“The imagined community of millions seems more real as a team of 11 people.” – Eric Hobsbawm
I’ve learned more about World Cup football (yes, “football” not “soccer”) in the last two weeks than all the accumulated sports wisdom of my lifetime. But that’s still just a thimbleful. I was raised on Big Orange Football – not soccer. That’s Neyland Stadium not Wembley Stadium. Singing UT’s alma mater always brings a tear to my eye, even after the Kiffin debacle. But Saturday’s World Cup match between the United States and England was extra special, even for this diehard American football fan.
They say location is everything, and this was definitely true Saturday afternoon at The Crown & Goose in the Old City. Jeffrey Nash, an expatriate Londoner, opened Knoxville’s only authentic English gastropub a little over two years ago. A labor of love, The Goose features hardwood floors, tin ceiling panels, custom-designed booths nestled against vintage brick walls and comfy red leather sofas.
I’ve come to know Nash, his wife Pat, their son Jeffrey and The Goose gang over the past few months, but I’ve never seen a bigger smile on Nash’s face than when England’s team took the field. He and the rest of the English ex-pats stood when England’s national anthem was played. I’m embarrassed to say some of the rowdy Americans in the pub actually booed – not our finest moment — ever the ugly tourists, even in our own country. Heavy sigh.
However, nothing could dampen the festive mood and camaraderie of the multi-national crowd at The Goose. Jeffrey DeAlejandro, affectionately known as Jeffrey D. to distinguish him from his father and business partner, outdid himself with a fish and chips/fried chicken combo in tribute to both English and American cuisine.
Avid fans had been gathering all morning long to watch the earlier matches leading up to the first World Cup competition between England and the United States since 1950. It was clammy hot as colorfully-clad partisans sat cheek to jowl at the bar. Territories were staked out. Sofas were claimed. The anticipation, adrenalin and Guinness were flowing …
Just four minutes into the game, England’s Steven Gerrard scored on a through ball blazing into the box from Emile Heskey. Gerrard’s shot was precisely placed in the corner of the net just outside U.S. keeper Tim Howard’s reach. Glasses were clinked and good-natured gloating commenced among the English contingent … until Clint Dempsey ripped a shot from 25 yards out. The ball appeared to be stopped by England’s goalie, Robert Green, before slowly rolling into the net – a keeper’s nightmare! An often-thrilling defensive battle ensued with the match ending in a 1-1 draw. It was a moral victory for America and worse than kissing your sister for the Brits. It was the most-watched FIFA World Cup first-round match among households and viewers, and the most-viewed United States Men’s National Team game since 1994.
My loyalties are torn now. Of course, I’m pulling for Team U.S.A., but I’ve got a soft spot for the Three Lions in this World Cup tournament. After all, England is the joint oldest national football team in the world, alongside Scotland, whom they played in the world’s first international football match in 1872. Saturday’s tie game was like watching America play Canada to overtime in Olympic hockey. You want to win, but you know the sport of hockey is sacred to Canada, just as football is to England. I think England deserves to win. It’s their due, their destiny.
I’ll be back at The Goose for more games, pulling for my two favorite teams and sampling the international menu Jeffrey D. has planned for the World Cup Wine & Spirits Dinner … and secretly hoping for a glorious World Cup victory for England!
The Crown & Goose is a client of Laura Bower PR