The Joy Of Watching Euro 2012 On TV, Alone

We American soccer fans know all about watching matches alone. On the west coast, we stumble through the cold pre-dawn darkness to our couches, desperate for coffee, slightly delirious, and droopy-eyed, just to catch the first broadcast match each Saturday. On the east coast, we trudge through quiet city streets, squinting at the sun, bleary-eyed, walking past only garbagemen and dog walkers to fill the pubs, where 7:45 AM is social interaction time for only the hardiest of souls. And we all know what it’s like to be stuck at work or school on a weekday afternoon for a Champions League or summer tournament match, dreaming of a long and liquid lunch but instead surreptitiously eyeing our phones, or carefully scanning a web page artfully  tucked behind serious-looking spreadsheets.

But watching alone has its benefits; it allows us to follow the action more closely, to absorb more of the contest, to notice details we never would with the distractions of other people. I’ve been enjoying all of Euro 2012 alone until yesterday’s final Group D action, when I went to meet a friend at the Red Lion Tavern in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles.

The bar’s outdoor beer garden was mostly empty save for a few nervous, solitary, chain-smoking English fans. As my pal and I started to catch up, I could feel the glares of the English fans upon us. They were there to bore holes in the TV screen with their steely focus, not be distracted by our yapping. I understood their pain, they weren’t unjustified. Soccer demands a fan’s attention like no other sport. Look down for a moment to scratch your belly and you could miss the only goal.

American sports are perfectly designed to work around no end of distraction. Plenty of breaks in the action to hit the bathroom, grab a round of beers, dive face-first into a pile of saucy wings, bust your buddies’ beans, wink at the waitress, check your texts, update your facebook status, wait in line for the iPhone 5, collect on some bets, transfer funds, and write the great American novel, all without missing much. If anything, it’s weird to watch a baseball, American football, or basketball game by yourself, because what do you do during all those breaks without your friends around? Even in fast and furious sports like boxing and MMA, you can pause your conversation until the break between rounds.

Yesterday wasn’t the first time I incurred the wrath of passionate fans for talking too much during a match. I watched the 2006 England-Portugal World Cup quarter-final in the hot, crowded, but largely silent, back room of McSorley’s in New York’s East Village. I was talking to a friend on my right when the off-duty cook seated on my left poked me and asked “Do you like football?” Confused, I meekly replied, “Yeah,” to which she thundered, “Well then, shut the f**k up!”

Consequently, I prefer watching bigger matches alone from the comfort of my home so that I can concentrate on the game itself, but I can’t deny that being part of a euphoric crowd during a stone-cold classic is a unique joy.

What about you, which do you prefer, watching a match in peace and quiet or among a rambunctious crowd?

17 thoughts on “The Joy Of Watching Euro 2012 On TV, Alone”

  1. I like watching games alone, people get in the way at the pub, I want to watch the game not the back of someone’s head. When I used to go to the pub to watch England games I would always record the match so I could watch it again later that night, knowing that i would miss lots of the action, now I just don’t bother going to the pub.
    I don’t mind watching premier league games at the pub because I’m not that bothered if i miss parts them but when it’s England playing in a Tourney, I need to be alone.

    ‘I was talking to a friend on my right when the off-duty cook seated on my left poked me and asked “Do you like football?” Confused, I meekly replied, “Yeah,” to which she thundered, “Well then, shut the f**k up!”’

    This made me laugh, I’d probably do the same if someone was talking about there day when I’m trying to watch and listen to the game

  2. I’m with you 100%. If it’s my team or a big game I have to watch alone. Pubs are fun, but even if you are watching the screen at all times, just something about the environment becomes a distraction. You tend to not pay attention to the game like you otherwise would.

  3. I also prefer to watch matches alone if possible, or at least at home if other people are joining me. I’m sure that it is unhealthy, but I also frequently stand in front of the flat screen and sometimes even shout at the screen.

    1. Same here — at least for the England vs Ukraine match. I couldn’t sit, and had to stand to watch the match, yelling at the TV at times, pacing back and forth — making a cup of tea to help soothe my throat after I was yelling when Rooney scored.

      The Gaffer

  4. For the two years I have been a fan of soccer, I usually watch the games at home. During the Chelsea final, I went to bar with a friend, and it was amazing. Packed to the gills with Bayern and Chelsea fans, and it was the greatest experience as a soccer fan with other people I have ever had. I haven’t had that experience with the Euros yet, but perhaps for the final. Man, I love soccer.

