On the first Saturday of the year my brother and I went to get lunch at Trinity Hall here in Dallas, Texas, and catch the FA Cup game between Arsenal and Spurs.
Trinity Hall is an Irish-style pub with hardwood floors, open seating and some booths tucked away in the corner. Along the walls are bookcases filled with old books of Irish poets and authors. There are Dallas Cowboys and FC Dallas balls and jerseys in glass cases around the place to bring a little Texas/American vibe to the bar.
That particular Saturday, supporters of each side in the special North London derby had hung scarves over the TVs. The pub was pretty full when we arrived. Maybe not everyone was there to watch the game; people enjoy the pub because of the food and its wide beer selection. However the supporters were easy to identify, wearing club tops with the majority of the names reading Özil or Adebayor. One guy was still wearing his Gareth Bale jersey, probably still wishing he was on the team.
Soccer is a different world for an American raised on the NFL and college football. I’ll watch any soccer game on, purely out of love for the sport. The FA Cup is a special tournament because lower league teams can take a shot at EPL giants – sometimes creating beautiful upsets. Arsenal versus Spurs is a classic London derby that always produces great action.
The pub was split, Arsenal fans on one side, Spurs fans on the other. I overheard some Englishmen in the corner of the bar. They were sitting tucked away where they could see the TV but wouldn’t be hassled by the American supporters, who for the most part think anyone with a foreign accent is a football genius.
Not really pulling for either team we grabbed the first open spot, which happened to be with Arsenal supporters.
While watching the game, grown men wearing red yelled things like “Drop back Koscielny!” and “Play the ball faster Walcott!”
The distance from Texas to London is 4,906 miles. I suspect the players couldn’t hear the yelling.
Distance notwithstanding, the supporters fed off each other, creating a mob coaching mentality.
“Walcott shouldn’t play on the outside. He should be put up front.”
“I agree and we should sell Chamberlain. He isn’t that good anyways.”
The only break in the coaching was at halftime and at the end of the game, but even then they broke down each play as if they were Ray Hudson.
Coaching from the stands is not new. No doubt in ancient times some toga-clad fool was screaming advice from the stands at Olympia.
A football match is a rollercoaster of emotions. Through singing and chanting we channel that feeling to support the team.
Coaching from the stands, or from the pub in this case, might not change the outcome of the match. Maybe it’s how we hand ourselves over to the game. Maybe it gives us a sense of superiority over the manager or a player – even if only for a fleeting moment.
Yelling at a television screen nearly 5000 miles away from the action is more proof that we soccer fans are in our own way incurably insane.
Arsenal won 2-0, but the coaching and analysis at Trinity Hall didn’t finish there. The final whistle sparked the inevitable debate among Spurs fans over which subs should have been made what new players needed to be bought in the transfer market. When your team loses, there’s a chance you’re right.
Words by Tanner Worley
Photo by Carlos yo.