New Location

New Year.  New Site.

I will now be on youphilme.com and hope you will join me for more (I know I’ve been slacking) Aggressively Mediocre content! Thanks for your support.

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Top Articles of 2014

After the hustle and bustle of Christmas, the calendar offers a nice, brief week to reflect and prepare the hopeless resolutions for the New Year.  With the boredom that has ensued this week, I have decided to look back at some of the top internet articles that I stumbled upon this past year. Without further ado..

Fair warning, this story has chapters.  Yup, chapters.  Not the shortest of reads, but I think worth your time.  Super enlightening read on Yasiel Puig’s journey against seemingly insurmountable odds from Cuba to baseball stardom in America, and the sacrifices and costs that the escape entailed.


Negrin lived with a family in a favela (or slum) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil as the country tried to prepare its collective face for the World Cup. He offers a raw and uncensored look at the broken country, where soccer means freedom.


An in-depth look at one of the most skilled and complex players in the game of futbol, Luis Suarez.


Derek Jeter reflects on his career of greatness in a rare moment of openness with Tom Verducci.


While there are uncountable opinions on the recent struggles in our country every way you turn, Browne offers a unique perspective by going to Ferguson, Missouri, and relaying the scenes, largely unbiasedly, to the reader.


Arguably the most refreshing piece on Ferguson I saw, as Baucham offers his humble, honest, biblically grounded opinions on the situation.


An article for the naive college football fan in the south that thinks only rival teams pay players.  Godfrey talks to anonymous ‘bag men’ from various SEC schools to write eye-opening details and logistics of how money changes hands to get into the hands of prospective players.


A bat boy recalls his behind-the-scenes interactions from years ago with the great hitter to prove his humility and kindness.


LeBron opts not to have a “Decision 2.0,” and goes with a somewhat surprising first-person article landed by Sports Illustrated to announce his “homecoming” to Cleveland.

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Dak in Death Valley

“Death Valley, the place where opponents dreams come to die.”

Les Miles spoke these words two years ago, and they have all but been accepted as factual by the college football world… especially at night.IMG_7636

42 teams have ventured into Death Valley at night to face the Tigers under Miles … 40 couldn’t escape fast enough, most with their tails between their legs.

The 2 victors? Both ranked #1 nationally, included guys named Nick Saban and Tim Tebow.

… until Saturday night.

All the familiar ingredients were there:  the sweltering sun giving way to an eery darkness, 102,000 sweaty bodies funneling into the gates from their respective boudin-filled tailgates, Mike the Tiger growling certain doom at opponents, and Les Miles swag-limp leading his Tigers onto the field.  The anticipation of a sure Tiger victory seasoned the air.

Only last Saturday night there was another ingredient in the stew that was Tiger Stadium… An uncommon one. And it came in the form of three letters, increasingly sacred to all draped in maroon…

DAK.

A one, Dakota Prescott, was not compliant with the prewritten prescription of opponent’s shame Saturday nights in Death Valley. Defeat, nor a moral victory would suffice.  For a young man growing up in Louisiana, this night was a long time coming, and he would not be denied. “This is exactly what I wanted to do when I committed to Mississippi State,” Prescott said.
DAK
He chose to attend Mississippi State over nearby LSU, and on Saturday night, his world came full circle.  His mother, his rock, Peggy Prescott, lost too soon last year to cancer, undoubtedly flooded his mind.  His dad and brothers eagerly looked on, knowing this was more than just a game… it was an opportunity.  He led the Bulldogs into Tiger Stadium… Death Valley… at night— an environment that owns no soft-spot for feel-good stories and boasts of throttling opponents at the first hint of weakness.

…and he delivered.  

With Mississippi State up 31-10 in the 3rd quarter, Dak and the Dawgs (nice ring to it huh?) had flipped the script, and the Tiger faithful, their taste buds only accustomed to feasting on opponent’s misfortune, were scurrying for the exits.

