I’d been to The Globe before, several times actually. Other than the crimson and gold painted street front, it’s a rather inconspicuous, unassuming place wedged into a urban city block in north Chicago, not even a three minute walk off the brown line “L” stop, Irving Park. But this pub isn’t a book you’d want judge by its cover. You wouldn’t know it by the modest curb appeal, but across the threshold is there are actually three large bars within its single story habitat, all of which are decked out in scarves from every corner of the world. And not just the scarves that folks have ordered from online vendors but those of supporters groups, commemorative scarves from finals past, and even those somewhat lamentable half and half scarves, but at least they’ve got a story to go with them. Moreover there’s jerseys and pennants from oceans away with entire teams’ signatures scribbled on them. They’re even proud enough to hang the local Chicago Fire stuff despite how dreadful they are. The aggregate value in dollars of the paraphernalia within the establishment must be staggering. Come to think of it, there’s so much stuff, I don’t remember what color the walls are.
Everyone wants to feel like they belong; it’s human nature. And a vast variety of club memorabilia is a real attraction for football fans in Chicago on a level of inclusivity. Even if you’d never been to the bar, you could look up and find a scarf of the team you support invitingly dangling in a corner somewhere. It’s an appropriately utopian approach for a pub named The Globe. But just because everyone’s invited, doesn’t mean they’re blind to how partisan football can become. Last spring, when La Liga was to be decided on the final day, the bar was tactful enough to segregate the herds of Barcelona and Real Madrid supporters by sheparding them into separate rooms. Whether that was to limit any booze-induced extracurriculars or so that supporters of each clan could listen to the sound of their respective match (or both), smart move in my opinion. Though Real Madrid scored first that day in their match to a rapture of applause on one side of the bar, it was equaled if not bettered when Barcelona scored to clinch the title in the other, like a tug-o-war of vocal chords. Which is part of the reason I chose The Globe to watch this season’s first Clásico, one of the biggest football haunts north of The Loop.
It’s not that The Globe is far away from where I live, just a short walk to the train and three stops later I’m practically there. But it’s December. So it’s cold. And for whatever reason the time slot chosen for El Clásico by La Liga was at an unusually early 4:15 PM in Spain. So yeah, that’s… carry the one… 9:15 AM in Chicago. I only had to be bundled up and out the door by eight in the morning on my Saturday to get a good spot and the vitamin G in me that can only be found in a frothy Guinness.
On the flip side whatever chills I was harboring or yawns I was suffering from, melted away when I pulled open the door to The Globe Saturday morning. You hear me complaining about the early rise but there were Chelsea and Manchester City fans there for the 6:30 kickoff, most of them discussing the brawl at the end of said game. And not just handful either, a lot, both British ex pats and American fans of the game intermixed. And of course, even 45 minutes before Spain’s most watched fixture of the year, countless Real Madrid in Barcelona fans. This time there seemed to be no method to the madness, just madness alone, madness in how many people like me were undeterred by the forecast or the kickoff time. It took some doing, but by the time I slithered to a (somewhat) vacant spot at the back bar to order the morning Guinness I’d been looking forward to, a man in his 2011/12 Real Madrid home kit, accompanied by a lady friend, was exclaiming to a stranger that he’d been there since seven and there were no tables to be had then. Nevertheless, he seemed chuffed to have claimed two barstools. The bartender, despite the hoards of people, made quick work of pouring my Guinness, the right way might I add, and after she handed it to me I slouched away in search of a free spot I could call my own. They were going fast.
The place I chose was as good as any. It was the point in which the three bars all conjoin in an intersection, a few paces from the kitchen door, but in plain view of an overhead television. There was a wall to lean on adjacent to a table of four Southampton supporters who were in for a long ninety minutes in hindsight. My only regret is watching all that food pass for two hours an empty stomach. In consolation there was a little matter of El Clásico to keep my eyes off the plates full English Breakfasts that drifted by within sniffing distance.
As kickoff approached free space became a premium. I even saw a party of four madridistas that ordered breakfast without a table to eat it off of. So they used a stowed away mini fridge in the coat room. You can’t say The Globe wasn’t trying to accommodate everyone; a waitress even tended to them.
The match itself, apart from the latest last-gasp Sergio Ramos heroics, was in truth not the best watch by Clásico standards. But watching it with so many invested fans brought the game into perspective and wringed out the excitement. The room in which my TV was hung aloft seemed to be primarily made up of Real Madrid supporters. There were white shirts everywhere, a Ronaldo with every turn of the head – small ones, tall ones, ones with makeup on, you name it. I was beginning to conclude that maybe Chicago was primarily madridista. That is until I looked over my shoulder into the other room where there were just as many Messis. It seemed that supporters of each club seemed to gravitate toward each other, or at least the nomads that weren’t worrying about forfeiting a table.
The Barcelona goal via Luis Suárez was met with thunderous roar of surprise. It was popular opinion that Real Madrid had been the better team in a somewhat cautious game. So to find themselves in front, Barcelona fans enjoyed themselves while Real fans were made to listen to the whoops and hollers for close to two minutes straight, a sentence you’re always at risk to bare if you watch matches in public. But their redemption was coming in emphatic fashion. When Sergio Ramos’ header hit the back of the net the Barcelona sector of The Globe went as still as the Nou Camp. The Madrid side on the other hand was a frenzy. Everyone that was sitting anxiously moments before was on their feet. Everyone that was standing to be start was now dancing, embracing, and spilling their drinks all before a chorus of “Madrid, Madrid, Madrid…” careened off the walls. I hugged two complete strangers. But that’s what football’s all about, isn’t it? The Globe just gets it.