The USA played Germany in the World Cup today. It was a critical game for the USA, which needed a win, draw, or close loss plus help to advance out of the “Group of Death” and into the second stage of the tournament.
The game started at 12:00 noon, right as lunch began at Boys State. Our lunches run on a staggered schedule. Each county arrives, gets their food, sits down and eats, then leaves so the next group can come in. Today, we added “watching the World Cup” to that list.
Delegates and staff everywhere were glued to TVs for as much time as physically possible during the lunch period. I ate early, left about halfway through the first half, and went back to the dorm to catch the rest of the game. A group was watching the match as they waited for their scheduled time.
With about eight minutes left in the half, the counselor turned off the TV. Time to go. “C’mon,” said a delegate. “Let’s line up quick so we can get over there and watch it.”
I’ve never seen a group of fifty delegates get lined up and move to lunch so quickly. It was efficient like a German run from the midfield. Thirty minutes later, the group was back for the start of the second half.
About forty people were in the group. Thirty-four delegates, four staff members, one marine, and two Rider cleaning staff all focused on the TV as the Germans relentlessly pressed the wings and controlled possession. The USA got a couple excellent chances in the waning moments of the game, moving everyone to the edge of their seats and drawing collective exclamations.
This is new. World Cup soccer hasn’t been this big a deal at Boys State since I’ve been here. News of Landon Donovan’s goal in 2010 spread throughout Boys State quickly but it didn’t command the attention of the entire state. Some counselors remember listening to games on transistor radios back in the 1980s with only one or two other friends. Three-fifths of a city watching together? Very unusual.
But sports are unusual in today’s culture: they’re the one thing we can’t tape-delay. Everything else can be experienced later by individuals alone. Even TV shows, one of the other final bastions, are increasingly watched online, asynchronously. Sports are different. They happen live, and there’s no good way to catch up later. If you want to see a match, you have to watch it at that moment. In the whatever-you-want, whenever-you-want world of 2014, sporting events are scarce resources.
Boys State is also scarce. It’s also about to end. By the time this article is posted, there will be less than twenty hours remaining in the program. In that time, we’ve still got two debates, two votes, two large manuals, a test, graduation, time with families, and other things to do.
There isn’t a lot of time left for delegates to spend time with each other. They might be together, in the same location, but they won’t be interacting much. If they want to enjoy each other’s company more, they won’t have long to do that.
But there are a few times that they can. Meals are a given, and tonight, each city will share a late meal together. These meals are bittersweet. We’ve been together for a week. In that week, we’ve gotten to know each other, work with each other, and have fun together. The city meals remind us that we’ve enjoyed each other but also that it’s coming to an end. Soon, goodbye will be all we have.
And then what?
That question is hard to answer and it’s hard to ask. Maybe that’s why many counselors don’t address it tonight. But it’s there, lurking behind us. What comes after Friday at 4:30 P.M.?
Quite a lot, actually. After the end of Boys State, the delegates will go back home, finish their summer, finish school, go to college, graduate collehold on, I’m getting ahead of myself.
The reason we don’t always bring up that question is because the city meals are the last extended time we have together and we want to enjoy each other’s company rather than think about not having it. There is a time to laugh as well as a time to mourn. Today, tonight, and tomorrow are for laughter and friendship. We’ll do it together, sharing a meal and our time, just like we’ll share hugs and goodbyes tomorrow. Both times, we’ll think about what it would be like if Boys State was a full-time thing and not just a week and about how the friends we’ve met here have enriched our lives. (If you want an answer to that question, come back on staff!)
Endings are always hard but they get weird once you’ve experienced them many times. You feel sad to see people leave but also have anticipated it. The emotions aren’t as vivid as they were before. But when you’re a teenager, those emotions are powerful, and the goodbye is hard. What carries you through are the memories of good things past and the prospect of more good things ahead. Tonight, we’ll add a few good things to that list with our friends. Hopefully, that will be enough.