One Great Season
LONDON -- I found a "pop-up bar" online called Fever Pitch that's only in Fulham Broadway (in the heart of the football-mad London neighborhood of Fulham) for the extent of the World Cup.
I also found some blogs and local news articles about the best pubs for watching all matches, and Fever Pitch was rated highly. So I headed over there from my hotel in Vauxhall and they barely let me in an hour beforehand; it was packed to the gills.
I asked the bouncer which screen's rolling the U.S. match, and he said, "No way. We tried at kickoff, but when we turned it on the TV at the far corner, the place went berserk. So, not here mate. Sorry."
I was goddamned livid; not only did they promise the airing of all matches online, it even said it on the clapboard standing outside the door of the place.
So I walked around that square to all the bars and they basically laughed when I asked about the U.S. match. "Sorry mate," went the reply at all of them. "We understand, but if I give up a screen here to the U.S. match I'll be fired and then killed." I even went to a place called "The American Grill," and the Pakistani family inside running the place said the same.
So in my travails I found one bar manager who's American. He told me to go to an American-owned pub called Back Page in Leicester Square, just outside the station. "Perfect," I think, and I head over there as fast as I can (by this point it's roughly 20th minute) and go straight to the first bar I see outside the station to ask their bouncer standing outside, who should know, and sure enough, the Back Page is nowhere near that neighborhood. The dopey American dude at that one bar in Fulhman was dead wrong. So I go around Leicester Square and Covent Garden and find 100 places packed solid, and in keeping with the story, none had even one goddamned screen rolling the U.S. match — not even one of those dumb little bar-side monitors that no one watches.
At this point, I'd be happy to just sit down, have a beer, watch the end of the England-Slovenia match, and hear its broadcast commentators possibly give asides that include progress of the US match.
So — you ready to laugh? — I found a Travelodge in Covent Garden with big ground-floor windows, through which I discover a hotel bar about half-full with plenty of empty seats, beer and a big screen. I came in with about 15 minutes left, grabbed a beer and fire up one of the Internet terminals which just happen to be in the hotel bar. I turned on ESPN3 online and about 10 minutes later, the people in the Travelodge were visibly terrified when I started jumping around and yelling at the computer. Landon Donovan's goal in extras sent the USA into the next round, and at least one American in London embarrassing himself in a cheap hotel bar.
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