Thursday, April 9, 2009

Autoglass speaks...

The busy Blues fan, Autoglass, took time out from his hectic gloating schedule to pen this missive from the road...

I’ve been traveling far too much lately. This week I found myself in Tampa when my beloved Chelsea came upon a critical Champions League tie at Anfield. Liverpool in the Champions League has become an April ritual. Those Blue and Red shirts are the crocuses of Spring. After the break, you get Autoglass’ Tampa travelogue.

I lived in New York for ten years. There, a Champions League session was two blocks away. Out and back in a scoot. There are twenty good football pubs in New York. Always one a short hop away. It spoils a guy.

I then moved to California. Still, options. More driving, but I watched John Terry cry not three miles from my office.

But I’m in Tampa this week and Chelsea visit Liverpool for a Champions League Quarter-Final. First, I needed to find a decent pub. That was easy. There is apparently exactly one. MacDinton’s is the clear choice. No disrespect to Tampa, but there is no second or third choice. If you’re in Tampa and any important match is at stake, just go to MacDinton’s.

By some miracle, my Wednesday afternoon was free work-wise. I cleared the time of any incursion, and made tracks for MacDinton’s. But late. I couldn’t get on the road until match time. I called Lingering Bursitis.

". Mate, you need to talk me in! I’m 15 mins from the pub!"

", I’ve got you covered."

We hang up. Not two minutes later, I’m on I-4 in Tampa and the phone rings…

"Fernando Torres, Liverpool’s number 9!" The bastard sings. Fuck. We’re behind and I’m not even there! Fuck! I know this movie. Liverpool rampant. Our season in tatters. Me at a strange footie pub pissing in my Guinness.

I make my way to MacDinton’s. Nice place in Tampa’s SoHo neighborhood (South Howard Avenue. Lame. But then, all such NoMaSoFoMoFu things are lame, even in New York.) They have free valet parking! And two outside bars with plenty of screens, pretty raven-haired Irish barmaids, and Florida sunshine. I settle in.

Outside sports bars. If you’ve been, you know. If you haven’t…it’s better than you are thinking. You really need to move somewhere warm…but you know that already, right?

Anyhoo, I settle into a lovely crowd. Red, Blue and hangers-on for Arsenal, United and, yes, Nottingham Forest... all in Tampa. (Bigus, the Forest dude convinced me that you are going down. I argued gamely for our Canaries. Up the City!)

At first, the lack of bile was unsettling. What is this Chelsea shirt doing chatting up this group of faux Scouse losers? Laughing? Enjoying the sunshine? Without trash talk and the ever-present electric risk of Glasgow kisses? Toto, we’re not in New York anymore.

Then, the match. Chelsea won going away. Rafa’s zonal marking left our Serb reserve fullback utterly unmarked for our equalizer AND our winner. Drogba then put in our third...the THIRD! (A third goal away in a Champions League tie is a heady thing, indeed) At Anfield. Hiddink ran out a 4-3-3 and ran at the Red back line. Liverpool were not up for it.

I wouldn’t have predicted it. Chelsea have been solid, but Liverpool have been the in-form side in Europe. My only hope was that Liverpool would return to Earth in this fixture. Oh, did they. They missed Mascherano massively. Essien utterly took Gerrard out of the match. Chelsea came forward in numbers. Ballack was majestic. Lampard, Kalou and, yes, Malouda were free in space and connecting.

Spring football can be a fickle mistress. Your club fights through the winter and find themselves, still, in 2 or 4 competitions. You’ve had your run and survived, sometimes even romped. But now, everything is running down to the quick. You come upon a bad run or injuries and - boom! - 7 or 10 days can take you out of everything. We’ve all been there. Hell, Arsenal has LIVED there these last five years.

Well, Liverpool woke up before this match right in the thick of the Champions League and in with a shout for the League. In 90 minutes, at home, they about crashed out of the CL and are left looking somehow farther up at United in the League. Devastating.

The best teams in Europe play 60 some-odd fixtures a year, and that’s beside their players’ international duty. Work, work, work, and then bad luck or bad form runs you out of everything in a sneeze. Brutal. Imagine the 2007 Patriots ruining three trophies with losses to three Giants. Ouch. Yet it happens every year in soccer.

MacDinton’s is a fantastic football pub. If you are in Tampa, look it up. Great crowd, velvety Guinness, and sunshine. Oh, and Chelsea won 3-1 at Anfield! Stevie G wandered by at the end looking for his pants! Carefree!!!!

Postscript: My favorite moment was meeting an Arsenal supporter wearing one of those “Kings of London” shirts. I got to say “That’s a really old shirt, isn’t it?” Get in.


Andrew said...

Having lived in the Tampa/St. Pete are for three years, I can definitely agree with Autoglass' review of MacDinton's. It's a decent place, with good peoples, and good brew selections.

But Auto, one thing: Tampa in April is completely different than Tampa any other time of year. 95 degrees with 97 humidity is the norm. And don't get me started on the other things wrong with the area.

Andrew said...

Hell, Arsenal has LIVED there these last five years.

Wonderful description. May I hijack it for my own selfish purposes?

The NY Kid said...

@Andrew - agreed. I spent an entire late May-late August in St. Pete one year and it was brutal almost every day. And then for a month it rained (downpour) almost every day also. And when the rain stopped, 101 degrees.

It didn't help that I was wearing pants, 2 shirts and a bulletproof vest.

/don't ask, don't tell

Autoglass said...

Oh, I'm aware that Tampa is nasty in the summertime. But in April, it's lovely.

Yes, Andrew, feel free to hijack.

Andrew said...

When one considers how hot Florida is in the summer and fall, it's really no surprise why the Mutiny and Fusion failed as MLS franchises. But then the USSF has a training camp in Bradenton, so take it how you will.