Even the Rain Can't Hold Us Down
On June 10th, I was driving my kids' daycare to pick them up, with about 12 hours to go before Maya and I dropped them off at their grandmother's house for a week.
We still had to finish packing their bags (as well as our bags) and would head out early the following morning for the drive to Virginia Beach.
I couldn't wait.
I don't usually get excited about trips, but I had been looking forward to this one for six months. My 40th birthday was the next week. And we were going to Belize.
That meant seven days and six nights alone with my wife in a beachfront villa.
After a year that brought the death of my brother, a colicky baby, our whole family getting Covid, and a myriad of other struggles and stresses, we needed this trip.
When I yanked the door open to the daycare—eyes locked on my kids' classroom doors—I noticed my baby boy's teacher in the lobby holding him in her arms... and a thermometer in her hand.
He had a fever.
We tested him for Covid as soon as I got home and he was indeed positive.
Maya was in tears. She had planned this trip for so long. She had spent so much money. And she and I needed a break desperately.
We made the best of it with a family trip to the beach and even though we know we were fortunate to even have that option, 10 days straight with two kids at home is emphatically not relaxing.
While waiting for the ferry, Maya showed me my actual present: two tickets to see Manchester City (my favorite soccer team) play FC Bayern Munich at Lambeau Field in Green Bay on July 23rd.
I don't think she had any idea what exactly she had gotten me.
She knew I liked Man City but this was two of the best soccer clubs in the world (the reigning English Premier League champion versus the reigning German Bundesliga champion) facing off at one of the most historic NFL stadiums.
So now we had something new to look forward to.
Green Bay is the smallest city in the nation to have an NFL team. So there isn't much to do there when you're not attending a game. When you are attending a game, though, it's electric.
We spent Friday evening walking around Titletown, a shopping center with restaurants, breweries, and lots of lawn games to play while drinking.
Then, we had an amazing dinner at Taverne in the Sky, located on the roof of the luxury hotel, The Lodge Kohler. With a great view of the stadium, we had an incredible dinner but called in an early night to rest for the big game.
During our Lyft ride from the airport, our probably crazy and definitely too talkative driver mentioned that she hoped the thunderstorm wouldn't ruin the game.
Maya and I glanced at each other and immediately picked up our phones.
The Weather app had shown nothing of the story in the days leading up to the trip.
But like typical Midwest weather, (I found out) things changed quickly.
They were calling for, at best, a massive thunderstorm and, at worst, hail and even a possible tornado. This was all set to happen when the game started at 6pm.
But Saturday morning there wasn't a cloud in the sky. We walked all around the area, drinking beers and eating, and hollering at all the Man City fans taking over the town. It was incredible. People had traveled from all over the world to see this legendary matchup and we were in the thick of it.
The clouds rolled in, but we stayed focused. And after snapping some photos in front of the Premier League trophy and getting a few souvenirs, we walked into the stadium.
It was gigantic, with bleacher-seating in the bottom sections, making a metal bowl-like shape with a perfect soccer pitch in the middle.
Our seats were in Row 2, right behind the Man City bench.
Five minutes after the players came onto the field for warmups, the announcer came on the loudspeaker and told us there'd be a delay for lightning in the area.
We didn't see any lightning and the crowd was agitated.
All players went back into the tunnels and the attendees in the bottom sections were all urged to go back into the concourse due to the lightning (remember the metal bleacher seating??). We all resisted and stood our ground in the rain.
Within 15 minutes or so, the players came back out to raucous applause.
The game started and it was action-packed from the whistle. Bayern Munich appeared to score in the sixth minute but it was called offsides. Kevin De Bruyne, one of Man City's stars had a shot that just missed the post soon after.
The pace was incredible. The control was impeccable.
And I couldn't keep my eyes off of Erling Haaland, the 22-yr-old forward from Norway that Man City had just signed. He was already one of the best in the world and this was his first game with his new Premier League team. High hopes abounded.
He was 6 foot, 5 inches, and had incredible speed—pressuring the defense and goalkeeper each time they had the ball. He wanted it.
And in the 12th minute, he got it.
Off a free kick that got deflected back to the top of the box, De Bruyne slipped it through to Jack Grealish (also destined for an amazing season) who sent it across the box to a sliding Haaland that finished it in the back of the net.
The stadium (and I along with it) erupted.
Almost as if it were a planned part of the celebration, lighting cracked right behind the stadium at around half field. We had a front-row view.
And just as quickly as our voices rose, they evaporated into the night sky, covered up by the loudspeaker announcing that "Lighting is back in the area, folks. We all see it. Please proceed with caution back to the concourse."
This time, it looked real. The sky was scary dark and the rain came in sideways.
I wanted to cry.
We all (tens of thousands of us) piled back into the concourse smushed together between beer carts, hot dog stations, and apparel sh
ops. The heat and humidity bounced off of every person and every object but at least the storm brought in a breeze. After 30 minutes, my new jersey was finally dry.
But I didn't want it to be. I wanted it to be soaked with rain down there on the second row while I screamed in delight.
If this game got canceled, I don't know what we could do anymore.
I would have felt totally defeated and useless—like I had zero control over my life and had to just take blow after blow. I don't know if we could've taken another.
Just as I was about to accept defeat, I heard a cheer.
People started to move! We were going back down!
78,000 fans descended back into the metal bowl and not one of us sat down for the next 80 minutes.
We watched the game of a lifetime.
Two of the world's best teams battled it out under the stormy sky, still pouring down on us and it was everything I could have hoped it would be.
There were fireworks. There was a streaker (a REAL streaker)!
There were chants from the crowd. There was high-fiving of our neighbors and short-term friendships that were made.
There was sheer joy. In the pouring rain.
This was more than a game for me.
It was a chance to remove the "Dad" hat I've been wearing the past four years and be a kid again—one who was screaming in delight to see guys in their 20s play at the top level of the game I loved most. I got nervous with excitement every time one of these stars I've only watched on TV Saturday mornings would walk 10 feet from me to grab some water or sit on the bench.
And my wife, who doesn't love the game like I do, and hates getting stuck in the rain, was right there with me, basking in the moment and sharing the delight with me.
It was a weekend we needed.
And it was one I'll never forget.