At the top of the bar, nearly touching the ceiling, tacked to the wall just above and slightly covering a sign blaring the establishment’s Irish surname was a soccer scarf.
“THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES 1986 2013 SIR ALEX FERGUSON THE GREATEST MANAGER EVER,” the scarf’s embroidery blared, wedged between two faces of the famed Manchester United manager woven rather skillfully into the scarf.
Below the scarf and sign was a flat screen TV, one of several peppered around the place. On the screen, Cameroon and Croatia were 40 minutes into their World Cup match. Each TV had the match. Each TV had a cadre of fans, glaring happily at each screen, cheering, yelling or going “Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” as relevant.
Below the TV below the scarf, in front of the array of whiskeys, gins and vodkas, behind the taps of Irish this that and the other, wearing a Magners Original Irish Cider rugby shirt a ruddy-faced, smiling, red-bearded man was talking about how much he disliked soccer.
“I guess I’m a typical American in that I want a lot of action and crazy shit happening all the time,” he said.
On the TV, a player kicked the ball to another one. That one kicked it to a third. The other team tried to get it but didn’t. Later they did. They kicked it. The clock neared 50 minutes.
The bartender feels like a hypocrite because he’ll watch baseball on TV, which he says is also “boring as shit.” And he likes to play soccer. But watching it on TV, on one of the dozens of TVs scattered around the Irish-ish pub in Ravenswood, just isn’t what he considers a good time.
It is good business, he said.
“The Mexico game a had a lot of people and of course the U.S. game was packed,” he said, looking around the bar, already half full at 6 p.m. on a weeknight. “But I guess not as many people have a connection to Cameroon vs. Croatia.”
We watched the match for a few more minutes, but soon he broke away.
“I guess I’m a typical American in that I hate seeing people take a dive, you know where they’re acting all hurt and hop up two seconds later. I guess you don’t get it as much at this level, but some of the club teams,” he said, tapering off and gesturing at the TV where I had just seen a Cameroonian player go from shin-clutching agony to running sprints in a matter of moments.
“A few years ago, I saw the worst dive I’ve ever seen. He was rolling around on the ground,” the bartender gave an impression of the man, pounding his fists in the air and shaking back and forth. It looked like a baby throwing a tantrum. “Then when he noticed none of the referees were watching, he just hopped right up.”
The bartender shook his head staring at the game, then looked around to see if any of the patrons there to watch football amid Irish booze and British soccer scarves had seen. He got a drink order. When he came back he tossed me a candy bar.
It was a Cadbury’s Curly Wurly. A British candy imported by his boss to impress the World Cup crowd. He gave me one for free because nobody was buying them.
Even during the World Cup, there are limits. Even amid soccer scarves and Magners shirts and a half-filled bar cheering for teams they don’t care about and can’t name a single player of, there are overseas imports Americans just can’t convince themselves they like.