All that was left to console me after the United States Men’s National Team was eliminated from the World Cup was the Bud Light in my hand. It was one of the many I had drunk or handed out that afternoon. Budweiser was the official beer of the World Cup, but being from St. Louis and having essentially been nursed on Bud, a Bud in my hand was my default setting, sponsorship or not, especially during a game. From countless trips to Busch Stadium, to Mizzou tailgates and Blues games, Budweiser and Bud Light have always been an essential part of my adult drinking and sports experiences. Really, they’ve even been a part of my childhood sports experiences too. Again, I’m from St. Louis. It feels weird to not be surrounded by adults drinking Buds while a game is being played, even if it’s just a little league game by the airport.
After the match, the urge to throw that bottle of Bud Light against the wall and curse the Belgian nation like a Frenchman manning the Maginot Line who awoke one morning to find the Wehrmacht standing behind him laughing was outweighed only by my desire to drink everything inside said bottle. Maybe I’d throw it later. Possibly filled with gasoline and topped with a flaming rag. At a waffle stand, I guess?
I didn’t know. I was upset and needed to release my frustrations on something Belgian, like by giving zeros to all of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s movies on Rotten Tomatoes (I don’t care how fantastic “Sudden Death” was, FUCK YOU BELGIUM) or by tweeting Colin Farrell’s best complaints about Belgium from “In Bruges.”
“If I grew up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress me, but I didn’t, so it doesn’t.”
I was standing on the crowded patio of a bar in downtown Austin surrounded by American compatriots, who were all, like I was, in a state of disbelief. It was heartbreakingly proportionate to what our team (and all of the fans) impossibly convinced everyone to believe before the Cup–as well as before and during the game–despite that faith being totally, objectively unreasonable. But, America!
Even when our coach almost literally said, “I DO NOT believe that we will win,” the rest of us still did. Then, we didn’t win. But we shouldn’t have. Except for when we really should’ve. (Chris Wondolowski might have mishit that gimme goal, but he kicked America square in the balls. At least, that’s what looked like had happened to me as I was doubled over with an emotional pain that sat right in the pit of my stomach, just like when somebody backhands my guy sack. Still love Wondo, though.) But then we definitely shouldn’t have won, until we absolutely could’ve. Then, ONE FUCKING MINUTE? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? ONE MINUTE! ALGERIAN CONSPIRACY!
The best part of that Belgium game was Tim Howard defending the goal with such resilience and desperation that he should be called the Battered Bastard of Brazil. The second best part was Jürgen Klinsmann going Lou Piniella–his rage was baseball manager-esque–about the absurdly low amount of stoppage time at the end of the second extra period. Klinsmann’s candidness with the press had a lot of Americans questioning his commitment (Sorry he doesn’t think we could beat Argentina?) but that reaction was his most candid moment since he took over the USMNT in 2011, and it said everything we needed to know about his determination to win with the U.S. Not since my dad went after my little league coach with a tire iron for refusing to play me has a man’s pure, unfiltered rage felt so oddly heartwarming.
All of that was nice, and the match was considered by some to be the most exciting of the entire tournament, which, I suppose, is better than your elimination feeling like being on the receiving end of a 90-minute scheizer video (*cough* Brazil *cough*). Still, the United States was going home, and I had nothing to show for it, “it” being standing, shouting, and drinking. I’m not really sure what I thought, or ever think, I deserved simply for cheering. I cheered and made that emotional investment of my own volition. Sports fans are the whiniest, neediest volunteers in the world. We’re the worst.
Regardless, I was in a familiar emotional state. Belgium was the newest in a long line of opponents–Ghana, Kansas, Oklahoma, Auburn, Norfolk Sta– (I can’t finish that one without puking), the Yankees, Eric Gregg’s rage-inducing strike zone–to rip out my heart and make me wish I was a musical theater fan instead. You know what never makes you sad? “Rent.” I haven’t seen “Rent,” but it has to be better than feeling like you’re watching all your friends die tragic, excruciating deaths, like it does when your favorite players trudge sadly off the field in defeat. So I waded into the comforting, icy embrace of Bud Light to numb my sports pain. Again. At this point in my life, though, the beer doesn’t say, “It’ll be okay,” as much as it says, “Welcome back, old friend. Another rough day, huh?”
While enjoying some Bud Lights will usually do the trick, my hometown brew decided to do me one better this time and replace the pain of a heartbreaking, American loss with pure, beer-fueled joy. Maybe it was a reward because I believed so hard, or maybe it’s because I could loosely be described as “a member of the media,” but Budweiser and Bud Light invited me out to their World Cup pool party at The Palms in Las Vegas for the weekend of the third place and championship matches. Realistically, the reason I was invited was probably the latter, but I like to believe it was the former. Why not? I’m a sports fan; I believe stupid shit all the time.
*Puts on rally cap, pulls down pants, refuses to sit down or put pants back on for children sitting directly behind him, cheers on baseball team down eight runs in the ninth.*
When we landed at McCarron, we were immediately greeted by a Bud Light girl and then actual Bud Lights once we got to the Palms. Their brand promotion was on point and, more importantly, much appreciated.
