friends, perfectly content, but at the same time curious about the future. Little did I know that I had already met my wife-to-be, and that 10 months later I would be engaged. Little did I know that my pipe dream of attending the 2010 World Cup would begin to take shape a year later when I e-mailed a job application to ESPN. Little did I know the massive changes my life would undergo in the next four years.
I can only imagine what changes may occur by the time the 2014 World Cup kicks off in Brazil. Some potential changes seem obvious. Others are fuzzier. Others aren't even in the picture, at least not in my picture. But God has a bigger picture in perfect focus. Hallelujah for that.
In the much smaller picture, there's a game today. Netherlands. Spain. One of these countries will lift the trophy for the first time, ending decades of could've-would've-should've frustration. The emotion will be palpable before, during and after the game. There will be tears of both joy and sorrow. There will be memorable moments and iconic images. Today is the World Cup Final. Today is what's great about sports.