Sunday I watched the World Cup Final in a little pizza/sports bar a block off the waterfront in Alameda, California. The waterfront here is a forest of masts and lesser boats. Most folks live in the neighborhood for the proximity to their boat or on their boat. There were twelve of us. Two couples. Two African-Americans. A solo White guy (me). One Chinese man. And the rest Hispanic. The bar tender’s name was Romero and his English spotty.
7AM is a little early for “bar service,” so a couple of the regulars brought two flats of donuts. Another guy dropped into a nearby Levi’s Bagel shop and contributed a square gallon jug of coffee.
I walked in a few minutes into the match and a couple of the guys motioned to the spread, “Help yourself.” Only Romero had I seen before and only the day before when I had a beer while searching for a Cup venue close to the boat. The rest were complete strangers.
The game provided the ultimate lesson in controlled football and, at the same time, the precise execution of random chance and opportunity. The overall emotion in the bar leaned heavily toward Argentina. There was that common linguistic bond. Argentina took the lead a little after 30 minutes in and added another goal in the 50’s. When 80 minutes in, France’s Mbappe made a penalty shot bringing it to Argentina 2 and France 1, the room became charged.
We had a game.
When France drove in a second goal 1:33 later, we really had a game. The game ended tied.
The first fifteen minute overtime passed with no score.
The second fifteen minute overtime ended with one score each. Argentina 3. France 3. Still tied.
Remaining tied after over 120 minutes of play, the match went to penalty shots. Five each, alternating shots. Argentina made their first. France their first. Argentina made their second. France missed their second. Argentina made their third. France missed their third.
If Argentina made the next shot, they won. There was no way France could comeback down two in the shootout.
Argentina made the shot.
The bar erupted. Qatar erupted.
Romero started mixing a World Cup celebratory shot—Mango/Habanero/tequila. After passing them around, we drank to the game, to the company. Startlingly tasty and tangy (at 10:30 in the morning). Only after the shot did we start talking among ourselves.
“Where you from?” (I was the obvious newbie in the bar)
“I was born here, Oakland General, but live in Canada now.”
Introductions. Exchanges on which marina finger we lived. The type of boat. And the boat we were looking to upgrade to. With the game over, we could move to the more mundane aspects of life.
Looking back, a couple days off, I have to marvel at the mix and the companionship. There was no differentiation. One of the couples drove off in a relatively new Beamer. I and a couple others walked the block back to the marina. This being the Bay Area, there were very likely a range of sexual proclivities. And the same for politics. I’m sure the full political range, far right to far left, ran through the dozen of us.
There was an acceptance of individuality. Of a common experience–the game. There was a shared community without division. Just people having a good time watching a game.
It doesn’t get much better. And should be found more our often in contentious times.
Keith Liggett has a writing career with one foot in the literary and the other seeking a different angle within traditional journalism. Read more from Keith here.