Monday, June 14, 2010

USA vs. England: In Search of a Team, In Search of a Bar

Posted By on Mon, Jun 14, 2010 at 8:33 AM

usa vs. england, 1950
I had no idea where to go. England was about to face the USA in a hugely anticipated opening round World Cup game—it got the New Yorker treatment, no less—and I found myself wandering around Williamsburg in the midst of a spiritual crisis. I saw young men in cargo shorts and flip-flops, American flags draped across their backs, screaming drunkenly into their phones. I saw young men in cargo shorts and flip-flops, the Union Jack splayed across their chests, screaming drunkenly at each other.

To the extent that both groups inspired in me an ecumenical disgust for mob-ratified loutnishness, the prospect of wedging myself into a packed bar—be it English or American—was an unpleasant one. To further complicate my dilemma, I hadn’t yet even figured out who to root for (or against, as is often the case in international sports). You see, I’m a Canadian of Irish heritage (with a little Scots thrown in), so I tend to root against the dominant empires of the 19th and 20th centuries, respectively. Even the standard “underdog rule” didn’t seem to apply, as no one outside of the US can ever really bring themselves to think of any American team as “the underdog” (even if it’s hockey, or cricket, or netball).

I was having a very hard time explaining all of this to the man behind the bar at my eventual destination, Cariño (though at five minutes before kick-off I had his undivided attention in an empty restaurant). Yes, Cariño, the not-yet-licensed Mexican restaurant at which only a few days earlier I’d enjoyed the best rajas tacos of my life. It was perfect: no booze meant no young men in cargo shorts getting drunk, no diehard fans shouting obscenities at the screen, no singing of God Save the Queen or chants of “U-S-A!” (which at one point I heard coming from the nearby South 4th Street bar, an otherwise charming little spot). And instead of jostling through endless Alan Shearer or Alexi Lalas jerseys to get a drink, I was able to take the best seat in the house, by the TV, and let the full crazy of the Univision announcers wash over me.

Alone at the start of the game, by the time Steven Gerrard scored from a lovely slip of a pass from the oft-maligned Emile Heskey, a few others had joined me at the bar (though I’m not sure if they were actually watching). And by the time the deeply unlikable American Clint Dempsey (“Cleentonnedempsee” per the Univision announcers) had scored a shockingly bad goal on the unfortunate Robert Green, the restaurant had filled up, with about half the patrons paying attention to the game.

Oh, the game? The English looked good for the first 20 minutes but soon reverted to their classic international tournament form: a collection of uncertain stars running around the pitch waiting for Steven Gerrard to make something happen. However, despite all the panic in the English press, if Robert Green doesn’t let in that absolutely atrocious high-school sophomore goal, things don’t look so bad.

(As for me, I have no idea where I'll be for the next game, and I think I kind of like it that way...)

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