JOHANNESBURG -- Good citizens of Paraguay,
Please accept my condolences, and my apologies. On behalf of my colleagues in the sporting press, I would like to extend our sympathies following your elimination from the World Cup. I hope you can understand that the terrible things we have said about your country over your past two mind-numbingly boring games were not meant as national slights. It was simply the frustration talking. Your soccer team is horrible to watch.
Sure, there was something to admire in your plucky group of defensive, disciplined tacticians, resplendent in their awesome red-and-white socks. They were so willing to play within a system, subjugating their individual aspirations for the good of the whole -- although not for the good of soccer, necessarily -- together conspiring to make a team even as mighty as Spain's look like bumbling heavy-feet with an almost pathological inability to complete a pass.
It's not that it wasn't fun to watch your team play a combined 210 minutes of soccer against Japan and Spain -- both knockout games, soccer at its supposed best -- and see just a single goal. We all love having nothing to write about. The absence of action keeps our stories short, unlike, say, your own apparently infinite attention spans. If there's something I've learned about Paraguayans during this World Cup, it's that you must have an incredible appetite for tedium. In some countries -- Paraguay, I'm thinking -- patience must be treated as a virtue on par with valor or thrift.
You might be pleasantly surprised to know that I've taken the time to learn more about your country these last few days, because I've been so intrigued by your seeming national capacity to take the fun out of everything, including the game I love.
Apparently, there are nearly 7 million of you, my dear Paraguayans, landlocked in the middle of South America, bored out of your minds. I understand that your capital is Asuncion and that your climate ranges from subtropical to semiarid. I'm thinking more of you must live in the semi-arid region than not, but I stand to be corrected.
As a writer, I am an admirer of your 93.6 percent literacy rate, as well as your statistically impressive beef exports. I like meat. I'm grateful for your willingness to harvest and share your edible oils and organic sugar. I appreciate your export of nonmetallic minerals and wood products, too. I've just watched 11 of your finest wood products playing soccer, in fact, and I'm still marveling at their ability to run, occasionally, despite being rooted to the ground. It's quite a trick.
I've been told that you're the world's third-leading exporter of chalkboards. I think it's especially generous that you're willing to drag your fingernails down them for us for free when we might otherwise be enjoying ourselves.
I will say -- and I mean this -- that I was stunned to learn that you fended off Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay for six years, between 1864 and 1870, in the War of the Triple Alliance. That seems like a terrifically unfair fight, and I understand it was nearly the end of you. I'm glad it wasn't. I think the world would be poorer without Paraguay in it. I can trust only that you took some comfort in knowing that two-thirds of that Triple Alliance were sent packing in the quarterfinals along with you, and that Uruguay is only still here because Uruguayans, the lesser Guayans, are unsporting, heartbreaking thieves.
Oh Paraguay, fair Paraguay. I hope that tonight, from Ciudad del Este to San Lorenzo, from Fernando de la Mora to Villa Elisa, that you might take pride in your boys and how far they have come here, the fifth-last team to be eliminated from this World Cup. It's a remarkable accomplishment, and you should rejoice tonight, as I will, now that you're gone. I wish you nothing but peace and prosperity in your future endeavors. I hope that one day you might even be able to take over the world, if it's your heart's desire.
In exchange, please don't make me watch you play soccer ever again. I'd rather you drowned me in edible oils.
With love and sincerity,
Chris Jones is a contributing editor to ESPN The Magazine and a writer-at-large for Esquire.