As promised in a previous blog entry, I vowed not to lay eyes upon England-USA owing to split loyalties, hearts and bones, all that. Many of my dearest confidantes (I mean you, David Hirshey), ignored my ponderings and asked me where I'd be watching the game.
The answer is, even though I'm a Mets fan, I watched the Yankees-Astros game at 1.05pm on Saturday last at a watering hole called Canal Bar, in the Gowanus Plains section of Brooklyn. I moved to Gowanus a year ago, after my Long Island City apartment had been ransacked of its contents by a pair of thieves. Perhaps it was the manner of the move, the stealthy horror of what had happened in Queens making me open to a better place, but something about that few blocks of Brooklyn appealed to me almost immediately. Canal Bar especially. The first time I went there, I was too scared to sit at the actual bar, given that it's an unapologetic dive, and some of the regulars looked like whatever the equivalent of badass is in Italian. So rather than pretend I wasn't a yuppie scum arriviste, I took my diet Coke (with lemon, yes please) out back to the little urban garden. Before long, however, I was assailed there by Louis Turco, the bar owner—“you're the new guy, right?” he said. “Here, have a Jameson shot on me. Welcome.”
So began my love affair with Canal Bar. Not a few weeks after the Jameson incident, I received the following email from Althea, the bar's manager and Louis' girlfriend: "Sal closed your car window and locked the door. He wanted me to remind you about the crack whores in the neighborhood." Sadly, I was in my car at the time, and I was in Manhattan, meaning Sal—a big-hearted regular—had locked and barred the wrong car, but compare that to what happened to my previous apartment and you'll see why it was the only place to watch the Yanks-Astros game.
The Yanks started strongly, Jeter hitting a lead-off homer, but quickly the Astros picked up a couple of runs. Rick Kadlub, another regular and the owner, if you can believe it, of a Brooklyn walking tour company (the tour is fabulous, by the way), barked in his Gowanus accent that he'd trade a Yankees win for a US loss in soccer. By the time of the kickoff in the game I didn't watch, Jorge Posada had grand-slammed the Yanks into a commanding lead, and they never looked back; Rick was confident enough to wander over and put on eye on the soccer—he didn't seem impressed. Half an hour into the game, on one of the Canal Bar TV's, I'm told a man in green, called Green, standing on green, turned green; out of the corner of my eye it looked to me like he was indeed going to puke. A British friend of mine, Alex, who happened to be at the bar with me (he WAS watching the game), put his head in his hands and muttered something about it “always being like this.” I said yes, Alex, it IS always like this: they grill burgers and dogs out back from the goodness of their souls, and the beers are cheap, aren't they? Plus, Louis and Althea, and Rick, and Sal, and the whole gang? They're always this nice.
And yes, Alex, it will always be like this: There will always be prognostications that England will win the World Cup, just as the Mets in March think they'll win the World Series, and you know what? The Yankees will probably go all the way again, like last year. And the World Cup? Oh, that'll be won by Italy or Germany or Spain or Brazil or Holland, or any other team that can pass, and move, and hold up play expertly, and press when they need to, and have a second touch that ISN'T a tackle, and defend staunchly but not too deep, but also never let a player have a free shot from 30 yards just in case their keeper is found out to be dreadful. There will be other teams that will win it, Alex, teams that don't have a center forward who is on the field solely to head the ball to another player (you're certainly not in there to score, are you Emile?), and no doubt some other teams which have a goalkeeper who isn't laughably unable to do a basic thing, which is to stop the ball going into the net when it's rolled to him like a checked-swing foul ball up the first base line.
I've had a lovely year in Brooklyn. The Canal Bar and its regulars feel like home. At 2.25pm this past Saturday, they let me sing both national anthems out of tune and too fast, standing as I was next to Rick as he cheered for Posada. This coming Friday I'll be there again, hoping England beats Algeria, and if they do? I'll be just like the rest of my people—I’ll be thinking we can win it; yes, I think we really can win it. All it will take is Johann Santana to stay healthy, and David Wright to keep hitting, and the bullpen to stay stingy, and every one of the Yankees players to be put in jail till November.