World Cup Lessons for Writing

Writerly Rant #41

by Mikael Carlson, Author.

Image courtesy of Vat 19

Image courtesy of Vat 19

America is not a nation known for its soccer prowess. Our indifference to the sport can be best showcased that we gave it a name different than what the rest of the world calls it. On the global stage, the World Cup is the premier soccer “football” event held every four years to wild jubilation in the nations that qualify for it. In the United States, the Super Bowl is the premier “football” event and we hold it every year. That’s the way we roll. It’s also how we justify being relatively inadequate when it comes to soccer and having a much smaller fan base for it.

That doesn’t mean the U.S. team’s journey in this year’s World Cup in Brazil wasn’t without its legion of supporters. Tens of thousands of fans gathered around American cities to root on the national team, and countless hours of productivity were lost as employees gathered around workplace televisions to do the same. For a nation where soccer is, at best, the fifth or sixth most popular sport, there was no dearth of support for our boys in the Amazon. And interest is growing.

The gifts the U.S. team gave us during their last game in return for our support are important ones. Down 2-0 in the closing moment of extra time against Belgium, all seemed lost. Enter the American Dream. No, it’s not the overused moniker for our greatest player. He’s not a phenom played by Adam Sandler showing up at halftime to lead the Muddogs to a Bourbon Bowl win in the Waterboy. He was a young player who was a controversial choice to be on the U.S. team at all. He was an underdog; a young player we “borrowed” from Germany who has not had a chance to make his mark on the world stage.

So what did he do? In his first World Cup game ever, he scored in extra time. It wasn’t just any score, but one that provided a team with hope and a nation with something to root for the first time in nearly two hours. The remaining time bore witness to an aggressive American assault in the Belgian end, and for a couple of fleeting moments, we all believed the team might pull off a stunning comeback.

The end result was a disappointing one, at least for those on the left side of the Atlantic. The United States lost a 2-1 heartbreaker, but left several valuable lessons in their wake. The first is the understanding that the youngest, most inexperienced and most unlikely person can change everything. Greatness is not a birthright or inherited trait. It is earned in the cauldron of competition and forged in the crucible of adversity. We are all capable of it if pushed to achieve our fullest potential.

The second is to never, ever quit. The U.S. may have lost the game, but they showed the grit and determination every nation should expect out of their respective national teams. They played hard until the referee blew the final whistle and were an inspiration to us all. Their tenacity reminded all of us to leave everything on the field, even in the face of defeat.

So what on earth does this rant have to do with writing? I hope I don’t have to point it out but I will anyway. Great writing is not a birthright, inherited trait, or dare I say, limited only to renowned, traditionally-published authors. The youngest, most inexperienced and most unlikely people in the world of literature have become some of the greats. Anyone who dedicates themselves to the art of storytelling can make a difference in the world. The odds are long, and the road unsure, but the obstacles can be overcome if you never, ever quit. In writing, the only referee capable of blowing the whistle is the one in your mind. His name is Doubt, and he needs to be ignored. Those are the lessons we all need to remember and embrace.

The self-publishing world is the soccer of authorship, at least from the American perspective. It’s not as popular or as desirable as traditional publishing, but it is growing. It also has a legion of supporters filling their Kindles and Nooks with the works from unknowns to read on their commutes, beach days, and evenings at home. So long as they keep reading, we should be willing to keep writing. Maybe, just maybe, if we do, we’ll realize our own dreams in the process. After all, everyone is waiting for that indie underdog to sell a million copies in the World Cup of writing.

Mikael CarlsonMikael Carlson is the author of the political fiction novels The iCandidate and The iCongressman. His third book, The iSpeaker, will be released in September. He is an nineteen-year veteran of the armed forces, served as a U.S. Army Paratrooper, and earned a Master of Arts in American History. Mikael currently lives in Connecticut.

Categories: Rants, Writerly Rants

Tags: , , , , , , ,

4 replies

  1. That match was fantastic! The young player was fantastic! I was left with a hopeful feeling, even though the US did not, win as I had hoped. But you are doing fine and hopefully in the next 4 years you will be right up there amongst those battling it out now. I’m just about getting ready to watch Brazil -Argentina. Yes, there are lessons in this for writing, as you indicate. Maybe someone can write a US football (soccer) YA story – I’m a YA and children’s author. Why don’t I write it? Because I cannot create a US persona. But . . .I could have a migrant child who wants to play soccer. Two challenges he faces; being a migrant and wanting to play soccer. It’s a thought. I’ll see.


    • That should be Brazil – Germany above. Oh for Brazil to win.


    • Hi Diane,

      Yes, it was a great one. My advice is write the story. Kids, at heart, are kids regardless of where they grow up. If you get jammed up, I’m sure you can find people to reach out to for help. The other thing is the story could have a very receptive and growing demographic. You have the opportunity to write a book that could inspire a whole subset of people looking to realize their American dream.


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