The Copa America is Decadent and Depraved
SANTA CLARA -- It takes a certain amount of dedication to paint your entire body and then drive two hours in the sweltering heat to Levi's Stadium as the paint turns into crust on the mass amounts of body hair.
"This time we brought towels," my friend supporting Argentina said, as Ali, dressed in a batman onesie, shook his head. "Last time we were standing up in Ali's car for the entire drive. There's been a learning curve.
"A slow one."
Dressed in just shorts to go along with the paint, he took a sip of his Lagunitas Little Sumpin', and returned to biting chunks out of the grilled chicken he recently dropped on the dusty gravel. Can I get a five-second rule?
These are the real fans, saving up for months to spend their entire paycheck on Copa passes to help pad the pockets of FIFA executives while my friends struggle to make rent.
With insane ticket prices, the Bay Area tech yuppies filled up the lower three bowls of the stadium, leaving my friends relegated to the fourth.
It's no wonder then, that some Chileans were also there to support Bernie Sanders on the eve of the California primary.
Speaking of true fans, the heat caused Ali to expose his chest on the afternoon, revealing above his heart a tattoo of the warrior crest of Zamalek, one of Egypt's two most popular clubs. Five times champions of Africa, Zamalek make up half of the famous Cairo derby, along with rivals Al Ahly.
Sadly, I eventually had to leave the party, which was quickly joined by two well-coiffed Argentine supporters who made the last-minute drive up from Orange County.
Profusely sweating in my professional attire, I was then shuttled around to three different locations by Levi's Stadium employees, a confused lot in each of my visits. A hulking bearded man shuffled me towards a canopy entrance to the stadium, where I was told to head back to where I came from.
After pleading with the empty security line to let me in, they finally obliged, then questioned me for 10 minutes as to why I was the fifth journalist that had been sent their way, when they were allegedly not the correct entrance (note: media were given zero instruction on where to enter the stadium).
While trying to cool myself down in the muggy dust of the security area, I voiced my honest opinion of the logistical situation in the stadium -- namely that it sucked. I told a nice gentleman that the Copa America media process was the most confusing I'd gone through in my three years as a journalist, and that it wasn't close. He shrugged, extended his hand, and said, "Welcome to Levi's Stadium!"
I joined an equally-perspiring Jeff Carlisle ("At least it's not as hot as Friday") in the elevator where we enjoyed some of the Panama - Bolivia game.
Levi's has figured out how to make sure we're always watching a game, but they can't figure out how to send out an email that tells us where and how to enter the stadium. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
After a short meal, I made my way to my seat where an Argentine behind me screamed the starting lineups into his phone, presumably to a boozed-up editor sitting on his hands down in Buenos Aires.
"Latin American press boxes are very noisy places," an English-speaking media member said to no one in particular.
Lionel Messi didn't come out for warm-ups, nor did he play, but I don't think I really understood how famous he is until the national anthems.
As the Argentine anthem played, most of the credentialed photographers stood and turned towards the bench to shoot Messi, whose still shot was presumably more valuable than any action shots of the game.
The photographers are wearing yellow. Guess which bench Messi was on?
The game came and went, a caffeinated affair with end-to-end action for 90 minutes. The pace was like that of the USA - Colombia match, only the opposite.
Claudio Bravo, on the night of becoming the first Chilean to garner 100 caps, will have a night to forget in goal for the defending Copa champions. But NorCal finally got the quality international game it deserved, even if the people who cared most about the game sat the farthest away from the action.
Such is life: decadent and depraved.