Experiencing Euro 2012 at an Irish Pub in Main Street USA

In order to boost the popularity of soccer stateside, there have been several recent attempts by major broadcasters, bloggers, and just your average fan on the street to shed light on the sport. While FOX showed its first set of live Premier League games on the free-to-air network last year as well as broadcasting the final day across its family of networks, the Free Beer Movement uses social media and a blog to encourage current fans to convert others.

While I didn’t have to buy someone a beer to get him or her to watch a match, in the spirit of blending camaraderie and brews, I spent Saturday watching the first set of the Group of Death matches at this year’s Euros — Netherlands versus Denmark, Germany against Portugal — at a local Irish pub with a native Irishman and his friend.

The optimal viewing experience would have been to attend during Sunday’s Ireland against Croatia match (considering the result, probably the better for not going), but three neutrals holed up in a bar on a sunny afternoon made me realize there’s nowhere I would rather have been.

Amidst Guinness, Stella Artois, and Newcastle Brown Ale, soccer was strategized and cultures contrasted. We lamented the missed chances by the Dutch’s Robin Van Persie while trying to decide if Arjen Robben is a choker. We made fun of Cristiano Ronaldo’s magically-in-place, greased up mane and wondered if Saturday’s victory is the start of Die Mannschaft’s blitzkrieg on this tournament.

For a fan of soccer who has no friends that share his love, Saturday was a little slice of heaven. I was finally able to talk strategy with someone who not only understood it but could argue with me. I could talk trash about Mario Balotelli and take bets on what minute Pepe would get his first yellow card. But after joking about wives, American culture, beer, and soccer, I came away with two very important gems that made this more than just a day spent with new friends:

Getting not only a European, but historical, perspective of the teams and an understanding of the weight of expectations, I realized this is the second most important tournament behind the World Cup. And I actually felt a little bad for the teams that will inevitably be shown the exit door in a couple of weeks.

Secondly, I got a cultural perspective.

Upon hearing my friend say that when Ireland plays he won’t drink because he needs his full concentration, I was floored — I had watched Team USA begin their World Cup Qualifying the night before while cooking dinner. Perhaps maybe even more for Ireland, due to their failure to qualify for major tournaments, this one means a lot. His apprehension about the next day was palpable. But he swore he would be seated in the same spot come Sunday afternoon, watching the game unfold.

Comparing this passion with his statement that America should be commended for its place in the world rankings, I came away with mixed feelings.

I thought, “We’re America! We always have great athletes and a renowned will to win. Why can’t we bring home the World Cup?” Then he pointed out that our system for culling talent doesn’t compare with most other major soccer countries while the sport languishes behind the “big three” of football, basketball and baseball.

I realized that we need high expectations, but until the sport grows, we won’t be able to make the next step. We don’t have the passion, countrywide, that Ireland does. We won’t pack bars to watch our country play in a continental tournament (in fact, it’s highlights package is usually one of the last items to be shown on ESPN’s SportsCenter) and we won’t stop our lives to travel and watch them play.

But, as two strangers sat down opposite us, unfamiliar with the tournament, our conversation made them curious. We gave the lay of the land about the Euros and the Group of Death. We shared some basics of the teams and their strategy. And wouldn’t you know it, by the time Mario Gomez headed Germany into the lead, they were standing up and clapping just like we were.

And on days like Saturday, I realized that soccer can make it here. And I’m glad to be able to share the love with anyone, no matter if they are American or not.

10 thoughts on “Experiencing Euro 2012 at an Irish Pub in Main Street USA”

  1. “We won’t pack bars to watch our country play in a continental tournament…”

    Your (hopefully) local chapter of the American Outlaws supporters’ group disagrees. I know I was there singing, cheering, and swearing as the US started World Cup qualifying Friday night.

    1. I meant “We” as a collective. And as far as I know, the closest American Outlaws Supporters’ Group is 180 miles away. I wish we had one much closer and I wish it would be a case where there were 100 people who aren’t involved with them to pack a bar.

