BY JOE SIMS
Seattle native Joseph Sims, 21, is traveling around the country during the World Cup in search of the heart and soul of soccer in the United States. Read about his journey in the Take 2 blog.
I thought that the Indianapolis atmosphere was crazy. With all due respect to my friends in Indy, it didn’t hold a candle to the madness that went down in Philadelphia.
As I did for the first USA game, I arrive at the bar at halftime of the day’s first match (Belgium vs. Russia). Walking to the bar, I had been a little discouraged by the lack of fanfare in the streets. In Indianapolis, everyone was decked out in red, white and blue. In Philadelphia, I only see a couple American shirts. That all changes when I get to Fado, the American Outlaws bar in Philadelphia. Outside the bar, the street is closed down and a giant TV is being set up. Inside, the place is already as full as Indianapolis’ Chatham Tap had been for the Ghana game, and there are still five hours until kickoff against Portugal. What’s more, the crowd doesn’t seem to just be there for the U.S. game; they’re fully involved in the first two games of the day, cheering and gasping with every big moment.
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Two and a half hours before the game, the bar is so crowded that it is hard to move around, and the people I am standing with have to fight hard for our turf. It is so packed that they have to stop letting people into the bar. This is also the point when the chanting starts. As with Indianapolis, “I believe that we will win” and “When the Yanks come marching in” are by far the most popular.
The chanting doubles in frequency and volume as soon as the Algeria-South Korea game ends. A chorus of boos greets every showing of Portuguese players on the TVs, and a chant of an unprintable word is shouted each time Cristiano Ronaldo appears.
As with Indianapolis, the national anthem is drunkenly sung several beats behind the music on TV. Unlike in Indianapolis, however, the bar boos the opposing national anthem. It fit in with many of Fado’s patrons telling me that in Philadelphia, they earn their reputation as rude sports fans. Even so, happy chatter and chanting is rampant through the opening whistle.
Then, a horrible defensive miscue, and Portugal scores within six minutes.
Not only does the crowd of at least 200 go silent, it stays silent. While there is a feeble attempt to get an “I believe” chant going right after the USA concede, for the next 10 minutes quiet, disgruntled chatter is all I can hear.
The atmosphere within Fado begins to resemble what I experienced in England — excessive swearing, extreme partisanship (complaining every time a whistle goes against the USA, even if it was an obvious foul), etc.
At halftime, I decide that I should watch the rest of the game out on the street with the giant TV. I walk out of Fado (knowing that they won’t let me back in), and immediately realize one big mistake that American Outlaws and Fado made when putting up the TV: it needs to be at least three feet higher off the ground. As it is, it’s so low that only the people closest to it have a good view, and the other 300 in the street are all standing on steps, on the curb, even climbing a bank building to be able to see more than the top half of the screen.
The atmosphere in the open is quite different than it was inside. Chanting is mostly done up at the front. The rest of the crowd are talking and chattering while watching the game and trying to see the screen, and are generally a lot more positive. A giant cheer goes up as the ball gets passed to Michael Bradley right in front of goal, but that cheer is only because much of the crowd cannot see that Bradley’s shot had been saved. It takes a full minute for many to realize the situation.
Then the real thing happens. From my vantage point, I can only see the ball hit the net, but that is enough. I am immediately engulfed in a giant bear hug from someone on my right, and once released I run around screaming. One to one. Song 2 (Woo Hoo) by Blur is blared on speakers, and the most earsplitting chant of “USA” that I have ever heard breaks out, so loud you must be able to hear it 10 blocks off.
Fifteen minutes later, it happens again. Dempsey scores, and beer flies up into the air in gallons. My notepad is drenched, and I don’t care. I thought the earlier chant of “USA” was earsplitting, but the one that breaks out now is downright deafening. People are running around, embracing strangers, beside themselves with joy. The United States is 2-1 up on Portugal with only 10 minutes left.
The chant of “USA” following the second goal continue for more than three minutes. I note that you would expect this atmosphere in Germany or England or Brazil, but not (according to the stereotype) in the United States.
Sadly, Ronaldo’s moment of the match comes 30 seconds from its conclusion as he whips in a fantastic cross that finds Silvestre Varela’s head, and the back of the U.S. net bulges — 2-2. Final.
It is a mark of how well the USA played that this was a result most would have taken without question at the start, but there wasn’t a single face that didn’t look as if someone had just slapped it.
Still, despite the late disappointment, I must applaud Philadelphia on having the best atmosphere of any city I have been to so far. They might not have been the most positive fans, but they were nice to an outsider, and more enthusiastic than those of any other city I have seen. Keep it up, Philadelphia. I hope to find more places like you.
Joseph Sims, 21, graduated from Whitman College in Walla Walla in May with a degree in politics. The graduate of Roosevelt High School in Seattle has an obsession with soccer that has taken him all over the globe, from the World Cup in South Africa, to the Emirates Stadium in London, to the Sounders-Timbers rivalry right here in Seattle. Follow his journey around the country during the World Cup to find the heart and soul of soccer in the U.S. in the Take 2 blog.
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