The missus and I were in Boston this past Saturday afternoon with some time to kill, so I thought we’d try and find a place to catch the West Ham v Liverpool match. Our journey began in Cambridge, around Harvard Square. Perhaps it’s because the kids at that institution are too busy planning winter break ski vacations in Austria or copying MySpace to make millions or splitting the atom or whatnot, but there aren’t too many bars in the yard.
We passed by one spot showing the game on mute on a tiny TV in the corner. Not good enough in this day and age. Perhaps foolishly optimistic, we carried on. And on. At one point we came across what was ultimately a mirage, a stretch of sparsely-filled bars, all showing college football.
Marching down Mass. Ave. we began to lose hope as the golden dome of MIT loomed ever closer until we came across what appeared to be a shuttered pub in Central Square. My spider-senses told me that the spot was footie-friendly. But my better half, Coachette, was unconvinced, what with the shades drawn on a sunny day and the lack of the requisite surly bouncer outside asking for five forms of ID and birth certificate for out-of-staters. I tentatively tried the door, revealing a pub packed tighter than a hipster’s jeans. Turns out we were in the Phoenix Landing, home of the Liverpool Supporters Club of Boston. Worming our way through the madding crowds with finesse like a vintage Robbie Fowler tearing through the box, we arrived at the bar. The smell of sizzling bacon teased like the unfulfilled promise of a Dean Ashton. Soon we were guzzling warm pints with our elbows tucked into our chests and our eyes glued to the riveting action.
As the match drew near conclusion a tense silence hung over the crowd for West Ham looked resolute enough to earn the home draw. Then, pandemonium; pot-bellies bursting from too-tight replicas, sweaty awkward high-five-into-fist-bump exchanges, a few resigned groans, and the epic struggle to hold onto a pint as El Nino headed home Ryan Babel’s celestial cross.
The final whistle brought that familiar stumble into blinding daylight and there we were, three-thousand miles from home but home all the same. For as amazing as it is that us footie-fanatics can curl up on our couches and peep the games on our flat-screens via Espn2 and Fox Soccer Channel, it just doesn’t compare to the pub matchday experience and the comfort of strangers in a strange town. So full props and pounds to the Phoenix Landing and every other bar across this increasingly soccer-mad land doing its part to support us supporters.