With the U.S. down 1-0 early -- again -- the mood at Sawyer Park on Washington Avenue was somber.
Those who had skipped work, or skipped doing whatever it is people with trust funds do in the morning, to pack the sports bar for the 9 a.m. match against Slovenia didn't have a whole lot to get excited about.
Hell, we didn't even see the goal thanks to parking issues (I wouldn't pay $7 to have your ______ valet park her _____ on my ____ ). But walking into a quiet room full of soccer fans during the World Cup gives you a sinking feeling, and sure enough, down one was how we got to start our morning.
The crowd perked up, though, when the TVs showed a fat, shirtless American guy cheering on his team at the game, South African winter be damned. America, fuck yeah!! And then a dangerous free kick for the U.S. and yellow card against Slovenia got everyone interested in the actual soccer again; given a little ammunition, the Sawyer Park crowd could get raucous.
That is, until Slovenia scored its second goal just before the half. Suddenly the bar felt like a funeral home -- sunshades drawn over the windows are great at combating glare and making you slightly better about drinking before 10 a.m., but down 2-0, they just intensified the depression that comes when you realize your team probably won't make it past the group stage. We needed a change of scenery and left at the half without even getting any fruit or french toast. (There's a joke about the French national team somewhere in there, but you can probably tell we're too classy for that sort of thing.)
We decided to head over to Ernie's, the rowdier U.S. supporters' home base. Ernie's is where we heard the best jingoistic heckling of the tournament so far. When England was up 1-0 on Saturday, one of the few English fans crammed upstairs had the bollocks to yell, "What's the score, Yanks?!" To which some witty American fan replied, "I don't know -- what was the score of World War II?" We knew there probably wouldn't be any Slovenians there -- there are only two million of them in their actual country -- so, unfortunately, there was no promise of Algonquin Hotel-caliber repartee.
Ernie's was crowded downstairs, though the upstairs, which was ass-to-elbows during the England game, was roped off. The fans were transfixed because the U.S. had scored to bring it to 2-1 -- yeah, we missed yet another goal, this one via lovable Landycakes. The crowd got progressively more exuberant as the U.S. moved to tie it up, and more so when two Budweiser girls started handing out free beer, and then back down again when the Americans had a win stolen by a ref with the nickname "Sleepy Eyes." In that order.
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Still, the tie puts the Americans in a position of strength, and the comeback was gutsy. And it was the first time in years we've hugged several strangers at a bar before noon. If you're watching the Cup at home instead of out in public, or earning money to feed your family like some jackass instead of supporting the team, you're missing out on one of the best parts of the global competition.