The Best Reason to Go Drinking Before 11am Since Brunch

09Feb10

This is part of at least a two-part series I’ll be doing on my NYC trip this weekend. As those who know me will attest, I’ve been a Chelsea FC  fan for years now. However chances to properly support the club have come few and far between. This sadly, is just a fact of being an American fan. There’s no proper bars to watch a match in Baltimore, and the ones up here tend to be centered around the Brazilian game. Locally the only bar that is known for getting a good amount of fans out is the Phoenix Landing.  However, as you’ll notice from the comments on yelp, this place primarily home for the dreaded Scousers–Liverpool supporters.  Recent years have seen a bitter rivalry spark between the two clubs, mostly due to heated Champions’ League matches. Also due to the refusal of Liverpool fans to acknowledge they are in the 21st Century, and support a shitty club. It happens.

So when I go to New York, I always try to make a point of hitting Nevada’s. It’s a pretty neutral venue, but it’s popularity is widespread. Those football fans in the area have been known to call it church. Those non-football fans in the area know it as a bar that opens incredibly early and is packed with people watching a sport in a way most people would never dream of. Unfortunately, I hadn’t been to Nevada’s for a Chelsea match yet, though this weekend that would change. Chelsea played Arsenal in a match that would go a long way towards deciding the title.

I had gotten news via the internet that the New York Blues, a group of CFC supporters, would be at Nevada’s. This would mean I would have serious back up in case of any potential conflicts. I think most Americans have the impression that fans of European soccer are a riotous bunch. In truth, there are very few serious conflicts abroad now, and when there are, they are strongly condemned. Still, I never knew entirely what to expect.

And so it was that I left Brooklyn at around 10 to catch the train into Manhattan. It didn’t occur to me until long after the fact that this was the first time I’ve taken the NYC subway alone. To one who is used to the banal Boston T, it seems hopelessly confusing. But I made it there without a hitch.

It didn’t take long to find Nevada’s. I have a terrible sense of direction, so it was fortunate that I had some auditory help. Just as I was starting to think I went the wrong way down 3rd Ave, I heard a melodious roar:

We are the famous CFC, We don’t give a fuck, whoever you may be, because we are the famous CFC.

The familiar sound of Chelsea supporter’s, a song called “Carefree.” I looked around and started to see some Royal Blue shirts with “Samsung Mobile” or “Fly Emirates” on the front. Chelsea fans. And then there were more. I gave my ID to the doorman, and pushed past the curtain. I was greeted by a Blue army.

Apparently, the Arsenal fans didn’t care to turn out in droves. But the Chelsea fans had the place packed wall to wall. I heard the root of the songs somewhere about 25 feet in front of me, but it was impossible to make my way further in.  I poached a spot near the bar, ordered a Newcastle, and started watching.

It wasn’t long before Chelsea took the lead when embattled captain John Terry flicked a header to the far post, where Didier Drogba was there to finish past a helpless Manuel Almunia.

Tra-la-la-la, Didier Drogba, la-la-la-la Didier Drogba

That was the strangest part, as an American fan. There was a spontaneous unintelligible outburst as soon as the ball hit the back of the net. This reaction is normal to me, but I expected high fives and applause to follow. Instead, the fans rather quickly gathered themselves and started singing for Drogba, only to be quickly follow with Carefree again. This type of organization just did not exist in American sports, outside of maybe some NCAA Basketball (there’s one I’m thinking of in particular that this UNC fan cannot mention).

I stepped outside, had a chat with some of the supporters. I’m normally a pretty withdrawn guy, but a blue shirt basically gave you a pass around here. Mindless chat about tactics, who we wanted to sign in the next transfer window, what other sports we follow.

The second half saw Chelsea continue its dominance. Screwdrivers and pints fueled the singing during the goalless forty-five minutes. After the match I said goodbye to some of the fans I had talked to before, and headed out for lunch.

I rarely am with a group of people I just have something so automatically in common with. But beyond that, there was something here that was culturally important. There are thousands of Irish Pubs across this country that try, in vain, to capture a part of European culture. And yet, without the people, the experience is never quite the same. The New York Blues however, had pulled it off. They had watched their European counterparts, and taken down extensive notes. They spend their days reading UK newspapers to get what the people in the homeland were actually saying about league. They followed the foreign leagues to scout talent, and they’d comment on websites suggesting players to sign.

I’m not really able to get my head around how so many people had decided to attempt this replication. Considering the NY Blues were around long before the internet, it’s even harder to believe. But I did notice that a lot of people stopped by the bar just to try to figure out what was going on. It seemed that even if they had no idea what the fuck was going on in the match, they were entranced by spectacle. Indeed, I have to say I was once the same way.

I don’t know if the game is ever really going to catch on in America, but I was happy that have its place. Definitely check it out.

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