Save a scoring frenzy from LSU to tighten the contest in the closing minutes, the boys in maroon dominated the contest… coincidentally the three touching the football the most (Dak, center Dillon Day, and running back Josh Robinson) all hailing from the state of Louisiana, all playing for much more than pride.  Robinson, who arguably had the best performance of anyone, said he has been dreaming about this moment since he was 10. (how’s that for a plot twist on Les Miles’ quote?)

When the LSU’s Hail Mary attempt was intercepted to seal the victory, Dak celebrated with his teammates, then ran over to embrace his father and brothers.  A few seconds they were locked; seconds that signified so much more.  The adversity overcome.  The memory of his mother…so fresh and so real.  To Dak, there’s no doubt she was there watching, willing him to each broken tackle and touchdown.

This was his redemption ‘moment,’ and he had risen above, the way most people only dream of before crumbling under pressure.  Only he won’t call it that… he was just playing the game he loves, with and for his teammates, and mostly his mom.

Who knows what the season holds for Mississippi State, whether the flurry of newfound national attention will be warranted… but one can be certain that for #15 in maroon, no adversity will be more than he’s already overcome, and no moment too large.  And that Peggy Prescott is proud.

There’s something special about Death Valley at night… the scene, the passion, the anticipation. But last Saturday something was different… Someone was different.

And he goes by Dak.

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Gringos in Honduras

If you’ve heard anything about Honduras, or specifically the capital of Tegucigalpa, I’d be willing to bet the dangerously short runway at the airport or the elevated crime rate has caught your ear.

Maybe others can speak of the video game-esque racing that occurs on roads, where if your right arm isn’t sore from honking at the end of the day you’re doing something wrong. Also, they fielded a World Cup team that had an abbreviated stay in Brasil, and a crazily high percentage of the cocaine in U.S. makes its way through Honduras on the way.

Sure there is truth to these, but if that’s all you’ve heard you’re missing out.

You’re missing the natural, innocent beauty of its landscape, mountains, and city wedged into the valley and climbing the hillsides, but most of all the people. The children.

So naive and innocent. Overwhelmingly poor, yet unexplainably joyful. Smiles on the faces, with seemingly no reason to be joyful… at least by our standards. I’m not sure we can really understand this dynamic in America, but I think it’s helpful to try.

I had the opportunity this past week to be in Honduras building houses, working in a dental clinic, and hanging with the locals.

A trip of this sort comes with an automatic roller coaster of emotions, as the joy of building a house for a family they’ll sleep in that night and helping with a physical need of a toothache contrasts with poverty stricken people at every glance.

What stood out to me most was the attitudes of the Hondurans, a lot of them in circumstances we couldn’t dare imagine.

The first day we took a schoolbus to the site of the first house we would build, up to the hillside of a community called Dia Monte.

Literally as we entered the village, the children sprinted after the bus until we reached our destination.

Upon starting the first house, I realized my hammer was constantly being beat to my nail by another… from a young Honduran (5 years old) dressed in all red, named Axel. He and his younger brother Estavo were our two biggest helpers that day and always had a smile on their face.

Later I learned that these two boys and their mom had a house built for them a couple of months ago by a similar mission group, and since then whenever a house was being built in their village they always helped out… and I say helped out loosely, as in they did tons of work. I was the one learning from Axel’s carpentry techniques- not vice versa.

When you don’t have much, you can either appreciate the little things or constantly want more. There’s always exceptions, but the Hondurans appreciate even the smallest of things. A smile. Taking a picture with them. A couple of questions in elementary Español. Family. A couple of house-warming gifts like plastic chairs and towels, or getting a painful tooth pulled.

One woman used a couple of her new house-warming gifts and supplies to turn right around a cook spaghetti for some of our group.

Taking a break from house-building one afternoon, we took a soccer ball and began playing keep away with a few kids still in their school uniforms. About an hour and a lot of dirt on our clothes later, the game remained. Same ball. Same smiles. Beautiful in it’s simplicity and carelessness, a welcomed break from reality.

A wise man once told me many times that “little things become big things.” In a country where there aren’t many “big things” to boast about, at least by American standards, I think it’s easier to see that the little things stand out that much more.

