what i watched last week
josé pagán, r.i.p.

my own private hyde park

We were at a burger joint yesterday afternoon, waiting for our order. A guy who was also waiting saw my cap and said, “Go Giants!” He quickly added that he didn’t actually know anything about the sport, but he knew to say “Go Giants!” He had an English accent, so I couldn’t tell if he wasn’t much of a sports fan, or if he just lacked knowledge of the American game. He answered my thoughts quickly, kissing a button on his jacket and saying “I love football, and I love Chelsea.”

I mentioned that Liverpool was my favorite English team, and that got him on a roll. As we waited for our food, he gave me a brief history of the game, all as a way of explaining that if you didn’t love Liverpool, you didn’t love football. His point was that Liverpool has a great history, that they are an integral part of the traditions of the game, and that you had to love them, even if Chelsea was your team, even if, he said over my objections, your team was Everton, Liverpool’s great rivals.

His larger point, which he emphasized several times, was that he loved football first, and Chelsea second.

I understand his argument in the abstract. Sure, I root for Liverpool, but they aren’t a part of my heart and soul, and if they lose because the other team plays attractive soccer, I’m not all that upset. Mexico is our great rival on the international stage, and everyone except their fans hates Manchester United, but when the great young Mexican Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez does well for Man U, I admit I am delighted.

But when it comes to the Giants, baseball comes second. There is nothing abstract about it.

Still, it was fun listening to this guy, rather like having an amiable version of Hyde Park show up at the Smokehouse. He had one other story to tell, marginally related, I suppose. He said he had just come from a nearby gay bar, where his role was “token straight guy.” He loved that bar (which Robin and I frequented as well in our drinking days back in the 70s and 80s), because of the conversations he had with women. You see, because the women were gay, it was already understood that he wasn’t trying to pick up on them, and so he could concentrate on being a delightful bar companion. But, as was clear from our own brief chat, he did most of the talking with the women. As he explained it, he’d go on and on about his favorite topic, English football. And when I suggested that perhaps they weren’t exactly enthralled with the topic, he said no, he was very popular, because everyone enjoyed a situation where no one was trying to pick up on anyone else.

I don’t know what the moral is. Maybe this: if you are a straight male American soccer fan, and your friends hate it when you jabber on about the sport, just go to a bar frequented by lesbians. They’ll be happy to talk footy with you all night long. And when you realize that isn’t working, move to London and make Hyde Park into your regular gig.

Or start a blog. According to Wikipedia, “A modern form of the soapbox is a blog: a website on which a user publishes one's thoughts to whomever reads the page.” Finally, I understand what I’ve been doing here the last 8 1/2 years.