The formula for feeling Cristiano Ronaldo’s pain—the pain of watching your team lose a penalty shootout, before it ever reaches your turn, in the semis of Euro 2012—involves a lot of math and reaching far back into the files of your memory.
Or at least that’s how I, for a brief moment, did it.
When Cesc Fabregas—who else?—netted the game winner, the Spaniard in me was elated. Heart pounding louder than a bongo drum, I leapt from the floor—the drama was too much for me to be elsewhere—and gave my mom a high-ten. Both hands, with authority. Smack!
After all, Spain had just punched their ticket to the final for a chance at back-to-back titles—with a World Cup sandwiched in-between. We hugged and thought of our family in Jerez, Spain, surely doing the same.
My eyes returned to the TV screen: a closeup of a dejected Ronaldo, no sign of confidence—a miracle—and looking up to the sky, no doubt in search of some answers. From someone.
How had Ronaldo, an elite scorer with a rocket leg, been placed in the fifth spot of such a crucial shootout—a spot where, if worse comes to worst, he never even gets a chance?
Worst came. And Ronaldo was left standing there, kick-less, answer-less, and championship-less. Again. A player known for his struggles in major tournaments, Ronaldo was breaking through in Euro 2012—three goals in four matches before Wednesday. Then this happened.
The camera zoomed in closer and the striker uttered a few words, too mute to hear, and the soccer player in me—with a little help from math and a vivid memory of a similar experience, albeit on a much, much smaller stage—felt his pain.
A decade ago, I had stood in that very spot. No, not in Donbass Arena, Donetsk. And no, not in front of 48,000 raucous fans.
I was a Junior playing for my high school team in a big—no, not Euro 2012 big—midseason tournament. We were undefeated at that point and advanced to the championship game to face a cross-town foe. The game was physical, a bit sloppy and scoreless after 90 minutes and extra time. So it came down to penalty kicks.
Wanting to be the hero—the guy at the bottom of the victory dogpile—I opted to kick fifth in the best-of-five shootout. That kick never came. The other team made all theirs, we missed two and I just stood there. An observer—and nowhere near the bottom—of another dogpile.
That same dispirited look on my face like a sad movie was unfolding right before me. That same glance to the sky as if the clouds—or someone, anyone on them—could explain why.
Seeing Ronaldo like that opened the flood gates to all the emotions I felt that day, that moment. The disappointment, frustration and sadness. But in order to truly sympathize with the Portuguese striker, a calculator—a must for me for anything math-related—was required.
Over a million viewers worldwide witnessed Wednesday’s shootout—with even more to be added once it makes the YouTube rounds. One hundred (tops) were in attendance for mine. That’s—click, click, click goes the calculator—ten thousand times more disappointment. Ten thousand times more frustration. Ten thousand times more sadness.
1,000,000/100 = 10,000
Do feelings work that way, though? Are they actually quantitative?
If so, poor Ronaldo.
Not to mention the crowd chanting—as they did throughout the tournament—the name of his arch-nemesis as he trudged off the field.
Imagine that. You just lost the biggest match of your career and thousands pour salt in your wounds by screaming the name of your “enemy.”
For me: “Scotty! Scotty!”
That’s when it all clicked and I briefly felt Ronaldo's pain.
But then I remembered his multi-million dollar contract on top of countless endorsements, did a few more calculations and didn’t feel as bad.
Smack! Smack! Back to the high-tens.