Four years ago this summer was the first time I ever even noticed or paid attention to the FIFA World Cup. I will be the first to admit that when it comes to being an American, I am my most American around soccer as I don’t watch it and only did when America was making a pretty good effort at the World Cup in Brazil. Of course, the USA didn’t make it to the final that time around, but the enthusiasm to see as many games as possible in as many bars as possible had built inside me, and I was eager to get another shot at it four years later, which would of course be this summer. Flash forward to present day and the US didn’t even make it to the World Cup at all, I made a bracket with little to no information and I’m doing very poorly, and my support of America overall has hit an all-time low. Like “researching how to get a foreign passport” low and “writing a blog about what’s great in New York City to trick myself into thinking being in the US is okay” kinda low. That’s how I feel about this country I call home.
But it wasn’t just about me and my feelings for this country anymore, it was also about Kate, my friend who I’m trying to convince not to leave New York City. If you’ve been keeping up with my recent posts, you’ll know that I’m slowly hemorrhaging friends in this city as they all move to greener pastures, literally and figuratively, and the thought of losing one more friend to the great expanse that is America outside of my little bubble was too much to bear. I had to spring into action and convince her to stay, which up to this point I have failed at. Thinking back to my summer of World Cup viewing parties at Brazilian bars, or watching the final on a TV that was set up on the boardwalk on the Rockaways, I knew that I might have finally come up with a plan to make her stay. There was nothing quite as fun as everyone stopping, holding their breath, and watching some penalty kicks over a beer. It’s so rare when a group of people come together like that in this city, so maybe that’s what Kate has been yearning for.
The most fun I had during the last World Cup was going to a venue where there was a fervor for one particular team. Watching Germany play in a beer hall. Watching Brazil play at a Brazilian owned bar. Watching America play on my phone in a McDonalds. I had to find a bar and a game that would capture that magic of rooting for the home team despite our home team being at, well, home and not in Russia this time. The great thing about New York City, and I may blow all of your minds with this, but it’s referred to as a melting pot of cultures. There are people from all over the world, meaning there are people cheering for countries all over the world. Unfortunately by the time Kate and I were ready and able to see a game, all that was left were European countries in the World Cup. I have no problem with Europe, I’ve been many times, we’re chill, but I kinda wanted to go to a Mexican taqueria to watch a game. Instead, our best bet was watching the England vs. Sweden quarter final on Saturday, July 7th. I knew of an English pub that is always showing Premier League games that’s also conveniently located off the G (Hey, remember when I exclusively talked about places along the G line? I’ll get back to those posts again soon, I promise), so early one Saturday morning, I headed over to Black Swan on Bedford Ave to get my beer and soccer on with Kate.
The game started at 10:00 am, but knowing that it was a big game and that there would be a lot of people vying for seats, my goal was to get there at 9:30 latest. At 9:45, my boyfriend and I strolled in to an already packed bar, all seats taken, limited standing room only. Kate was on her way, but I was worried that my inability to get my shit together in a timely fashion would tarnish her viewing experience and thus, her New York City living experience. Fortunately for me, I’ve already managed to do a lot of damage in that department, so ruining an activity that she already wasn’t into would just be par for the course. I tried to text her just to warn her that it was packed, last chance to turn around if she didn’t feel like standing for the next two hours and straining to see the TV, but because it was so crowded I had no service and my text never sent. A couple minutes into the game, Kate walked in and claimed some floor space next to us, ready to hunker down and watch sport.
I told her how my boyfriend was an avid soccer fan and how he could enlighten us as to how the game worked and who all the players were. Kate stared at me for a solid few seconds and then said, “I used to play soccer, pretty competitively, for years. I know soccer.” She apparently was the goalie. A running theme through all of these posts is that I don’t do my research, and yet again, I had not. I just figured she must not know soccer because who does. She does. And my boyfriend does. Most of my family does. Everyone in Black Swan does. I don’t. I learn just enough to watch the game I’m watching and then immediately forget it so I can save that space in my brain for imagining what my cat’s birth was like. Was it in a field, or an alley? Did his mother howl in pain? How messy was it? What’s it mean to be off sides in soccer? Were there multiple cats in the litter?
I decided for Kate’s viewing pleasure, and probably for everyone there’s viewing pleasure, I would keep my questioning to a low roar. I was thoroughly enjoying my morning beer and how clever I felt that I could tell which team was wearing which color by looking at the scoreboard on the upper left of the TV, when about 30 minutes in England scored a goal! The place went wild, people screaming, some of us taking out our phones to take pictures of the chaotic celebration. “Are you taking pictures for a blog, too?!” I screamed. I didn’t scream that, but can you imagine if I did? The man sitting in front of us was perhaps the biggest England soccer stan of them all. Every once in a while he would break out into song, hoping the rest of the bar would chime in, usually they wouldn’t. “Pickford is on FIRE!” he would yell at no one in particular. Pickford is, as I learned that morning, the goalie of the English team. The Kate of England, if you will.
At the halfway point England was up by one and the energy in the bar was high. I was hoping that perhaps someone would want to step outside for a smoke because smoking is big in England. Then maybe we could snag some seats and enjoy the rest of the game over a full English breakfast. Alas, only a few people moved from their seats to go to the bathroom and made it abundantly clear that they were coming back and no one was to sit where they were sitting. Our fate was sealed the minute I decided to try a new face moisturizing routine that morning forcing us to be late. We would have to endure the second half standing. And so we did.
Only a few minutes in to the second half and England scored their second goal. While everyone in the bar was losing their goddamn minds, Kate told me that her coach always said that being up 2-0 is the most dangerous lead to have. I could not tell you why, but for some reason that shook me to my core. It felt like election night 2016. I hadn’t even considered the possibility of England not winning because we were in an English bar so it had to happen, but what if they fucked this up and there was a surprise Swedish victory late in the game? How could we go on with the rest of our day knowing that the man who so loved Pickford would be crushed under the weight of England’s defeat? I didn’t realize how much I needed England to win until that moment, surrounded by people all cheering for the same team. It was then I realized I’d probably be very susceptible to joining a cult. I also had seen “Wild, Wild Country” only a few months ago and was very upset at how much my own wardrobe looked like the Rajneshee’s, so my closeness to cult life has been heavily weighing on my mind lately.
Well, dear reader, this was almost a week ago so I think you know how it turned out. Amidst jeers from the crowd in Black Swan for Sweden to “go fuck itself” and “I like Ikea, but fuck you Sweden!” the dangerous score of 2-0 held for the rest of the game and England defeated Sweden in the quarter final. When the final whistle was blown, the bar went nuts, and my favorite patron began singing “It’s coming home…”
This also being almost a week ago, we now know that it is not in fact coming home, because England lost to Croatia in the semi final. I worry about the man sitting in front of me at that bar, I worry about Pickford, I worry about the USA, and I worry about the sanitary conditions of the location of my cat’s birth. I also worry about losing my friends to the outside world, the one beyond the five boroughs. Hoping she was riding the high from that mornings win, Kate would have a change of heart and perhaps think that New York City was in fact now Old York City and now a part of England. I mean, fuck, that would be amazing. But Kate knew better and turned to me and said, “You know you can watch the World Cup and root for teams literally anywhere?” I guess it is one of the few events that the whole world comes together for and celebrates. Then why aren’t we in it? Oh that’s right, we suck in so many ways these days. I’m moving to Old York City, I guess you would just call it York. But I can’t because of passport and visa restrictions! ARGH! I guess I’ll stay, even if everyone else won’t.
Until next time,
I Love You, New York? Do you love me?