  5. I hate watching with a group of people. Some people are just there to socialize and they don’t know much about the team or the players. They asking stupid questions and making stupid observations. It makes want to scream and tell the idiot to shut up. ” Why isn’t so and so in the game? He’s injured and won’t be back for a few weeks.”

  6. I like meeting people in a bar. Not all watering holes are the same. Some places are just better for certain occasions than others. Find the right bar stool, and you’re bound to have more fun meeting fans from different walks of life.

    Just last weekend, watching Poland and Russia go down in flames, I met a guy from Bosnia who remembered an international friendly held in town a couple years ago against my second favorite international side. A few weeks ago, I met a delightful Irish couple, watching the US-Scotland friendly. I was hammered, but it didn’t stop me from going into detail about how Ireland wouldn’t win a match in the upcoming tournament. When I ran into them a few days later at another pub, they were hightailing out of there, falling behind 3-1 to Croatia, before I could buy them a round to make up for my earlier faux pas.

    Did you watch the second leg of Barcelona and Chelsea at home or in a pub? I was in a pub, outnumbered by Barcelona fans, cheering on the last few unbelievable minutes. It just seemed like more fun than watching from the living room.

    BTW, and it’s summer, so forgive me if you’ve already talked this up, but at a local pub watching a Euro 2012 match, someone mentioned a rumor about ESPN losing their bid to broadcast early morning English Premier League games for the upcoming season in the states. Is there any truth to it?

    1. “BTW, and it’s summer, so forgive me if you’ve already talked this up, but at a local pub watching a Euro 2012 match, someone mentioned a rumor about ESPN losing their bid to broadcast early morning English Premier League games for the upcoming season in the states. Is there any truth to it? ”

      No, they lost their rights in the UK (although I don’t think that starts until after next season). In the US, Fox has the rights to the games and sells on a ‘package’ to ESPN. So, unless Fox and ESPN change their deal everything will be the same next year.

  7. I travel a lot for business so sometimes a pub is the only option. Particularly outside the US and UK where you may not exactly know who would carry the game or, when you do, the damned channel might be scrambled DURING THE MATCH because your hotel sees no economic benefit to purchasing the added content. (This PARTICULARLY means you, pretty much all of France and Canal Sport+)

    Big important match? Must watch alone if at all possible. People will annoy me too much. But anything else? Actually kind of fun to be at a pub. You get to meet all kinds of interesting people from all over the world that you have a deep shared interest with.

  8. I prefer to watch alone when my kids (3 and 1 yrs old) are out of the house or in bed. Thank God for DVR! The only risk is accidentally seeing the score on TV or internet.

  9. I had never thought about this until I read your article. I’m 100% on board with what you said. I watch most of the games alone at home. While on a work trip last week, I stopped by the hotel bar to watch a game because I saw some other people. The entire time I kept thinking, why are they talking to much, are they even paying attention?

    It’s a little different when I’m with my good friends though. Most of them don’t know much about the game and I enjoy helping them understand…but always with one eye still on the screen. :)

  10. I watch most games at home hear in Florida. But I love watching big matches in pubs but only if they are packed. I was in NYC all last week and in between my tourist activities I made weekly afternoon treks to Nevada Smiths and it was such a great experience. The England games definitely had the best atmosphere but each game and fan base had its own flare. I’m back now so I guess its back to watching games at home. But I would take a good pub anytime.

  11. I wake up every saterday morning and watch the ESPN premier league match of the week alone and its honestly my favorite time of the week. A nice wake and bake session, a coffee and some premiership football and im a happy man.

  12. I watch at home most of the time. I usually tape the game so that I can start it a bit late and fast forward through half-time and most of the second half. I have small children at home, which means I usually only have time to watch about one hour’s worth on Saturday or Sunday mornings before it’s time to get out of the apartment.

    One morning I went to a bar in San Francisco where the Arsenal fans gather, and it was great, but I just don’t have the time to do that anymore. It did seem to me there were a mix of people there- those who stared silently at the screen, and those who chatted with friends. I’m definitely more of a silent starer.

  13. Right on. I try to pretend to listen to the talkers, but really I’m watching the screen and listening to the feed. I also slapped a Barcleona fan in the back of the head after Rooney scored during the ’11 CL final, so you have to be careful about idiots at the pub, especially yourself.

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