In a city filled with so much crime and abundant poverty, the government controversially chose to spend millions on a huge Jesus statue overlooking the city– to give Hondurans something, someone, to look up to in the midst of their situation. I think we could all use this reminder that there are much bigger things than our current circumstances.

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Two of the girls that played keep away.

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Estavo sweeping and his brother Axel helping in the back in all red

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My Next Month

Hidden deep within the tumultuous sea that is dental school life, after treading through seaweed, muck, critters, and the like, you get to an outwardly non-impressive clam that produces a dazzling pearl: summer.

And while this pearl is majestic to say the least, there is but one. Yes, between the first and second year of dental school a normal summer break is allowed, like the good ol days, only to award you with your own patients when the time rolls around next year.

It goes without saying that this is a precious gift; one that should be taken advantage of and cherished to the fullest.

In an attempt to do that, I have chosen to take part in some adventures this summer.  While the first half has included trips with family and a plethora of brother’s baseball games, the next half will include Honduras then Africa.

I’ll be leaving for Honduras Friday and staying a little over a week with a group from Tupelo, MS, where I’ll be helping with a Dental clinic in Tegucigalpa, some construction, and whatever else arises.

Tegucigalpa, Honduras (Wikipedia)

Tegucigalpa, Honduras (Wikipedia)

The goal is to serve these people, show Christ’s love, which undoubtedly some of these people have never seen or heard, and hopefully see what potential dental missions can look like for the future… Lord willing I make it through dental school.

A brief 10 hours or so after returning from Honduras, I’ll be flying into Nairobi, Kenya, meeting two guys in Medical school and another guy to take part in quite an adventure.

We’ll be leap frogging down the continent towards Cape Town, South Africa over the next 3 weeks, or possibly longer if the opportunity presents itself… #yolo right?

I have obvious anxieties about an endeavor of this sort, but the hope is that the fellowship, experiences, and relationships, hopefully impacting eternity, will outweigh the frustrations and potential dangers that might be faced.

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa

Among the stops will be a safari in Kenya, Zanzibar, Victoria falls, Cape Town, and the all-inclusive to be determined… one of my favorite destinations.

Hopefully, I will have some access to internet and be able to post some updates, stories, and pictures or whatever presents itself along the way.

If you have any questions, thoughts, or best yet some suggestions, I’d love to hear anything and everything you have to say.  Just comment below or you can email directly at philipmatthews5@gmail.com.

I ask for your prayers for safety, as well as courage in sharing the love and Good News of Jesus with the Honduran and potentially African people.

With that said, get out and make your own memories this summer.

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What to do with Your Crowns

Today we get awards for everything. Run a race you get a medal… Participation. Fourth runner-up at the science fair.. here’s a medal for your accomplishment. Why is this? Well in part it’s to keep parents and kids happy and to simply make us feel better about ourselves.

All cynicism aside, awards are generally a good thing. Goals and achievements are admirable and to be sought for. The desire to persevere for something meaningful is woven into everyone’s DNA whether they know it or not.

In this day and age, though, I wonder if we strive too hard for awards, albeit good ones. A job promotion, a sports title, a certain class rank, a grade on a test. Or maybe we feed our insecurities with made-up awards to make us feel better like Instagram likes on a picture or doing just better than the next person at any given deed.  Our culture that’s addicted to comparing and out doing each other at any cost has to take a toll to some degree on our morals, relationships, or even priorities… right?

Even though there are tons of awards and accomplishments to go around today, it seems like everyone is fighting for a select few that ‘matter’ to them… ones that will really let them sit back and say “Ahhhh” if accomplished.  I think we’re all in danger of turning these awards or achievements into ultimate things by which we measure our worthy and joy… aka idols.

What if all these awards, promotions, and achievements we’re persevering so tirelessly for gave way to one award that really, infinitely mattered?

A crown. An achievement of sorts.. a trophy, if you will. Yes, a crown of righteousness will be awarded at the end of time to all who love the Lord and eagerly await His return. (2 Timothy 4:8)

Just like our earthly crowns, this crown must be persevered by holding fast to faith in Christ’s work for us (Revelation 3:11), but on the other hand, this crown is imperishable and will never fade away. (1 Corinthians 9:24). Furthermore, these crowns will be given not because of what we’ve done, but because of what Christ did.