After the Bellagio took $300 from me in roughly an hour–I grabbed a few Bud Lights to get over that loss, too–the producer and I headed over to Drai’s Nightclub to meet up with one of his old fraternity brothers, who was now the club’s creative director. We were given a tour of the club, some drinks in VIP, and then, well, who knows? At the end of the night I found myself at the front desk of the Palms, where my producer asked me if I wanted anything to eat, I asked for pizza and went upstairs, though somehow, the next morning, for reasons unexplained, I awoke to find $40 worth of McDonald’s spread out across the room. It was a massacre. Food shame washed over me (or maybe that was meat sweats).
We quickly collected ourselves and booked it downstairs to Rain Nightclub for the Brazil-Netherlands watch party. Knowing we had to be professionals, we took the responsible course of action and immediately started drinking more Bud Lights, because we like to be courteous guests.
The whole point of the parties, other than having fun, was for Budweiser and Bud Light to bring the atmosphere of Brazil’s World Cup to the States. The crowd, the food, the entertainment, and the Brazilian samba dancers, who convinced me that Brazil might be the happiest country in the world–either that or they weren’t soccer fans, because their joy was so unbridled that not even a second consecutive beating could bring them down, seeing as they even spent their downtime dancing and smiling–were all fantastic. To be fair, if you can’t have fun at an open bar, you might be legally dead. The only part of the day I regretted was that I had decided to bet on myself (huge mistake) the night before at the tables instead of the Netherlands, who I was convinced were also going to destroy the Brazilian side, since they were basically Germany Light.
After the party my producer and I enjoyed giant, gloriously rare steaks and wine at the Palms’ restaurant, Nine, with a small group from the party. We followed that with a Zedd concert at XS Club. After giving myself a second wind, we dove headfirst into the night. Cut to 4 a.m., and, oh yeah, Vegas doesn’t close. Time flies when you’re running around successfully convincing women you’re Australian, because fuck it, and that you’re a scout with the Lakers Summer League team, while with some Spaniard you randomly met who actually is a Lakers Summer League scout.
By the time our group left the club an hour later–which was three hours before the World Cup brunch we were supposed to attend was scheduled to start–the cab line was ridiculously long. Thankfully, luck was finally on my side, and some random girls offered to give us a ride home. Somehow that led to an after party in our room that involved my and my producer’s pants coming off in order to compete in a twerking competition with the girls. Suffice it to say, sunrise in Vegas is a weird time. At the end of everything, I was still more ashamed of the McDonald’s.
After taking a nap–which was actually just me lying in bed wide awake for an hour and a half–the producer and I hit brunch, rehydrated with a vengeance, and prepared for Budweiser’s World Cup Finals party at the Palms’ pool. The place looked incredible. Aside from being in Brazil (or maybe Germany) none of us could have asked for a better place to watch the World Cup final. It was an oasis of beer, and it felt like an oasis, too, because there was some serious desert heat that day, which my white, Irish body could barely handle. I’m more of an autumn and winter guy (I can wear a sweater like a motherfucker). Regardless, we had a cabana in front of the stage to cool off in, but before we ever had a chance to reach it the producer grabbed a bucket of Buds, so that we could, again, thank our guests the best way we knew how. The rest of the day was spent with a Bud in hand while Argentina and Germany slugged (or maybe slogged) it out.
Of all the cool stuff we got to do that day, my personal highlight might have been hanging out with the mayor of Whatever, USA, both on and off camera.
If you haven’t heard of it, Whatever, USA, is the yet to be announced town that Bud Light is commandeering for a weekend to throw the country’s biggest rager. You can audition to be a part of the festivities here, if you’re (drumroll for the shameless plug) #UpForWhatever. If the town is anything like the mayor, the weekend should be pretty damn hilarious and awesome.
Nick Cannon showed up, and, like a serious journalist, I asked him about his mustache, which I thought was far more relevant than asking him who Mariah was rooting for that day, like five other journalists there had done before I talked to him. (The answer is she’s rooting for no one. She doesn’t give a shit, and she wasn’t even there.) Either way, Cannon had that Richard Pryor ‘stache coming in nicely. Mario Lopez, who is immortal in both fame and age, showed up a little later. I cannot confirm whether or not he sat backward on a chair.
After Mario Götze’s brilliant goal and Germany’s victory, Nick Cannon DJed while the Brazilian samba dancers, now off-duty, raged the day away with everyone else. The mayor addressed the crowd and, I don’t know, it was all an enjoyable blur of Bud Light and festive happenings from there.
The flight home on Monday was rough, though at this point I associate airports with hangovers; my last 10 return flights have been a living hell of hungover exhaustion and typical flight discomfort. This one was especially fun, due to some violent turbulence somewhere over western Texas. Hungover and terrified is not a fantastic combination, but not even the slight threat of death could detract from the weekend. Hell, even if the plane did go down, it would have been a pretty quality last weekend on Earth, courtesy of Budweiser, Bud Light, the World Cup, the Palms, some twerking girls with a car, the whole #UpForWhatever campaign, and Whatever, USA. According to my media guide, Budweiser had thrown parties all over the world for the tournament, and aside from the Budweiser Hotel in Brazil, I doubt there were any better than this.
A weekend filled with the World Cup, Budweiser and Bud Light, and Brazilian accouterments, and all of it is in Las Vegas? Yeah, it was a fantastic three days.