Manny’s Pub in Akron was packed with rabid fans Thursday, all eyes on the televisions broadcasting the FIFA World Cup match between the United States and Germany.
Even before the first pass, the crowd, mostly men, chanted “USA” and “I believe …”
Many took the day off work to watch the match because, well, it was just that important.
“We [he and his buddies] have been here for every match so far,” said Jason Sausaman of Akron. “I came two hours early today to get these seats because we are superstitious. We make sure to get the same seats in the same place.”
Pub owner Manny Nemer slapped his hand on the bar, joining the 20- and 30-somethings in chants.
In the end, Germany beat the U.S. team. But because of the point system, the United States advanced to the knockout round with 15 other countries.
It’s no secret that some people think soccer is boring. But had someone even hinted such a notion at Manny’s, there may have been a rumble.
Perhaps it’s “cool” to make such a claim. But most of the matches during this World Cup have been anything but snoozers. Sure, just like a 17-inning baseball game or a football blowout, there are some matches that are humdrum.
But if you are putting off attending a soccer match because you’ve heard it’s unexciting, you’re missing out.
“It’s an immersing experience,” said Zach Wichman of Akron. “I tell people to invest in a game.”
Someone who wandered into Manny’s on Thursday might have thought the whole bunch was a hot mess — and in a way it was.
For two hours, the fans stood, shouted and punched their fists in the air. There were men and women whose faces were smeared with red, white and blue paint, and a guy wearing the U.S. flag as a cape.
When former University of Akron player DeAndre Yedlin ran onto the field in Recife, Brazil, the screams could have been heard a half-block away.
But the environment was also rich with national pride that would have given even the most long-faced soccer hater reason to pause.
Despite the naysayers, more people are figuring out that soccer is exciting. Sunday’s World Cup contest between the United States and Portugal was the most viewed soccer match in this nation — ever. More than 18 million people can’t be wrong.
Another complaint by those who would rather be watching anything but soccer is that players flop. Oh, yeah, there are definitely some mighty fine actors on the field. But there are floppers in other sports too — think Manu Ginobili of the champion San Antonio Spurs, often recognized as the best flopper in the NBA.
Whether you like soccer, small children and their parents are definite fans.
Barely out of the starting gate of life, kids are taking to the field. I remember attending a match and seeing the ball get stuck between the legs of children who were too short to clear the ball. Still, they wore ear-to-ear grins. It was hysterical — and adorable.
When I returned to the office after visiting Manny’s Pub, I chatted with someone in the lobby about the World Cup and explained that the United States had advanced.
“I hated soccer before, now I really hate it,” he answered.
Immerse, my fine fellow, immerse.