No More Tears


World Cup 2014


This “Jesus Wept” photo became a meme in the aftermath of Brazil’s defeat yesterday.

O Lachryma Cristi, what has happened to our weepy Brazilians? Since day one of this tournament, it seems, they have been in tears. As the technical director Carlos Alberto Parreira reported, “They cry during the national anthem, they cry at the end of extra-time, they cry before and after the penalties.” The sports psychologist Regina Brandão was rushed in, but failed to stem the flow; then it was the Pressure! The Pressure! A nation’s hopes, et cetera, et cetera.

And now this 7-1 pasting, the iconic gone-viral boy in the crowd, glasses pushed up, fingers pressed to eyes, sobbing into his Coca-Cola cup; and somewhere else not too far off, the pretty girl with tears streaming down her cheeks, rivulets slowly obliterating the Brazilian flags she had painted there. Wherever you look, buckets: David Luiz crying; Oscar, his face pressed down soaking someone’s shoulder. Cry me a river—the river cried turned out to be the Amazon. Meanwhile, the Germans never shed a tear, although Mesut Özil looked as if he might cry when Bastian Schweinsteiger yelled at him for missing an easy opportunity to put goal number eight past Júlio César. Lighten up, Bastian!

And now the hundred-foot-high concrete Christ the Redeemer that stands with arms outstretched, gazing over Rio from the peak of the Corcovado mountain, has been photoshopped with its hands to its face, a meme for the ages.

The truth is that Brazil had been running on half a tank (or empty) since the World Cup began. They were gifted the opening game against Croatia, worked a scoreless draw with Mexico, and beat a hopeless Cameroon team more worried about its wages than soccer; they could easily have lost to Chile, and they brutalized Colombia into submission. Against Germany, and without Neymar and Thiago Silva, Brazil was utterly exposed: a ragged defense, scattered midfield, and strikers as bland and sluggish as the names Fred and Hulk would suggest. Germany, an excellent team, even though Müller wears funny socks, may well go on to win the World Cup, but they will not beat either Holland or Argentina 7-1.

Those seven goals brought Brazil’s coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari, the “worst day of [his] life.” I suggest copies of British psychoanalyst Adam Phillips’s recent book Missing Out for him and everyone on his team. Phillips wants us to live the life we have, and not the one that we imagine erroneously we might have had, if we were contenders. That route leads to a bad narrative, “and what was not possible all too easily becomes the story of our lives.” In all the soul-searching, all the talk of distress, disturbance, and suffering in Brazil, the scars that will never heal, the everlasting shame and so on, a useful perspective has been lost: Brazil didn’t lose a war with millions of dead. It lost a soccer game! Put the handkerchiefs away—or, as Phillips says, “our lived lives might become a protracted mourning for, or an endless trauma about, the lives we were unable to live.” Even with the home-field advantage, Brazil was never truly a contender to win this World Cup, and all the bells say too late. This is not for tears. Adam Phillips to replace Regina Brandão for World Cup Russia 2018?

Jonathan Wilson’s work has appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, and Best American Short Stories, among other publications. He is the author of eight books, including Kick and Run: Memoir with Soccer Ball. He lives in Massachusetts.