Isn’t it beautiful and humbling that the only award that matters in the end comes by nothing we have done? (check out Ephesians 2:8-10)

So what comes of these crowns? Are they worn around to boast how good we were on earth for all of eternity?
Quite the opposite. It seems that our reward for holding fast to Christ who paid our punishment on the cross is cast down at the Lord’s feet in worship and reverence to the One who is worthy (Revelation 4:10-11).

Why not let our trivial, earthly awards mimic the ultimate award to be received on the last day… by casting them down at His feet. What would this look like?

As my good friend Max(imus) once said, “What we do in life echoes in eternity,” so what if we let that be true of the accomplishments that we hold so near and dear, and allowed them point to the One who is worthy.

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GoPro Visits the Mississippi Delta

When put through the ringer of dental school, give a group of guys a few days off in the delta with a GoPro and who knows what could happen.  Well it happened earlier this year… And while everyone lived, it was a good, clean time to be had by all.   I’d love to hear what you think below, and hopefully I can get better with this whole GoPro thing for future adventures.

 

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Memories Past and Future of OMAHA

Omaha, Nebraska boasts a population 420,000ish making it the nation’s 42nd largest city. Conversely it maintains an inviting, small-town feel. On the map, the Missouri River slithers through the center of the city and assisted pioneers with its discovery in the mid 1800s.

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Pacing the cobblestones of the Old Market District, you’ll be tempted to indulge your taste buds at the Upstream Brewing Company, Twisted Fork, and Spaghetti Works to name a few. And afterwards, if you play your cards wisely, you might end up at Ted and Wally’s for some delectable homemade ice cream in every sense of the word. Omaha is a nice, enjoyable city by most accounts. They take pride in their people, events, and steaks.

All that said, I’d be shocked if tour guide was on my future occupation list. However, for two weeks each June, Omaha is much more than the lovely aforementioned tidbits. Omaha instantly morphs into the college baseball capital of the world… Draped in 8 school’s hopeful colors coupled with the perfect dosage of optimism, youth, and enthusiasm, life is breathed into Omaha, Nebraska.

Far more than the now famous Peyton Manning audible call, it hosts one of the premier events in all of sports. Unique in its simplicity and innocence, the College World Series takes you back to the glory days of youth tournament baseball… reminding you the beauty of America’s pastime.

Last June, I found myself returning from a European backpacking trip shortly after Mississippi State had dogpiled in Charlottesville, VA, meaning the next stop was Omaha. Having not been home, jetlagged and foggy as could be, after the Bulldogs opening game victory over Oregon State, the decision was easy to head towards the Cornhusker State.

With each Bulldog victory, the excitement grew and led to more visible maroon around town. Reinforcements came in to replace those who regretfully returned to work. Workers at hotels and restaurants were adopted into the MSU family and donned maroon shirts to games.

In between smashing Doozy’s amazing sandwiches, Ted and Wally’s Homemade Ice Cream, and candy from the countless candy stores in the Old Market District, we weathered the heat and storms to soak in baseball in its finest form.

The atmosphere at TD Ameritrade was a healthy dose of locals, passionate fans (with maroon every where you looked), beach balls, and a couple girls running on the field for the sake of a cool Vine.

Matching the beauty of the experience is the lifelong memories it provides.  Everyone needs to experience the College World Series, even if just for the event. And while the Bulldogs fell a painful two games short of bringing home a national championship, the memories created in Omaha are anything but second tier…Bench Mobb

