The stickers arrived in a Trojan horse, which my son—god bless him—fell for.
The large parcel proved irresistible to his five year old imagination and he tore it open. Out spilled dozens of sticker packets.
"Stickers" he shrieked with joy. "Stickers!"
Had I told him ahead of time that I had bought stickers of soccer players he would have dismissed them—and me. I have heard the refrain, "Soccer is borrrring" so many times now that it might as well be my ringtone.
Their arrival had to be disguised, but now that they were in our living room they could not be ignored.
He began ripping the packets open, a widening grin on his face.
"Baseball players!" he shouted. "Tons of baseball players!"
My head slumped. This was going to take some finesse.
'Well, they are like baseball players," I said coyly. "They are soccer players who are playing in the World Cup."
He eyed me suspiciously. "Soccer is borrr" he started to say.
"Don't say it," I interrupted. "Let's look at the book they go in first."
We have one TV in the house. Each week I begged my kids to let me watch the EPL on Saturday and Sunday. Each week they insisted on watching whatever collection of animated anthropomorphic animals that could mock me the loudest.
All over the world people were watching Chelsea defeat Liverpool. Here in New York I was being defeated by the Octonauts.
With the World Cup coming up I was determined not to lose out again to this generation's Scooby Gang.
I had tried to get my little guy out in the park to kick a ball. Twenty minutes and a dozen thrown balls at my head later I gave up.
I had tried bribery, flattery and threats. My daughter advised my son against all blandishments and urged him "to stay strong. He tried the same thing with me. He will stop."
The stickers were my last hope. He loved stickers.
After carefully opening each of the packets we began arranging the players by team on the table. There in front of us sat dozens of tiny faces, each one silently urging my son on to fandom.
He had me read their names.
When we got to Hulk, he looked confused. "He's not green,' he said. "When he plays soccer he wears yellow," I said.
He accepted that explanation and asked," Who does Captain America play for?"
"For the USA, of course."
We turned to the USA pages and began affixing stickers. I told him Michael Bradley was Captain America but that he couldn't play with has usual costume.
We moved on to Argentina. I explained that Lionel Messi was little but that he didn't let his size stand in the way of greatness. My little guy liked that a lot. We stuck Messi to the book very carefully.
I began to straighten Messi's edges.
"Don't touch," my son warned me. "I will do it."
And so he did, carefully lining up the players in their boxes, one after the next.
After a while he noticed me smiling broadly at him. "Do you want to watch these guys play soccer on TV?" I asked hopefully.
"Maybe," he said. "We'll see, daddy."
Progress is measured in adhesives.