When Jason hears them down the hall, his finger is ready to hit the “mute” button to quiet the streaming sound of ESPN Radio carrying the World Cup.
Such are the ploys for following the U.S. Men’s National Team during working hours, especially in Seattle, with its huge Seattle Sounders fan base, young professionals and multinational techies who grew up loving soccer.
Tuesday, the U.S. plays Belgium at 1 p.m.
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Jason is the office manager at a local firm, and he is a big soccer fan.
He was contacted after he posted on the Seattle Sounders Facebook page. The discussion had been about the “To whom it may concern” note that Jurgen Klinsmann, head coach of the U.S. team, had sent out on Twitter before the game against Germany on Thursday.
It was the excuse to be given to bosses, saying that “even though it may reduce the productivity of your workplace,” individuals needed to watch the game “as we will need the full support of the nation.”
Jason, who understandably didn’t want his last name used in this story, knew his bosses wouldn’t go for such a note.
But just the sound? “If I was caught, I don’t think it’d be that big a deal.”
For the Belgium game, Jason is planning a late “and long” lunch somewhere with a TV.
The World Cup is touted for its huge worldwide audiences — about 3.2 billion people, about 46 percent of the globe, watched at least a minute of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa on TV in their homes, according to one sports research firm.
And soccer is making inroads into U.S. viewership, at least during the every four years that the World Cup is held.
The U.S.-Portugal match was the most-viewed soccer match ever in this country, according to ESPN, averaging 18 million viewers. (That’s still minuscule when compared to the NFL. The last Super Bowl had 112 million viewers, according to industry reports.)
Here in Seattle, just like when the NCAA’s basketball March Madness tournament takes place — with the games often during work hours — hard-core fans have to get creative. Or simply honest.
David Raymond, 23, of Graham, says he was “born playing soccer.” He does sales and service at a Les Schwab Tire Center, and asked his boss for the day off to watch last week’s game against Germany.
OK, said the boss, switch it around with another day. So Raymond got to be among the fans who made Seattle tie for the fourth-largest viewership in the country for that game, according to ESPN.
For the Belgium game, Raymond has Tuesday off anyway. He says another co-worker also tried for a day off, but no dice.
“He’s gonna have to look through the window” at the TV set up in a lounge area for customers.
At The George & Dragon Pub in Fremont, known for its raucous soccer fans, co-owner John Ravenhill says he expects an overflow crowd of 400 to 500 for the Belgium game. The crowd will overflow into an outdoor beer garden set up in the parking lot.
Inevitably, he expects the media to show up with cameras.
It wouldn’t surprise him, he says, if later he hears from people who were in that crowd, saying their boss noticed them in a photo.
“Oh, yes, I’ve heard that story many times,” says Ravenhill. “I don’t think they realize they’re being photographed, they’re just caught up in the moment. The team scores and everyone erupts.”
If you’re one of the some 50,000 people who work at Microsoft’s 520-acre Redmond campus, then you’re a lucky techie.
It has televisions set up on its Commons area with numerous restaurants, and for the Belgium game will set up giant screens in conference rooms, says Lou Gellos, director of corporate communications.
“I think people can carve out 90 minutes to watch the game without affecting their overall productivity,” he says.
Gellos says the campus already includes two soccer fields for employees, and that during the World Cup, many “can be seen running around with jerseys from their home countries.”
Although online you can find plenty of stories about lost productivity around the world from people watching the Brazil games, there is an argument for the games helping businesses.
Imagine Easy Solutions, an educational tech firm, says at Forbes.com that it plays the games on a big screen in a conference room.
It says “everyone feels more connected” and that for one employee in sales, it helped because he got leads by going to soccer meet-ups.
For those somehow figuring out an excuse, or getting a day off, fans are invited to the CenturyLink Field Event Center, right by the stadium, for a free viewing party hosted by the Sounders and the American Outlaws Seattle soccer fan club. Players and coaches will be there. Doors open at 11 a.m.
But if you gotta stay at the office, there’s a little app to help. It’s from IdleKeyboard.com.
Click on the link, and it’ll play a continual loop of keyboard typing. It was designed by Jonathan K. Williams, 34, who does engineering work in Bessemer, Ala. It’s getting 5,000 to 10,000 page views a week, he says.
As Williams explains, “If you work in an office, you know it’s important to look busy at all times … The sound of a keyboard typing says you are on top of things.”
And remember, just think, “GOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLL,” but don’t yell it.
Times researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.
Erik Lacitis: 206-464-2237 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter @ErikLacitis