  • I’ll remember the national media falling in love with the Bench Mobb (2nd “B” silent… headed by the Ross and Evan Mitchell and Jacob Lindgren), Ross getting catapulted out of the dugout before every game, and Team No Undershirt running around with belts tied around their heads.
  • I’ll remember pounding DoubleTree cookies by the dozen, riding awkward two-person bikes around town, and the awesome movie theater with recliners.
  • I’ll remember the town being painted in maroon, with thousands waiting hours for general admission tickets during tornado-like storms one morning.
  • I’ll remember meeting up with friends old and new, finding creative ways to spend the loads of time in between games, hotel hopping and sleeping on a cot in some of the players’ room.July 7, 2013 261
  • I’ll remember not only the “MAROON… WHITE” chant we did with a tiger (the tiger voiced the MAROOOON portion) at the Henry Doorly Zoo, but when the same cheer was belted pridefully from the crowd even as UCLA was celebrating… along with the “Hunter Renfroe” and “Adam Frazier” chants that echoed through the stands when the outcome was inevitable.
  • I’ll remember the lines to take a goofily-posed picture with the statue in front of TD Ameritrade Park and visiting the location (now a wiffle ball field) of the old Rosenblatt Stadium.
  • I’ll remember kids crazily mistaking me for a player in the lobby of the hotel and asking for my autograph.. I definitely never signed one……Renfroe
  • I’ll remember the picture and story of my friend Jonathon Josey’s dad’s arms raised high in victory just above Hunter Renfroe as he made a ridiculous grab to ensure a game one victory… fulfilling his promise to his mom and finally making it to Omaha… as well as Renfroe’s bomb and salute that sent the Dawgs into the Championship series vs. UCLA.
  • I’ll remember friendships with the players, and their magical run going further than any other team in Mississippi State sports history.

But most of all I’ll remember the memories.  Redundant? Nah… Get to Omaha. Experience it. Make your own memories you’ll never forget.

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Where’s the FUN in Youth Sports?

youth-soccerGrowing up attempting to play nearly every sport and settling in on becoming an average high school baseball player, I love watching and playing all things sports… maybe too much at times.

There’s nothing like working hard to achieve a goal, and sports help by providing tangible results that can be seen and celebrated.  When you cash in that big hit, clutch shot, or birdie putt, suddenly all those workouts and sprints with your lungs exploding through your ribs seem worth it.

Now being on the latter side of athletic competitions, due to age and a condition entitled not being good enough, it’s interesting how you see things from a different perspective as opposed to during the heat of a battle.

Now, when going to a brother’s game, helping coach, or just watching for the fun of it, it seems now as if youth sports are less fun than ever.  Pouting. Bad attitudes. Gloves and clubs morphing into projectiles. Tears after a strikeout. Not to say this is the norm or that kids aren’t having fun the majority of the time, but it just seems like games can be somewhat of a pressure cooker… kids trying not to mess up instead of exhibiting the naive, carefree attitude of running around and having f-u-n.

Admittedly, this epidemic probably isn’t any worse now than when I was playing.  It’s just easier to see when you’re not as enthralled in the game (and taking part in the bad attitude game at times).

I spent this past weekend in Louisiana watching my brother and somewhat helping coach all ages of high school players and witnessed countless moments of intensity and frustration, kids seemingly about to crack.

Unfortunately, I think the majority of the problem today starts with parents and coaches who, probably unknowingly, place pressure on the kids to succeed at nearly whatever the cost.  This could be from a genuine desire to see the kid succeed and be happy, or maybe as an attempt to to live vicariously through them… to identify themselves with a child’s success.

A lot of times, I think kids are also taught from select teams and tournaments that their value and ‘belonging’ comes from their ability to perform on the field, and in the grand scheme of things that couldn’t be further from the truth.

In one instance this weekend, the starting pitcher had a rough outing to say the least.  Walk after walk, hit after hit, he was yanked after 80 or so pitches, having recorded 2 outs… (non-baseball people this is no bueno).  Frustrated, he ran straight to the bench, chunked his glove and hat down, sat down, folded his arms and stared straight ahead, almost daring someone to get near him.

Admittedly, I was hesitant and at least wanted to let him cool off before entering the personal bubble he had established.  Then Ross Mitchell (yeah, the pitcher from Miss. State), went and sat right beside him, encouraging him and telling him the positives that he could build off of in his next start, and that he battled, and didn’t mope around.

What once looked like a kid ready to royal rumble with anyone near him, became a jovial teammate, putting his rough start behind him.