      1. I like Dools disagree with your statement that Americans wont pack out bars for a continental tournament. The Gold Cup final brought about +500 fans into our small little bar. If there isn’t an American Outlaws chapter near you look into starting your own. Im sure you would be suprised how many fans you would find

        I also take exception to the statement that US fans wont travel to support their team. The American Outlaws have chartered 3 planes to Brazil for the World Cup and you will find plenty of people who travel all over the country to support the team. Myself being one of them.

  2. I’m not sure why this piece resonates with me, but it does. Really nice piece, Great job.–I cant remember the last time I thought that on here.

  3. This piece resonates with me at a particular time. I guess it depends who you surround yourself with. There are many soccer fans in the States. But a major difference I see here is that there are so many different kinds of supporters pending their background and ties with the game. Some are expats who will travel, buy every premium TV package and read every local and foreign blog to be connected with their countrymen back home (basically, this site). There’s the soccer guru, who watches everything and anything that’s on (in this country, that’s a lot).

    There’s the die-hard US fan, which I’ve been seeing more and more of. They are the most interesting to me. They will support the US National Team through thick and thin and they will also watch the MLS all day and night. They believe in the sport in the this country, and that it can withstand the test of time unlike the NASL.

    I’m somewhere in the middle. I grew up watching anything I could with my grandfather because at the time (90s/early 00s) there wasn’t that much to choose from. I remember watching 98 and 02 World Cups being intrigued by teams like Brazil, France & Cameroon. But after 02, I started to support the US National Team and have never looked back. I’ve had a harder time adjusting to the MLS, and find myself watching watching English and German league matches for the majority of the European season.

    There’s still many closet fans of the sport in this country, but it has clearly caught the attention of the networks, and soon it will catch the attention of the general masses.

  4. “Upon hearing my friend say that when Ireland plays he won’t drink because he needs his full concentration, I was floored — I had watched Team USA begin their World Cup Qualifying the night before while cooking dinner”

    There was a discussion in one article that the difference between American and European sports-watching culture is we can still drink or eat when attending sports events while in Europe, you don’t do that. I don’t recall anyone having a beer or hotdog when watching the game at Old Trafford (except in the suites).

  5. You can drink in the stadium concourse before the match and at half time in the UK but you cannot take it into the arena and never will do. If yo spent half your time worrying about food and drink at a match you’d never see any of the game.

    I’m the same as the Irish chap mentioned, not interested in drinking whilst watching my team play in the flesh. It adds nothing to the experience for me. Watching it televised in the pub would be different, I don’t see the point in going to the pub and not drinking.

    The cultures are completely different. Arguably football is the dominant sporting culture across Europe, it appears from my reading of this website to still be a minority sport in America. Still I don’t think that’ll stop you winning something one day.

  6. Great article. I wish we had such a place in my town to watch matches.
    We have a few pubs that show matches, but rarely with the volume turned up loud enough to hear them.

  7. Invite women; we don’t need the redneck arschlochen to become fans anyway.

    plenty of women, Latinos, blacks, and immigrants will watch football. In terms of USMNT, we need convenient places with good beer (hopefully not just InBev, Sam Adams and Miller garbage) in all cities and suburbs to promote advertise themselves as party places for USMNT watchers. People will show up if you got the alcohol, atmosphere, and good television feed.

    Otherwise, the issue is simply getting young people interested in playing football at a young age and having REAL football pitches and quality coaching —not just any “field” and some local bumpkin “coaching” soccer.

  8. I am trying to watch as many games as I can at a bar/restaurant of a team playing that day as possible. I am in suburbs north of New York and trying to squeeze in long lunches during the week near my office and going into the city on the weekends. So far the Portugal and Irish establishments were pretty bummed out and the mood after the Spain draw was eh… but the atmosphere before and during the games was pretty rad.

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