Monday, June 7, 2010

Soccer Saturday

Editor's note: wonky formatting toward the final half of this post. Driving me mad, it is. Hopefully you can still navigate it and enjoy the story. If you're just looking for the Soccer Saturday link, it's here. If you fancy a bit of a story, stick around.

This weekend's appearance for Match Pricks on Soccer Saturday came with a little twist. Ol' Jimbo couldn't join us as he was trotting abroad (as in, outside of the city limits of Milwaukee).

The show must go on though. I did offer to good friend and President of the Milwaukee Wave, Peter Wilt (follow him @PeterWilt1 on Twitter) to read a series of solo essays on the game. Sadly he knows me too well and casually laughed it off. So we went to the bench. It'd be me, one half of Match Pricks, joined by Peter Rankine, a Scottish fellow who started coming to our football pub, The Highbury, in Sunny Bay View, Milwaukee two Februarys ago.

Pete's a top drawer guy. Top drawer, no doubt about it. I was excited to have him along for this weekend's entrance into the Soccer Saturday archives. Though, as we'd be talking World Cup, I wasn't sure he'd have the experience to enter any decently fluid opinions on the matter ... being Scottish and all. Naturally, on the drive over to the studio, he was kind enough to remind me of Scotland's consecutive wins over France in the last round of European Champions qualifiers. You know, back when the FFF should have actually thrown Domenech so far into the sea that he'd have washed up deep enough to the south to become the manager of the Platinum Stars in South Africa. At least he'd have gotten a glimmer of the bright lights again some three years later when they played the role of the monkey wrench that would tune up England before their leg kicking jaunt through the World Cup. 

By the way, how great is that team name? The Platinum Stars. If P. Diddy ever did go ahead and pull the trigger on buying Crystal Palace, as had been widely rumoured, I'd have started a petition to have him dub the team the Platinum Stars of Crystal Palace. It'd be like the Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles, or whatever the hell it is. Just like that. But they'd be iced, dogg. Iced. The Platinum Stars of Crystal Palace. Mmm, yeah. I could get behind that. Moving along ...

I met Pete on what may well have been his first day in the pub. I'm not sure about y'all but in my life, travels, experiences, open eyes, open heart, open mind and eager spirit, I've not found may places on this great globe of the United States of America, Ontario and most of western Europe (where I looked about as out of the ordinary as Statler sitting next to Waldorf in a balcony), that are more incredibly engaging and pulsing with spirit as a football pub. It's just ... different. No matter the city, there's one special spot. Fortunately for us, we're right in the engine room of ours.

At any rate, last year, in 2009, there was a regular Saturday morning that morphed into an afternoon before we knew it. As has been mentioned many times here, that tends to be the norm with us. There's that match (stop me if you've heard this before) at 6:30 a.m. Can't beat that with a stick, folks. Dawn. I mean, have you ever been out and about, chasing down that kickoff with beer and whiskey at dawn? It's real nice. Real nice. You hit 9:00 a.m. and ZINGO! More football. If you're lucky, you're getting four matches from a couple of different leagues. Great, right? Right. Of course, at this point you'll roll into the marquee 11:30 a.m. match. And given the luck you'll probably be carrying, that'll be your match. The one you actually came for. But you know what? The more hours that pass by all the better because by that point, you'll have seen dozens of different people pass through and become a part of the scene.

And then ... right when you can't help but realize the reality of the situation, that you got up at 6:00 a.m. and it's now plunging well on into the afternoon ... right then ... you realize that you're just minutes - MINUTES - from Spain. Mmm, luscious, exotic, Ray Hudson-y Spain. 

It was about this point on some random Saturday in February of 2009 that Jim stopped us. We were about to pull the plug on the day, sometimes you just have to. Footballed out (note, yes, there's booze involved. ample and generous amounts of booze. make no mistake about it. shots bring goals and all that). But still ... there were we, the few of us left, gripping the bar, hoping for even more football when suddenly ... Jim stopped everything and everyone right in their tracks with a classic proclamation, "Wait! Wait just a minute ... let's keep partying. Spain is on, dogg. Spain."

It was so simple. So pure. So ... easy. There were no obstacles except our own hidden ability to actually find the wherewithal to plow ahead. But with such a bright light in front of us - I mean it was right there, there was no long tunnel to navigate this time - you couldn't just turn away and go home. That's what they want you to do, the decent folk. That was just about the moment that Pete walked into The Highbury for, as I say, was what I assume to be the first time.

"HEEEEYYYYYY! A NEW GUY," went up the cheer! Huzzah! Gotta welcome him, right?

Oh, and he's Scottish. How fun. So we went on and chatted with Pete for a few welcoming minutes and the conversation would naturally turn to where he was from in Scotland and, not long after that, the 
careful prodding to determine where his loyalties lied.

"So where you from, Pete?" I asked.

"Aberdeen," he replied as the grim truth immediately sunk in.

"Oh, ah, Aberdeen, eh? So ... I take it that means, (deep breath, sigh) I take it that means you're a, ah ..."

"Yes, I'm a United supporter."

"Mmm, yeah. Thought that'd be the case."

He may have well as told me he was an ex-con on the run and just happened to find that Bay View (in spite of all of its latent sunnyness) was the perfect hiding spot for he and his wife. Crap. Another damn United fan. I kid, though. Really, happy to count anyone as a friend, I am. And even happier to add another football lover to the fray.

Whatever the case, Pete's a top drawer fellow. He's a joy to have around, just like anyone else holding up the scenery at whatever the archetypal football pub you happen to frequent. Top 
drawer folks, the lot of 'em.  

Yes, even the United fans. After all, it's quite the tapestry and all that. In spite of the heavy dose of red.

So, please do us the favor of listening to Pete and I prattle on about the World Cup. As ever, the segmentis the highlight of any weekend for me. Click the link, scroll down a little bit and you'll find our segment in the podcast player on the left.

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