I think it’s vital as parents and coaches to see these moments and sports as a whole as opportunities to teach young people lessons much bigger than the particular game they’re playing. For instance:

How to deal with failures… and ultimately, that failure is not final.   While failures at any level of sports are inevitable, it’s important to realize that a more lofty battle is being fought. Christ has won the victory over sin and any shortcomings in this life for us on the cross, and we cling to the promises in God’s Word… namely that Christ has purchased an inheritance in Heaven that is ‘imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,’ that no shortcomings on Earth can take away.  And if we, all of us, can grasp this, it frees us to live every aspect of our life, on and off the field, in response to Christ’s love, and not stressing trying to get everything perfect.. because we won’t.

Working hard to achieve a goal.  This is beneficial in all aspects of life… obviously.

Teamwork…  The ability to play and work well with others is vital because we aren’t created to live in our own world of one, but to engage in the beautiful ups and downs of relationships… Cue the Together Everyone Achieves More cliche.

The reason for playing… FUN.  Important to constantly ask and remind kids that ultimately it is just a game and meant to be played for fun…

Be an Example… and a Witness.  No matter what stage you or your kid may be playing on, there is always someone watching, even if it’s only teammates or opponents.  And if a kid reacts counter-culturally (a positive attitude to something very negative), people will undoubtedly notice and probably wonder why.

This is nowhere near all that needs to be on this list, but I think it is at least some of the high points.  And while I don’t claim to be anywhere NEAR a master on this issue, I think it certainly needs to be addressed and talked about it within our sporting events and circles of influence… that while it’s just a game it can be so much more, teaching points and opportunities to learn countless life lessons for our young people and adults.

Now, let’s go have some FUN!

Also check out http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/youth-athletics for much more wisdom on this topic than I could ever hope offer.

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World Cup 2014: Fans and Fourth-Years

Vuvuzelas buzzing. Body paint and body odor covering the masses. National anthems prompting crowds and neck hairs to arise in unison.

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This is it. Our chance to show the world that we’re “for real.” Adorned in the beloved red, white, and blue, our squad will take the pitch opposite Ghana on June 16 with the US of A behind them and critics and skeptics lurking.

Notice the possessives used in the precious description. Every four years we come to embrace this team as our own and attempt to will them to defy the odds and topple a mighty foe on the world’s stage.

Every fourth year brings renewed optimism, patriotism, and appreciation to the ‘beautiful game,’ even if only for a few weeks.

There are two types of American soccer fans: fanatics and fourth-years. The former likely grew up playing the game and follow it religiously, be it in the MLS, English Premier League, or another arena.

Admittedly, I am the latter. I grew up playing the game, enjoy it, get psyched every fourth year for the World Cup, but find it tough to follow on a regular basis… other than the occassional FIFA video game beat down of a reluctant opponent.

It’s an exciting time for American futbol. The popularity of the world’s game is growing stateside, probably faster than most think.  The MLS, started basically because it was a prerequisite to host the World Cup in 1994, now boasts 19 teams with two more on the way.

Nonetheless, we’re still well behind most of the world in terms of popularity and skill of the game that transcends culture, politics, and countries like nothing else. However, we can take a bit of pride that it is just a sport and not life or death like it can be seen as in some countries around world.

For the vast majority, the most pressure our kids face is from coaches or intense parents trying to live vicariously through their kids, but in many countries around the world a kid’s footwork on the pitch can be a life-spring for a family or sole way out of poverty.

By no means am I making excuses for not excelling on the national stage… but at what cost?  We rightfully pride ourselves on freedom that we have fought for, and I’m glad that we can have the choice to play games like soccer as kids… Not having to move away from family at the ripe age of 7 trying to make a professional team or impress an agent.

So whether you’re a fourth-year , fanatic, or never watched a match, I hope that you’ll watch and appreciate this World Cup in support of the U.S. with some perspective… that it is a game, but in some countries it’s so much more.

If you’re like me, you found yourself in the unlucky section of a dogpile four years ago when Landon Donovan scored the goal against Algeria that put us through group play to the round of 16.  With odds against them, hopefully this Cup will boast dramatic moments for the U.S. that will help climb the ladder of relevance on that national stage and be talked about for ages.

Don’t miss it.

And a little help getting hyped…

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