I strolled into my bar the other day, five to ten minutes late for lack of sleep but still confident I could set up the place in time to show every customer, from my first to my last, the finest of experiences. After all, it was a big soccer day and I knew my drinkers would be there in full force.
Little did I know!
I recently started working at an Irish pub, one of Tampa’s finest. Great food, an extensive beer selection and obviously the finest of service thanks in large part to yours truly. The place is not known as a “sports bar,” but as we all know, when the World Cup comes around, soccer fans, both fringe and frivolous, flock to places where they can cheer on their fellow, shin-guarded, uniformed countrymen.
Last Saturday afternoon featured the biggest opening game of the tournament to date: Italy vs England. I was ready. And it was a good thing because the place was mobbed from start to finish.
Soccer fans with at best distant, generational ties to either one country or the other, or perhaps just eager to see a great game, all saddled up to whichever part of the bar they could find room to order pint after pint and catch a battle of two heavyweight, former Cup winners. Some cheered for one country, others for the other; all were warming up their pipes for the USA-Ghana game that would follow two days afterwards. Italy and England are soccer royalty, two of only eight countries to win a Cup. Guys at the bar had broken out their best soccer jerseys for the occasion; the women were just as avid in spirit if not in attire. All watched whichever big screen they could feast their eyes on, welcoming the emotion of a sport that only comes every four years.
Cup fever is a rarity in this country but opening week proved to me that an appreciation for soccer is finally alive and well in the USA. For the longest time, we Americans never followed a sport we don’t play or couldn’t use our hands at but now more than ever, dare I say, we’re starting to believe.
In case you’ve never step foot on another continent, the World Cup is the most important sporting event in the world. Sorry, Super Bowl. You may be the most watched program in this country year after year but people in Australia, Germany and Ghana have never heard of Richard Sherman. Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar are idolized globally.
There was a time when we here in America would dismiss the World Cup’s importance. I’m getting the sense this time around might be a little different. We are watching and we are good.
An early defeat of Ghana has the USA poised to emerge from the “Group of Death” and also has every American eagerly anticipating the next game against an undermanned Portugal team.
When Clint Dempsey scored in the first MINUTE of the Ghana game, we cheered. We lost our minds when sub John Brooks put the unlikeliest of headers into the net in the 86th minute to give US the lead for good.
The patrons at my bar went nuts. Beer was spilled, embraces were shared and high fives were so smack-tastic, people left the place with sore palms. If you weren’t watching and you’re an American, shame on you.
Before the Cup, Jurgen Klinsmann tempered our expectations by publicly stating it is “unrealistic” for America to win the Cup. Landon Donovan, the former face of American soccer who didn’t make the team, disagreed with him, stating that he thinks most Americans believe we can win.
I’m not sure if we think we can win but I know more of us will be watching the farther this team advances. And that is a good thing. Millions of fans from lounge to living room to lawn will continue to drape themselves in American flags, paint their faces red, white and blue and scream loudly enough so their voices with be justifiably hoarse the next day at work.
It’s time we kept up with the joneses and show national pride and not just regional. Sure, Klinsmann was keeping us in check but that’s not going to stop any of us, nor any of his players, from thinking victory can become reality.
And it shouldn’t.
Enjoy the games, people.
Good article Chump! I have been an avid soccer fan for many years (played 8 years when younger). It is nice to see the US as a mainstay at the World Cup. Next Thursday against Germany will tell us how far the US team has come. That is an elite German team ( my World Cup champ pick before the tourney btw) and they may put it to us. The US team has several deficiencies. They were dominated by Ghana in all honesty, but we won and that is all that matters. I agree we have a good chance to advance and all that is probably needed is a tie against Portugal. Portugal has a serious goal differential to make up after getting bent over by Germany. So a tie against Portugal and don’t get stomped by Germany and we are probably good to advance.
This is what soccer passion is about around the world…
Don’t watch soccer but a couple matches a year…until the World Cup arrives. Each Cup I have gotten more immersed than the one before and this year I have only missed but a handful of matches. Follow them at work, weekends etc. Not being a regular follower it is very difficult for me to know if the US side presents a true, legit challenge to the rest of the world…but as you said it does not matter whether their coach is blowing smoke or not…every four years hope springs anew they can advance past the group stage and deep into the knockout rounds. Enjoy!
