If ever there were a sporting event that was tailor-made for watching in a sports bar with a room full of diehard fans, it's World Cup soccer.
It's the one sporting event that takes a pretty easily graspable concept for the casual fan (put ball in goal -- and in the case of soccer here in the United States, we're talking like super casual, like "Paris Hilton deciding whether to bang the guy across the bar" casual) and combines it with our national sense of entitlement that we should be better than the world at everything and when we're not we can crack jokes about bombing our opponent back to the Middle Ages.
I was legitimately giddy for Saturday's knockout round of World Cup Soccer, especially the chance to watch it in a room full of fellow Americans adorned in red, white and blue, drinking Guinness at 9:30 in the morning.
This was the only game I planned on doing this for all weekend -- I was going to watch the United States-Ghana game, and if we won, then we had another week of anticipation and build-up for the quarterfinals; if we lost, it was back to vomiting about Astros baseball and vomiting every 30 minutes at the thought of alleged NBA superstars having to collaborate in free agency to win a ring (another topic for another time)...really, back to a lot of vomiting.
But a strange thing happened Saturday -- even with the United States losing on Saturday, I got bitten by the World Cup bug, and in the process found out I had powers even I didn't know I had. Allow me to explain...
I know that as a society we're still trying to block out the Star Wars prequel movies from our collective memory, but remember little 9-year-old Anakin (about 15 years before he became the galaxy's version of Satan wrapped up in a Raider Fan)? Remember how it took him casually bumping into a couple of Jedi knights while he was working in a sweat shop as a mechanic's assistant (damn child labor laws on Tattooine were for shit) to eventually realize the superhuman powers he possessed -- innocent things like moving stuff telepathically and flying around like a literal bat out of hell that eventually turned into Anakin choking people for fun by merely pointing at them? (Not cool, by the way).
Well, I had an Anakin moment this weekend, and it occurred about halfway through the England vs Germany match on Sunday morning. I realized that by merely showing up at a party for a World Cup game that my presence would rain bad luck down upon the team whose fans were hosting that party -- so to you American fans at Ernie's on Banks this weekend, I'm sorry. To the British fans at the Red Lion? Well, I'm not apologizing, but that strange tremor you felt on Sunday when that goal that would have evened the match at two was disallowed? That was me. And Mexico fan? I don't speak Spanish, so I'll keep this simple -- I was at Mambo North Houston on Sunday afternoon. Argentina is viva-ing today because of it.
I went to three parties at three bars this weekend, and the host teams all lost...by a combined score of 9-3, which is roughly the equivalent of a combined three-game football score of 270-14. Yes, I am the soccer-party turd in the punch bowl. I am the Sith Lord of bad karma.
I am Darth Soccer.
I'm not gonna lie, I had a great time at all of the World Cup parties that I went to. I'm just saying that if you're Brazilian, be glad that I'm not eating lunch at Fogo de Chao this afternoon when your team takes on Chile. And Japan, stop snickering....because I know where all the sushi bars are in town, and if I have to throw down a dragon roll at 9 a.m. tomorrow when you play Paraguay, I'll do it. And if you think I'm kidding, try me....
Probably the best way to understand the evolution of my self-actualization in the realm of soccer Sith superhuman powers is to go back through my Twitter feed from Saturday and Sunday. So here we go, in 140 character blurbs, the genesis of the greatest closer this side of Mariano Rivera (i.e. if your country's soccer team is on a roll, karma will bring me in from the bullpen and turn them into a first-grade house-league team) -- ME! (with my running commentary as well...)
SATURDAY JUNE 26 (LIVE from Ernie's on Banks in the Montrose area!)
11:06:25 AM -- Does it get any more American than 11AM drinking w @taskmaster1560 @erniesonbanks & looking ahead to the next round vs Uruguay? I say no.
Sean Pendergast: Yeah, two hours before the game started, me and my producer, Kyle "The Taskmaster" Manthey (also known as @taskmaster1560 on Twitter), were watching highlights of Uruguay and South Korea from earlier in the morning, a game whose winner (Uruguay) would be the eventual opponent for the United States-Ghana winner....and naturally Kyle and I (two guys who know virtually nothing about international soccer) were breaking down our chances against Uruguay like we were Alexi Lalas and Tommy Smyth. I mean, does it get any more American than two booze-guzzling idiots looking ahead like two experts to the next round of a sport they know nothing about? (Actually, about half of the presidential elections in our country's history tell you the answer to that.)
A couple good tweets from followers/listeners of mine before the game started...
11:51:53 AM -- (Via @LEXthePEX) Ghana v USA will be rehash of Kamala v Undertaker Summerslam 91! We all know who won that matchup, don't we!
