Monday was a test, a trial if you will. The majority of standard employees in the city of Milwaukee should have had the day off in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King. So, that left very little margin for the city’s football junkies to skip out on the Premier League’s habitual Monday evening match with a side of beer. On the contrary, the game was featuring two of the league’s shinbones, Swansea and Watford… And it didn’t help that the temperature outside was a viscous 2°F (nearly -17°C). Don’t even get me started on the wind chill.
I’ve learned through a series of high-hopes-let-down situations that if you’re pessimistic when you could be hopeful, you’re more likely to be pleasantly surprised than disappointed. Using that logic, I hypothesized that I’d burst into the bar, half frostbitten with frozen tears latched to my eyelids, to find next to nobody in house for Swans’ home match against Watford. My hypothesis was proven correct.
If you tuned into the last edition of Football at Clare’s, you’ll know that Clare’s bar is closed on a Monday afternoon, and that seeking refuge at Nomad World Pub is a viable auxiliary option. If anything, Nomad is more of a soccer hotspot anyway. Well it wasn’t on Monday. The only mouse stirring was the barman, our Manchester United fan from edition II. His request of my identification verified that he didn’t remember me, but I’ll forgive him; I did get a haircut since we last met.
“Nobody around for Swansea Watford?” I ask, all the while peeling back my layers.
“No,” the barman answers. “But there are a couple Swansea fans that watch games here ever since they played at Miller Park a few years back.” Miller Park is home to Milwaukee’s baseball team, the Milwaukee Brewers. He’s referring to a preseason friendly in which Swansea and Chivas de Guadalajara played in July of 2014.
“But none for Watford either?” I continue in jest.
“No,” he chuckles.
“Not yet,” I add.
“That’s true,” the barman agrees. “Because so many games are televised, people are starting to support the smaller teams. We have a growing group of Tottenham fans that we never used to have before. People are always asking me who they should support.”
I find it odd that instead of picking a club people feel like they identify with, or at the very least they enjoy watching some players from, that they’re asking advice (for a life-changing decision in my option) from a bartender in a soccer-friendly pub on Milwaukee’s east side. If nothing else, it shows that real greenhorns are attempting to accept soccer into the American sports culture on an active level. But after mulling it over in my head, is it really that weird?
I grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania, a small working class city wedged against one the Great Lakes, where there are three NFL teams within 120 miles on three sides (Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Buffalo). Yet, I still had friends who were fans of teams that they had absolutely no affiliation with whatsoever. There were fans of the Atlanta Falcons (806 miles away), the Jacksonville Jaguars (952 miles), and even the Denver Broncos (1,434 miles). And just about all these transplanted acts of supportership are rooted in trivial childhood nuances like the appeal of a team’s colors, agreeing to like a friend’s favorite team from a young age, or playing on a Pee-wee football team that adopted the name of a franchise in a different time zone. So if you know next to nothing about soccer, are living in the American Midwest, but think it would be something fun to get into liking, and then a bartender tells you – ‘why not Everton?’ On what grounds do you have to disagree? Now, you’re a newly-anointed urban soccer fan from Milwaukee that supports a team 3,748 miles away on another continent. Is that really so out of the ordinary for the American sports fan? You tell me.
A few more patrons sifted into the pub during the second half, but they were only half interested in the game. Two men who sat down at the bar near me briefly chatted about Leicester City’s season before switching the topic to smoker-friendly bars in the area. I imagine sub-zero days are a major inconvenience for bar-going smokers.
The game was a bit of a stinker in truth. Swansea were trying to get the ball down and play, but they’re just not that good at it. Watford never get the ball down and play, but for some reason they were trying to in Wales Monday night, predictably to no success. The only goal came from a corner that wasn’t cleared properly, and when the final whistle blew, I’d realized the only thing keeping me there past stoppage time was the certainty of the unbearable walk to my car.
I paid my tab and thanked the barman. I’m sure we’ll chat again soon, but I’ll have my I.D. ready next time… just in case.