DC at Night

DC at Night

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Futbol and Food: What So Proudly We Hail

DC soccer Fans pack DuPont Circle to watch game in event hosted by German Embassy

With the USA team playing against Germany for a chance to move on to the next round of World Cup play, much of America found itself in the grip of high-grade soccer fever. And nowhere was the USA-USA-USA frenzy more apparent than in Washington, D.C. the capital of the nation's politics and  patriotism.

Of course, the fact that the game was scheduled for noon on a Thursday did pose one problem - while it would start at lunch hour, it would run over into the working day afternoon. And then there was both the pre-game and post-game hoopla that you wouldn't want to miss.

But USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann, with tongue firmly in his cheek, had a remedy. The coach had posted a signed, handwritten excuse letter online that read:

To whom it may concern:
Please excuse (insert name) from work on Thursday, June 26th.
I understand that this absence may reduce the productivity of your workplace, but I can assure you that it is for an important cause. The #USMNT has a critical World Cup game vs. Germany and we will need the full support of the nation if we are to advance to the next round.
By the way, you should act like a good leader and take the day off as well. Go USA!
Jurgen Klinsmann
Head Coach
U.S. Men’s National Team
Since we are retirees, my wife Judy and I didn't need Klinsmann's excuse, but we did want to lend "our full support" to the team.
As 60-somethings, we're not really into wild face painting and wearing outlandish red, white, and blue garb. But as soccer fans, we knew that patriotism does play an important role in the World Cup.
So we decided to engage in a special pre-game activity. We would head to the National Archives to hear historian and author Marc Leepson discuss his new book What So Proudly We Hailed: Francis (his friends and family all called him Frank - bet you didn't know that) Scott Key I mean what is more patriotic than a book detailing the creation of our national anthem and the life of the man who created it. 
Of course, since the talk started at noon, it meant we would miss the first half of the game, but fans have to make sacrifices for their team, right?
Our plan started superbly. As we exited the Metro Station at the Archives, we were greeted by 2 volunteers from the Newseum. They were handing out small American flags (now we would have something to wave) and a card advertising Anchorman: The Exhibit now at the DC museum of news. I took this as a great sign. Anchorman stars Will Farrell as Ron Burgandy. Farrell was attending the game in Recife, Brazil. You would be able to spot him sitting next to Teddy Goalsavelt, a dead-ringer for former President Teddy Roosevelt. Farrell had also delivered a great comic message to a group of the 20,000 Americans attending the World Cup in person. 
The positive signs continued inside the Archives. The program began with an old black and white film clip of the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner". We joined the crowd in lending our voices to the anthem. This occurred at almost the exact moment the game in Recife got underway. 
For his part, Leepson acknowledged the importance of the game. "I'll knock off early so we can see the rest of the soccer match," he said with a laugh. Actually, he held to that pledge. Normally, book talks at the Archives take an hour. Leepson's was done in 45 minutes. Outside the Archives, I checked my phone. The game was tied 0-0.
Earlier, Judy and I had decided to watch the game at the Penn Quarter Sports Tavern, the largest sports bar close to the Archives. I continued to check my phone as we walked to Penn Quarter. It was still a scoreless tie at the end of half.
Arriving at the sports bar, we were eyed by the bouncers. Even 60-year-olds in DC must produce ID to enter club events where alcohol is being served. As we showed ID, a manger came outside, pointed to us and said" "Let those 2 in. Then we're at capacity."
A small portion of the crowd at the Penn Quarter Sports Tavern
Inside, we saw that he was right. Both levels were packed with fans, many sporting red, white, and blue attire. There was barely room for us to wave our small flags. I looked at Judy. I knew she wouldn't want to stay. "This place smells like (our son) Michael's fraternity house," she said. Which I knew immediately was wife speak for "I am not spending another minute in here." I made a quick decision. I knew they would be showing the game at Clyde's, one of Judy's favorite Penn Quarter/GalleryPlace/Chinatown eateries which was only a block-and-a-half away.
"Let's go to Clyde's," I said.
 Judy readily agreed. 
At Clyde's, the crowd situation was much the same. It was no-seats, no-standing room in both the massive downstairs and more intimate upstairs bar. But we were able to finagle a table that allowed us to view one of the TVs. Granted, the view wasn't quite as good as the one President Barack Obama was enjoying aboard Air Force One. But we could see the players and the play through a break in the huge plants and ferns that decorate the upstairs dining room.
President Obama watches the game on Air Force One
Judy and I watch the game from our table at Clyde's
Now it was time for the final part of my game-winning plan to kick in. For the USA to advance, I knew we had to order just the right lucky lunch. I decided on a perfect USA combo: Maryland crab soup and a Creole cornmeal-crusted catfish po'boy. Then Judy did the unthinkable. She ordered a hamburger. Hamburger? Hamburg was a city in Germany. And no sooner did our waitress walk away with our order, than a collective groan of agony rose through Clyde's. Germany had scored.
Now, I had to hope that my All-American meal would have enough (crab and tomato) juice to overcome Judy's clearly German choice. Well, to shorten our story, it didn't. Despite an offensive flurry in injury time, Germany' sole goal held for a 1-0 win. But apparently my menu choice did have enough power to help Portugal defeat Ghana, meaning that, despite the loss, the USA would be advancing to the next round in the tournament.
Of course, now the hard work would really commence. I'll  have to figure the perfect meal to help our American team defeat a talented Belgian team. And I'll have to keep Judy from ordering Belgian waffles or moules frittes, the national dish of Belgium.
Extra! Extra! Read All About It
Even More on USA, World Cup Soccer
Nation stops to watch: Has soccer truly arrived in America? (from USA Today)
World Cup fever takes over Washington (from The Hill)
Tim Howard: He's Tattooed, he has Tourette's, and he keeps that ball out of the net. (from The Daily Beast)
What's next for the U.S.? (from USA Today)
The odds of the U.S. beating Belgium and every other team still left in the World Cup. (from Data Lab)
The forgotten factor in this year's World Cup is a video game. (from The Washington Post)
Does it matter if you sing your national anthem? (from The Washington Post)
48 of the most outrageous fans from the World Cup so far. (from BuzzFeed

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