I can’t see the US advancing , because theirs is an extremely tough group (Group G) . But if Klinsmann get the team going even with the injuries to the team’s two best attackers in Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore , then they stand an outside chance ,
England blew their wad , because the team lacked experience , along with the incessant stupidity of team manager Roy Hodgson , I’m up $1500 , because of two losses , which I predicted before the tournament began .
It’s been a great tournament so far with still a great deal to play for . Team USA are in a tough grouping and with games still to play against Germany and Portugal , it is imperative to obtain a win and a draw at a minimum , to get through to the knockout round .
England’s continued failings were a blessing in disguise with the constant idiocy of the press back in the UK along with the stupidity of team head coach Roy Hodgson .
Right now, D, Ghana is giving Germany all they want. Like you said, Ghana was the aggressor in the game against us but scoreboard.
I’m sure we’ll be texting tomorrow during the US game. I want to see how aggressive WE are or whether we only play for the tie.
Why do I have the feeling that doing so will come back to bite us in the ass? I’m not sure Klinsmann is the kind of coach who plays for the tie, particularly with Portugal a man down.
Oh, and D, looks like it’s time to go to Chile, huh?
I think your sentiments echo those of most Americans.
Ratings, viewership and interest will most certainly increase the farther we advance.
England underachieved, Al, that’s for sure. And what of Italy?
Why is it that you don’t see the US advancing? All we need is a tie against an undermanned Portugal team. You don’t see that as a possibility?
Do you believe that Team USA can beat both Portugal and Germany in back to back games ? They may well sneak a draw against the Portuguese but it will also be dependent on the mindset of Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates , who will be playing for a great deal more than pride .
Let’s put this way , England’s failures in the World Cup have been well chronicled and this team was never good enough to begin with . Roy Hodgson and his coaching staff could not spot talent with the aid of a damn flashlight . In 2010 his predecessor , Fabio Capello chose to leave Theo Walcott off the team when Walcott had an outstanding season in the Premiership . His decision was later ridiculed by the press , when he stated that the player lacked experience .
Team USA blew a golden opportunity and now it all hinges on their game against Germany .
Ghana vs Germany was the best game I have seen in the World Cup and was played at an extremely high level. Ghana was aggressive vs the US, but the US had serious problems. We averaged only 3 passes per possession before we would lose the ball…3.
The US played much better against Portugal and outplayed them in every facet of the game. The US deserved to win, but blew it as I am sure we are all aware.
It will be wild against Germany. Their passing is 2nd to none. I hope that neither side really has an interest in winning and a draw is the end result. The US needs to be careful in attacking too much as Germany will scorch the US with counter attacking. Go Portugal too for that matter as them winning is better than Ghana in case the US loses to Germany.
Is it a decade too late, in terms of Michelle Wie winning the US Women’s Open ? Phenom or simply someone now fulfilling her true potential ?
Tough game to watch Sunday, Al. I was in a bar packed with people shouting “U-S-A!” until Ronaldo’s last heartbreaking pass. Everyone devastated. Thursday’s another game and hope is not lost. We’ll see how they perform against one of the better teams in the nation.
Wie’s only 24 years old, Al. I haven’t followed her career that closely but then again, it’s women’s golf? Who follows is closely?
So, D, where ya’ gonna watch the game? You taking off of work?
That game came down to complete complacency of the team and I doubt that was what Jurgen Klinsmann drummed into the player’s heads prior to the start of the contest. By far the best player on the team was goalkeeper, Tim Howard who has been the USA best and only world class player over the last decade . All of this idiocy about Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey is laughable to say the very least.
If Team USA loses to Germany and Portugal gains a win by a large margin over Ghana , the fault will lay with the US players , rather than the head coach , Jurgen Klinsmann. He handed them a playbook , but they were too frigging dumb to stick with it .
As to e’s career , there was a time that the writers were trying to suggest that she could take over from Annika Sorenstam and completely dominate women’s golf . That has not happened yet and is unlikely to happen .
How much more drama can LeBron now provide ? He’s now going to create and orchestrate a ” feeding frenzy” having opted out of his contract for the second time in five years . This situation has to be pi#$ing off Pat Riley and the front office of the Miami Heat . Do you believe that Bosh and Wade are now likely to follow suit ?
Rays back to losing after a great win streak . What’s up with that ?
Should read as to Wie’s career …
Your thoughts on the Bucs and what you have seen or heard concerning the team ? How did you view their draft class overall ?
How is it that some NBA analysts are comparing the upcoming NBA Draft to the draft class of 2003 ? The talent level in this year’s Draft is nowhere near the level of 2003 .
