Monday, June 14, 2010

Rob Green lights up the bar - Margin

Watching football in a bar at 11:30am raises some questions. For a start, do you meet up with friends for breakfast before the game? We decided not to. But then do you drink throughout the proceedings? Those of you who know me best know there is only one answer to that, though we genuinely kidded ourselves otherwise for a short time.

Colin and I knew just one bar in San Francisco that we could definitely both find, and that was the one we got chatting in a couple of nights earlier. So all was well right?


We met outside the door at 10:30am. Outside the locked door. Foley’s on O’Farrell Street doesn’t open at that early hour and we had to find somewhere else quickly so we had time to settle in and pick our spot.

Fortunately Market Street has a big bright sports bar of the sort we just don’t have in England. There is neon everywhere. There is a big glass front that I fear would be smashed in most English towns. There are booths facing screens in every direction. The wonderfully friendly bar staff were chipper even as they worked an earlier shift than they would normally face. This sports bar knew the drill. It was open early, had garlic fries on the go, and offered us beer as we stepped through the door. We surprised them by ordering tea and orange juice.

I should stress that Colin is Irish and as such a USA fan temporarily. Obviously I see the world differently. But we figured that with no guarantee of a crowd we would at least provide antagonism enough for each other.

We took our seats at a table a few metres from a giant wall mounted screen. The orange juice and tea lasted about ten minutes and we had finished our first pints before England were one-nil up. As I said, the sports bar knew the drill better than us.

As we drank our first pints and watched Steve McManaman and Roberto Martinez talk about the game in store, we were joined by others. Colin’s girlfriend arrived after her short but impressively productive shopping trip. A couple of middle aged women had pulled up chairs alongside us all. And a German chap with a lot of hair had introduced himself and joked that the USA would win this one.

And so to the goal. The passing was excellent, the finish perfect, and around a third of the bar jumped up and cheered. There was noise, excitement, and a lot of England and English shirted strangers congratulating each other as though we’d been friends for years. It was not yet noon but this felt like watching the game at 8pm in a London boozer.

Or at least it would have done, but with England scoring, only a third of the bar erupted. We arrived early so hadn’t realised that it was now definitely standing room only. People stood around the bar watching small screens. More people still stood everywhere else facing all different directions to watch whichever screen was convenient.

And then came Rob Green’s mishap. Now this may have been calamitous for us English. It could have meant going on to lose a game we should have won. It may also be the effective end of his world cup. But it was also manna from heaven in Market Street. The assembled yanks and the handful of Irish taking in the game needed this. And so did us complacent English.

None of them expected to win. None of us expected them to win either; at least not after our opener. But that goal inspired hope. Suddenly every move forward triggered intakes of breath and cheers of “C’mon!”

At the other end there were yelps of “No!” every time England shot. And the other third of us behaved exactly the same in reverse.

The atmosphere grew until the last ten minutes when we all became resigned to the draw in front of us.

And when the game ended every American, local or otherwise, commented that that was the end of Green this world cup.

As far as they were concerned, Green was done for. The British press would tear him apart. There would be no mercy. He would be the scape goat and his career would now suffer.

They were of course all pleased with a draw, and commiserated me despite my sanguine take on the group stage. But all day long they continued to comment on our goalie and how unfair it was that he would be destroyed and hated for that one mistake.

And they were right. This was not a matter of insight but a simple matter of fact to Americans. Football isn’t special or specialist. It is just football and the assumption was that we all knew how such things worked. Especially us English with our horrible press.

Sadly for Rob Green, if they are wrong, it will only be because of timing. Had that been a knock-out game his best next move would be to cancel his ticket home. As it is he might hope that it will be long forgotten as he sits on the bench and lets another keeper try to do better.

Fingers crossed!

Tweet it, digg it