SP: Kamala was from Uganda (actually he's from Mississippi), but point taken. Regardless of which small African country you are, we're going to tombstone pile drive you!! REEEESST IIINNN PEEEACCCE.....
11:38:43 AM -- (Via @RyanLostinTX) America is about to introduce Ghana to freedom and democracy, the hard way.
SP: ....nodding my head.....ok, back to my tweets....
11:57:38 AM -- Nothin from nothin, but if ur from Ghana and ur team wins today, budget some xtra minutes to get thru airport security on Monday. Jus sayin'
12:53:38 PM -- "Can we please change the rugby match or track meet over to the soccer pre-game?" Yeah I just said that. This is a weird day.
3:50:00 PM -- If this bar were in Ghana, @taskmaster1560 would be strewn in about 50 pieces behind the building right about now.
SP: Yeah, when it came to Kyle, the measured pre-game analysis of roughly four hours previous to this tweet gave way to a string of four and twelve letter words about Ghana and soccer players from Ghana and mothers of soccer players from Ghana that...well, let's just say Kyle had them doing unspeakable things. Eventually, the real victim in the whole thing became a wall that Kyle pretended was Ghana.
3:51:01 PM -- VERY fearful Ghana might go into the 11 corners for the rest of the match.
SP: I think Dean Smith re-tweeted this...at the very least, he probably tagged that he "Liked" it on Facebook.
3:59:36 PM -- If it's possible for a person to be NSFW, @taskmaster1560 is pulling it off. Yeoman's performance today.
SP: Ironically, Kyle read this tweet on his phone and was far more offended as a former yeoman than he was being called "NSFW." Apparently, he was a yeoman on a shrimping boat at some point and thought I was disrespecting yeomen everywhere. Repeated attempts to explain that "yeoman's performance" is a actually compliment were met with drunk ears, and...actually now that I think about it, maybe he was pretending the wall was me! Let's move on....
4:15:31 PM -- Time to cue "Just Once" by James Ingram and drive home weeping...
SP: Because it's as easy as it gets to take any tearful occurrence and apply the Last American Virgin end-credits analogy to it. Insert Landon Donovan as "Gary," go ahead. Watch....
4:22:17 PM -- Bad news, we lost. Good news, you know Stallone is now frantically writing the script for Rocky VII w Rocky vs some Ghana dude.
4:30:15 PM -- Number of goals scored by US forwards in World Cup. ZERO. That @brianching fellow might have helped. #BobBradleyFAIL
So if you're keeping score at home, I've been to exactly one United States watch party with the diehard soccer fans of Houston and the United States lost. It sucked. It sucked big time. But I so enjoyed the spirit in that room that I wanted to chase it. So one of my buddies that I was watching the game with at Ernie's, former Houston Texan Marcus Coleman, suggested that we hit the Red Lion (big time English soccer bar on Shepherd) on Sunday morning for England and Germany.
Despite being a former NFL defensive back (or who knows, maybe because of it), Marcus is as rabid a soccer fan as I know. Hell, his xBox handle is "WannabeBritish" -- in short, if Marcus Coleman is saying we need to watch a soccer game involving Great Britain at the Red Lion, I'm packing up the tea and crumpets and making a beeline for Shepherd.
So I arrived there around 8:30 a.m. for the 9:00 a.m. kickoff, which meant "standing room only" for me, Marcus, and my buddies Miguel and British Ian (who is not actually British, and who like Marcus does not really look British per se, but who unlike Marcus, doesn't really have a burning desire to be British. Make sense?...Yeah, me neither.)
So let's get the Twitter retro cranked up....
SUNDAY JUNE 27 (LIVE from The Red Lion on Shepherd!)
9:05:03 AM -- (Getting my game face on) Plus I still haven't gotten over those assholes taxing us without representation back in the late 1700's. Douchy move.
SP: Yeah, that's how I get amped up for international soccer games...go back and see how the country we're playing wronged us when we were seeking independence. Most soccer fans get fired up for the match by watching highlights or having beers with fellow
hooligans friends. Me? I watch the "No More Kings" video from Schoolhouse Rock....
9:26:35 AM -- Scott Skiles has mad foot skills. #Rooney #separatedatbirth
SP: Yeah, Kevin Rooney looks exactly like Scott Skiles. With some David Anderson mixed in.
9:47:54 AM -- Mike Renfro somewhere nodding his head at that dogshit missed goal call. (throwing Htown a bone)
SP: Tweeted this right after the flurry that culminated in England being denied a clear goal that would have completely changed the complexion of the game. That goal would have made it 2-2 and put game pressure on Germany. Instead, well....it ended 4-1, so you know how it went.
