The Beautiful Game

The Supreme Fish Delight on Riverdale highway on the Southside of Atlanta has this really big window in its entrance. It’s inviting in a way that says, “Come on in! We’re friendly and the food is fresh.” It has the feel of a mom and pop type operation, which is why I was so surprised at the huge 60″ flat screen on the wall opposite the menu right next to a door that says “employees only,” and even more surprised when I realized on the screen was David Luiz of Brazil in line for the national anthem. Were they really watching the world cup in “here”?

Maybe the bean pies on the menu for $1.49 should have alerted me to their sports savvy, or the cable going out every time the decibel level reached “Google this” should have screamed to me that these were a cultured people, but alas I missed each sign as they slapped me square in the face. I was taught a long time ago to never judge a book by its cover. That saying is especially true when watching the World Cup. Soccer is a sport for everyone.

For me, watching the World Cup around a group of strangers is the preferred experience partly because I’m a sociologist at heart (a euphemism for people watcher), and partly because I have very few friends who consider watching Brazilians and Mexicans do anything other than sunbathe not a complete waste of time.

But, here I sat in a restaurant with a collection of people with less in common than Miley Cyrus and Maya Angelou watching a game that seemed a world away. I mean that both literally and figuratively.

I watched the USA’s miraculous win vs. Ghana, thrilled by every edge of the seat moment. (If I hear the term “park the bus” one more time I am stabbing my Ian Darke voodoo doll). About 7 minutes into the match-up of Brazil and Mexico, you can see there is something different the way they play the game versus what we all had just witnessed the day before. The pace and ferociousness in which these two teams played at were at a level unbeknownst to the MLS enjoying public. Even if a few of the names are the same, viewing the collective is a different experience. This wasn’t soccer, this was futbol!

“Neymar Jr. off the cross bar!”

I’ve come to realize that we as Americans don’t dislike soccer; in fact we really enjoy it! Every four years, sports fans who like to sound “in the know” tune-in in droves to watch the world’s largest game of Hacky Sack. (I promise I mean that in a good way.) What Americans don’t like is mediocrity. It’s the same reason that for much of the last two decades, the Lakers and Clippers have co-existed in the same building with one as first class citizens and the other just 3rd world billionaires. We don’t want to see second rate players. We want stars! We want skill!  Even a way over the hill David Beckham brought eyeballs to the screen. The American futbol viewing public are much more sophisticated than the perception that lies with being such. We will jump up and applaud a 0-0 tie if it is played with skill and tenacity. Just ask the San Antonio Spurs.

I didn’t get to see the entirety of this fun match up, since I was only in the SFD for a lunch break and the way the clouds were forming I knew I needed to try and knock out one last job before the sky opened up, but from the comradery formed in those 45 minutes with my fellow fish enthusiast I could have stayed and watched two more games. It’s near impossible to turn your eyes away from the TV screen when Neymar has the ball at his feet, juking and jiving through defenders. It actually felt like déjà vu. I get the same feel from watching Steph Curry knock down a few deep treys while flames shoot out of his skull “NBA JAM STYLE. At one point, a 60-something-year-old little lady while waiting on her chitterlings, turned to me and said, “That little fellow is fast.” Yes ma’am he is. Whether you are a novice or a true fan, you can recognize great talent.

There was very little conversation between any of the patrons in the restaurant. It was mostly just collective “oohs” and “ahhs” at the appropriate moments and the occasional smirk at a piece of magic taking place on the field, everyone showing appreciation for a sport that is begging for us to appreciate it. The game is simple, yet majestic. Soccer or futbol, whatever you chose to call it, is really a game that has something in it for everyone.  As I stare at the TV screen one last moment with my fellow “Supreme Fish Delighters,” I realize the window at the front of the restaurant isn’t the only window inviting us to “come on in.” This beautiful game is inviting us as well. – Glass¤

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