No, I have to work but I am sure I will be paying attention on my computer while appearing to be busy.
The cup I’m celebrating is Lord Stanleys.
With Gaborik now signed, we could see more cups in LA before long.
I actually watched a little checkerboard kickball…saw both US goals vs Portugal…and in that short span saw more flops than a Vlade Divac YouTube video.
Now dude goes Tyson for a 3rd time?
Is he that programmed to keep his hands oit of the equasion that he couldn’t just punch the guy? Pussy ass shit.
God gave us opposable thumbs for a reason…to use the remote and turn the channel.
All we can do is hope the US gives it their all today, Al. Ghana should play Portugal tough. They’re not about to roll over… we hope.
And yea, LeBron. Guy can’t seem to stay out of the news. If you’re him, and you just declared free agency, where would you go to pursue your next ring?
I’m laid up at the house sick. Was supposed to work but fever and not just world cup fever hit me and hit me hard.
Let me know if you need updates. I’ll be watching from my sofa under the covers.
But I thought David Beckham was supposed to bring soccer craziness to Los Angeles.
What ever happened to that master plan?
From my understanding, Beckham brought some MLS titles to LA…As far as interest on my part…Not so much.
To me, soccer meant having to threaten a large group of non-english speaking gentlemen to get off the fucking softball field before we use our bats on your skulls.
If the US goes deep in the tournament, I’ll pay a little attention for the sake of patriotism, but I just don’t get it. God gave you hands for a reason….To not use them seems stupid to me.
It seems more like a game of keepaway than anything else. Running around on that huge field and guys going for Oscars with all the dramatic acting simply doesn’t float my boat.
All the power to the rest of the globe for loving it, but it’s not for me.
I did like the flick Green Street Hooligans, but that’s about where my interest in kickball ends.
The Great One brought hockey to the City of the Angels. That seemed to turn out pretty well. Still nursing that hangover?
The NHL, however, was already an established sport in this sport. Soccer not as much.
The USA made it out of the first round. You may want to watch Tuesday afternoon for after that, they’ll be playing Lionel Messi and Argentina. That one might not end so well.
I here there’s a ring in LeBron’s toilet bowl , that needs his attention, because that’s where he and his teammates dumped their ##it after having their a##es handed to them by the Spurs ,
Team USA will be in for a rough ride in this upcoming round . Defensively this is not a very good team and their best player remains the goalkeeper , Tim Howard .
Let’s just say Team USA will need Jozy Altidore at 100% if they stand any chance at taking down Leo Messi and Argentina.
Beating that team could be a game-changer for soccer in America.
David Beckham brought big time soccer to LA and Philip Anschutz (owner of the LA Galaxy) made millions off his exploits . Now he’s getting an MLS franchise in Miami and watch the city council lick every orifice they can find when it comes to his bodily functions, while Miami still continues to hemorrhage money all over the place . Baseball stadium barely filled to watch a team that cannot maintain any real consistency .
It won’t be just Altidore that is needed , but the entire team , because this is now for all of the marbles . If they make it to the quarter finals , real credibility will given to the team and create real excitement back in the USA. More kids are playing soccer at the middle , high school and collegiate level than any other sport in the country , but rarely is that given any due notice or reported on by the odious print and television media .
Your thoughts on the first night of the NBA Draft ? Still surprised that the Sixers picked Joel Embiid , given the kid’s ongoing medical ailments odfiveklcxerop>aftS tin d iu
Everybody had Embiid as their consensus number one. That surprised me more than the Sixers picking him at three.
Overall, I think it was a pretty solid draft. That first round should be loaded with talent that will be ready to contribute sooner rather than later.
Should be an interesting race for rookie of the year.
I have enjoyed the World Cup, but I enjoyed the 2010 World Cup, too. I feel like there were a lot of fans then, but apparently it doesn’t compare to this year. At least, that’s how the media is portraying it.
Honestly, I still don’t think it will translate enough to the MLS. It potentially could have had a larger impact if the team was able to stick around for a little while longer, perhaps breaking a record and even moving on to the semifinals.
But let’s face it, they are not good enough right now. Tim Howard was incredible, but Belgium dominated that game… and almost nearly lost it in extra time…
I’m with ya’ on the MLS, KP.
The World Cup is an entirely different animal.
The MLS might have a little spike next season due to increased American interest in the Cup but it has too much to compete against.
I can tell you, however, that a lot of people were watching this Cup. And I think as we get better, the groundswell will continue to rise.
But again, we’re talking apples and oranges here.