9:51:50 AM -- Anxious to see if the Allies come out for the second half. Very anxious... #victory
SP: If you haven't seen Victory starring Sylvester Stallone, do yourself a favor and go rent it. Just trust me. Awesome old-school Stallone flick that came out (I think) between Rocky II and Rocky III (right about the time Stallone was hitting "Roger Clemens with Toronto" levels of greatness -- which incidentally makes "Rocky Balboa from I and II" Stallone as Clemens with the Red Sox, "Rocky Balboa from III and IV" Stallone as Clemens with the Yankees, and "Rambo" Stallone as Clemens with the Astros; Clemens on Capitol Hill is Stallone as himself.).
9:55:02 AM -- Went to USA bar yesterday. Loss. At British bar this AM. Down 2-1. Any my Argentinian followers have suggestion on where to watch Arg v Mex?
SP: So there it is -- if you're looking for the moment I realized my Jedi powers of making the party's host country suck, it was halftime of England and Germany. Would I use my powers for good? (i.e. leave) ...or evil... hmmm...
10:30:27 AM -- Part of me wants to see Germany score again to see if England fan complains about running up the score.
SP: Tweeted this as Germany went up 4-1. Was hoping to see Germany run the equivalent of a reverse in a college football game but I don't think there is one.
10:39:18 AM -- In pantheon of "despondent fans of losing team", body painted SEC fan has been replaced by dudes in British bomber jackets. WorldCup rocks!
SP: My biggest guilty pleasure is not eating breakfast at 2:30 in the morning, it's not Neil Diamond's box set, it's painted-up diehard fans whose teams are on the business end of an ass kicking. Always cracks me up. British World War II Bomber Jacket Guy was just an international version of that.
Eventually, England went out with a whimper and the game ended. After scarfing down the Sunday breakfast fry (eggs, bacon, beans, mushrooms), I could have gone home. Hell, I was on three hours of sleep, I probably should have gone home. But I was feeling powerful all of a sudden. I was the jinx. I was the cooler. I was the turk. It was time to go inflict pain on one more fan base.
So off to Mambo North Houston for the Mexico watch party with my buddy Miguel! Tweet retro machine....GO!
SUNDAY JUNE 27 (LIVE from Mambo North Houston!)
1:15:16 PM -- Part I'm most excited about for this game? Spanish announcers on every TV in the place!! GOOOOOOOOOAAAAALLLL!!!!!
1:17:45 PM -- Just asked @MigM_ for the scouting report for this game and he made Mexico sound like the Utah Jazz of the World Cup. Solid.
SP: Yeah, Miguel does not hide his disdain for the Mexican national team. The first ten words of his scouting report included the words "fakers" and "floppers" roughly five times each. He did agree with me that Mexico Fan was much more likable than Jazz Fan (and at Mambo, much easier on the eyes!...yeah, had to get a perv swerve in.)
1:25:08 PM -- Can't wait to actually hear Messi get thrown through the Spanish announce table!! #WWE
SP: WWE fans are laughing out loud. Non-WWE fans just know that the Spanish announce table is the equivalent on a WWE broadcast to Wile E. Coyote on a Road Runner cartoon.
1:55:15 PM -- "MEXICO.....IT IS YOUR DESTINY...." #DarthSoccer
2:04:14 PM -- Mack Brown is digging the way Diego Maradona claps.
SP: Yeah, Argentina coach and soccer legend Diego Maradona is the classic overanimated sideline goof -- like a coked-up version of Bruce Pearl, only with a goatee, a mullet, and the distinct possibility that he could really be coked up.
Eventually, Argentina won the game 3-1. A fantastic day of soccer watching and self-realization of my ability to make teams suck, led to this tweet....
4:31:04 PM -- So the host teams of the bars I've been to last 24 hours were outscored 9-3. I am Darth Soccer. Alderaan Shmalderaan.
My favorite tweet from a follower of mine... (Via @brentshearer) @SeanCablinasian Let me know where you are watching games the rest of the week. #HeadedToVegas
So you're all on alert -- that means you Brazil, and you Japan. Germany, I brought you into this round of the tournament yesterday, I can take you out! And Ghana....yes, my little African friend....just know that if I realized that my mere presence at a watch party would cause the United States to fold like a lawn chair, I would have left Ernie's on Saturday and the United States would live on! You do realize this, don't you? Don't you???
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My final tweet before I went to bed last night....
10:32:01 PM -- Great bar hop/WC watch day today w @MigM_ @patchmc42 @Ian77379 @dskillzhtown @millycu @MikeP_sr @Real_UncleB. Friends rule, lots of laughs!
Indeed it was. Now someone tell me where the Ghana watch party is this Friday.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on the "Sean & John Show" and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.