This is a guest piece by frequent contributor John Nyen
At 6:30 in the morning on a Sunday you should be asleep. Sleep is a very serious matter that is not interrupted without the requisite jolts and pangs of natural disasters, political strife or burst water pipes.
Certainly you shouldn’t be walking down the side of a snow-covered street heading towards a small building that appears closed. These are the things that average, common folk will tell you.
This building in particular has a single car parked in the front. The speakers outside play a bit of what sounds like a news cast, but with the cold it is time to hurry up inside.
The door barely opens and someone almost spills out, the building is packed and inside the droning chants of opposing fans yell abuses at each other from across the floor.
This is how it is to be a English football fan in America.
The bar is so full of people that upon opening the door, the heat steams out into the cold air, the vapor spinning away. It would be impossible to know that this place existed from the outside, packed with swaying and chanting fans.
The fact is that in order to truly enjoy sports it is necessary to watch them live, and (barring being in the stadium) the best place to watch soccer live is your local pub. Forget what comfortable fans tell you about enjoying the spectacle from home in your comfortable chair, in your comfortable bath robe. This particular event must be done right, after all you woke up early. The thing that many American footy fans don’t always think about is that there probably is a pub very close to you right now, and at 6:30 in the morning it will be full. Pints will be passed, English breakfast eaten, and all the while the various tribes of soccer fans will gather together in some sort of less violent version of Fight Club.
The first rule of watching at a pub is “DO talk about this”.
Bring your friends, and educate them on the finer points of the Free Beer Movement. Buy them a pint and tell them the historical differences of these teams. Tell them of the matches old and new, by doing this you indoctrinate them into a broader spectrum of sports.
The British Bulldog is one such place in Denver, Colorado.
I stood there, before Saint Patrick’s Day, two years ago to watch a resurgent Liverpool team play Manchester United. The fans were split down the length of the bar with chants and songs ringing back and forth with the swings in the match. Pints were passed around with food and during the tense portions fans grasped, in pure anguish, the scarves that swung around their necks
When goals were scored, perfect strangers were hugging and embracing each other in absolute joy over something that happened 2000 miles away.
It was the same at Rush Bar on 32 Rue Saint-Sébastien in Paris. From the outside they all look the same, serene and peaceful places of business located on a corner street. However, upon opening the door you hear accents and languages consisting of French, English, Irish, Scouse, Australian, and German. So many nationalities are presented at once but the basic scene remains the same. Sitting close to the bar with a Guinness in hand, I hear at the same time, a Frenchman and a Scouser yell in two different languages at the television screen.
At half time the commodities of cigarettes are exchanged outside and small conversation ensues about tactics, your day and the requisite news of the team that you follow. I think back to sitting at the Bulldog, and remember the same scenario of whistles blowing and people crowding around together shielding lighters from the wind.
Towards the end of the half time period those same people shudder back inside and group back together with their friends and new allies. The common bond is formed here, shoulder to shoulder, as the ball is kicked off again, half way around the country.
This is the way it was on Sunday February 6th when fans of both Chelsea and Liverpool gathered at the Bulldog. The Chelsea fans banged away on their drum with songs floating as the Liverpool fans sang songs over the top of the Chelsea people. Both supporters groups attempted to outdo each other as the game played on over the multitude of TV screens. With the final whistle the masses dispersed out into the cold, ready to start the day.
The commonality of soccer takes place in many countries the world over. However, right next to you there is probably a place, like the British Bulldog in Denver where you can share in the true experience that is the global game.”