Yesterday, I joined my family for an exciting day of athletic and cultural entertainment. The Meadowlands hosted the international soccer game: England vs. Columbia. I was quite nervous about attending the game. The English are capable of consuming unimaginable amounts of alcohol and the Columbians allegedly killed the national team goalie when he lost an important game. I was afraid of what this combination of fans may be capable of. Either way, we all pulled on our England jerseys and whipped out the BBQ and set up camp in the parking lot.
Tailgating is truely an American tradition. Americans tailgate at football games, baseball games, soccer games, concerts, etc. The greatest thing is that it’s a family event. The kids run around bouncing [insert type of sport]balls off the hoods of other cars, the men stand in front of the BBQ roaring at the burgers and the women lounge around gossiping in their camping chairs. Everyone’s stuffed, happy and pretty much drunk by the time the game begins. I walked in with my head floating on Coors Light but by half time, with the 90 degree heat melting me away, I was regretting all the beer and questioning how the food stand workers sleep at night after charging $4 for a Poland Spring. Either way, this is where the cultures differed- not the Columbians and English but the English and everyone else who was there.
We sat on the England dedicated side of the stadium next to the endzone which had fallen under the control of drunken English men with their shirts off flaunting their beer guts and “man boobs.” This group included a man in traditional “lord” attire (odd). Their chanting and singing was encouraged throughout the England game – although I would have killed for a Karoake machine to know what they were saying – but it was after England won and NY Metros took on Chicago that I began to worry about, and enjoy, their mental state. They continued to sing for the remaining two hours post England’s victory. They continued to chant the same cheer that ended with “ENGLAND” and I think I heard the national anthem in there. Every once in a while they would chant “U.S.A.” and I felt better that they were aware of their location in the world. They all stood up in the back of the section till the 2nd half of the NY/NJ game when they decided to mobilize their cause. Led by a skinny kid in nothing but white adidas pants with half a leg missing, they formed a conga line longer then any bat mitzvah south of Sunrise highway. They collected more drunks along the way and at one point wrapped 2/3’s of the way around Giants Stadium – it was awesome!
This type of enthusiasm is not unusual in America. Look at football fans on Superbowl Sunday – or listen to that sentence… Superbowl Sunday… we have created a holiday for a sports championship. Either way, Americans show some serious team support. I am not suprised at the level of support for their national team at a friendly international game but I am shocked at the energy level and complete oblivion they ended the night in. For example, there was a drunken American sitting two rows ahead of us and he continued to stand up and everyone would yell at him to sit and this repeated for about 1 1/2 hours. This guy eventually got sleepy and sat with his eyes half shut staring blankly at the field till the end of the game… like any other human being that had been drinking for 6 hours. Not the English! They were still cheering – AND THEIR GAME WAS OVER. Nothing could force these guys to put the beers down, stop singing (and congaing for that matter) and cheering for their country. I felt this added to the game – the constant cheer and roar of the crowd during an otherwise dull game.
I vow to become an avid football fan upon my arrival to England. I admire the support and excitement they show for their football teams – I’m just a little nervous to share the pubs with them.