What can you say about a game like that? You could say that Germany beat Brazil 7-1, but can numbers possibly tell the story? Brazil capitulated, at the sport they love, on the world’s stage, in front of their own fans. To describe it as shocking would be a criminal understatement. I was reminded of the devastation felt when Liverpool gave up a 3-0 lead at Crystal Palace. But yesterday was on a wholly different magnitude. There is no adequate comparison.
At their respective cores, spectator sports are unscripted drama. Where theater, television, and film are beholden to patterns, tropes, and expectations, sports offer unpredictability. The past—say, 39 years and 62 matches—can be thrown out at a moment’s notice. There are people who make large sums of money trying to turn sports into science, to limit the randomness and provide predictions and guarantees of success. I don’t begrudge them. But when a sport becomes robotic, becomes predictable, it dies.
There were some fears that this had happened to soccer. The domestic game is often beholden to payrolls and money, and the World Cup is a tournament where the old guard and pre-tournament favorites generally end up on top. But after yesterday, after this World Cup, worries about predictability can be stowed away. We have witnessed the most shocking result, the sort of thing no writer would dream up. This at the sharp end of a tournament that violently dethroned its reigning champions in the opening stage.
The truth is, nothing I could write about Germany’s destruction would do justice to the game itself. We will try to explain it, but this sense-making is secondary. We would still watch the games without the suited analysts on ESPN, because the game itself says so much more. As a contest, yesterday’s game was over within half an hour. But as a message, a lecture on the untamable nature of the game, it will resonate for years, decades to come. It’s why we watch. There is always more to be seen.