There are so many things going on in my head right now. I am tired. I am sore. I am ecstatic. I am bone tired.
The days bleed together into my head. The mornings were the most normal we got: Get up, go for a run, pick up coffee for my two roommates, eat breakfast, check email. After that, the entire day would be really random.
I also honestly have no idea what to say about Thursday morning. Indeed, I can’t really remember what we did on Thursday morning aside from a trip to Lillywhites in Piccadilly Circus to get some presents. That store is like if Topshop created a sporting goods store – over the top, insanely huge, and panic attack inducing.
Following that trip, my boyfriend and I went to Selfridges and Co. because he heard about a stall in their food section called Brass Rail that purportedly carries ‘The Best Salt Beef Sandwich in London’. Apparently it was worth the claim. Also, Selfridge’s has a “Food of America” aisle, containing Kool-Aid, Oreos, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury cake mixes, Marshmallow Fluff, and Cheez-It’s. It is neon, artificial, and horrifying. British teens ooh-d and ahh-d at all of it while I stared in absolute shock and felt like screaming “Not all of us eat like that! I eat kale! I drink coconut milk! I bake vegan cupcakes!”
Thursday night, we all went to the O2 Arena for our semifinal game against Australia. I’m not going to lie: If you didn’t see me sitting with my family, it’s because I had my head between my knees to avoid vomiting from stress. I don’t do well during close games, but then again you probably all knew that. I honestly wasn’t comfortable until we were up by 15 in the fourth quarter. I know how good Australia is, and if it weren’t for Penny Taylor’s knee injury they would have been even better. Also, the game could not have ended any sooner or else I’m pretty sure Diana would have kicked an official.
After nearly dying of heat stroke in the London tube, my best friend and I were invited to watch the women’s gold medal soccer game at a local bar but we cried uncle. Our feet were simply too worn out and we were starving. We proceeded to get sushi (for me) and Indian food (for her) and sit at at the apartment for a few hours, spending some quality girl time together. It was very much needed.
Friday was quite possibly my favorite day of the entire trip and it had nothing to do with basketball. My boyfriend and I took a three hour train ride to Liverpool, England, to tour Anfield Stadium and walk around for the day. It is my new favorite city and I would love to come back for an extended trip. Aside from being absolutely beautiful and full of very nice people, the overall air it gives off is one of peace and calm. It might be because it’s on the water, or because we had nowhere to be except to make sure we were on the train in time for our ride home, but I was overwhelmed by peace the entire day.
The Anfield Stadium tour was awesome, too. I’ve always been a fan of soccer but never devoted to one club like my boyfriend, and this trip solidified me as a genuine Liverpool fan as we wandered through the locker room, the old “Boot Room” turned Press Room, and of course the stadium itself, which was eerily quiet and perfectly groomed despite a game being played on the pitch just over 12 hours earlier. I stood in awe of the way the people of that city revere their team; in the museum we got to watch old game footage and the shots of the original Kop grandstand seating scared the shit out of me. I guess it’s true for other footy clubs in Europe, but we never really get the sense of that devotion to football over in the states. But then again, the British don’t really do baseball and basketball like we do, and of course they don’t have American football. Maybe that’s the way people get about my Dad’s team, and I just am too ‘inside’ to see it?
Saturday was Portobello Road day, and my best friend and I met up with her cousins for a stroll around Bayswater and the outdoor markets. Our verdict? Interesting, hipster-clogged, and ridiculously overpriced. I bought exactly one thing, and it was a present for a friend.
That night was the night we had all been waiting for. The gold medal game, against France. We got to the O2 at around 7:30 and navigated the ridiculous crowds for some sushi (yeah, I know. A giant tub of arena sushi is probably not the best thing to eat. But dammit I wanted sushi) before getting to our seats. And we were in the nosebleeds. I’m not talking about ‘oh, that’s kind of high up’ nosebleeds. I’m talking about ‘If I stand up I might die’ nosebleeds. I spent the first half of the game crammed up against my seat back, terrified and experiencing vertigo in dizzying waves. Once the second half started and I was a bit more comfortable, the game viewing became a much more pleasurable experience.
I would also like to point out as a moment of personal pride that I did not get felt up by a security guard or by TSA once during the entire trip. The rest of my travel party was not so lucky. Either I’m just super innocent looking, or the TSA people saw how flat my chest is and knew I couldn’t be smuggling anything in there.
The game was the game. Candace Parker and Angel McCoughtry stood out, the defense was overwhelming in the second half, and Sue and Diana kicked it into high gear to really put France away. Truly, as I sit here right now, I can’t really recall the game in its entirety. But the ending? That I can recall perfectly.
I remember the countdown to the final buzzer, shaking my head in disbelief as the gold medal became reality. I remember spotting my sister, dancing in the crowd across the way with another flag, singing “Born in the USA”, and jumping up and down when my Dad spotted her from the floor and waved. I remember seeing Diana look down at her medal.
I remember looking up at the final score, as Lady GaGa’s “Edge of Glory” came blasting out of the speakers, suddenly thinking about my Pop-Pop and Dennis Burden, and feeling tears come streaming down my face. We stood there, holding each other in a giddy, weepy lump, watching the scoreboard.
As the awards ceremony started, I looked down to the lower level and saw my Mom waving frantically at us. “Come down!” she screamed. We very, very carefully made our way back to the aisle and ran onto the concourse, to the escalator, and screamed down the stairs, flags waving in the breeze, to my mom, aunt, and Nonna. Mom was already crying by the time we got there, and I gave her a tremendous hug.
It wasn’t that ridiculously overwhelmed feeling I get when my dad has won National Championships, that uncontrolled sobbing that has unfortunately been captured on camera more times than I care to admit. It was more of a grateful reverence, a culmination of three years of incredibly hard work by my dad and the various incarnations of the National Team. It was for Team USA, for the entire Olympic experience.
That night is a blur. I’m not saying I got to try on Diana’s gold medal (coaches don’t get Olympic medals, which makes sense but damn I wanted to see them drape a gold medal around my father’s neck), got my picture taken with my entire family, and Todd stalked the entire USA team for the night until he got all of their autographs, but that’s totally what happened. The next day is also a blur, save for a lovely brunch and a ridiculous dinner at a steakhouse with my family in which about forty desserts were ordered. The next day we flew home and that was it.
Three years of traveling, waiting, preparing, and stress, and it’s all over. My feet were swollen 2x their normal size from all the walking, my back still hurts, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to take me a month to detox all the sugar and gluten I ate (I have a slight sensitivity…it’s okay if I eat it in small amounts but I basically ate gluten every single day I was in London, more than once. My body has spent the last two days punishing me for that. Ah well. C’est la vie.).
I spent 10 glorious days traipsing around my favorite country (with a side trip to Ireland). I got to hold and wear a gold medal. I got to do it all with the people I’m crazy about.
Of course I’d do it all over again.
PS. People are already asking about Rio. I have no idea. And if I did have any idea, do you think I’d put it on here? 😉