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Soccer Fri Mar 06 2009

Watching Soccer In Bars: Ginger's Alehouse

The Bar: From 2002 to 2006, Ginger's Alehouse won the US Soccer Best Soccer Bar Award four years running. However, they might have been coasting on their reputation for the last two of those years. Once the former Ginger's manager struck out on his own in 2004 and opened The Globe Pub just down the road, I hadn't known a single person in Chicago who watched games at Ginger's. I wasn't actually too sure Ginger's still showed games, but I recently passed by and saw a sign welcoming soccer fans, so I decided to see what's changed in four years.

What's changed? Not that much. The same friendly Irish waitresses still work there. They still show soccer on their numerous TVs, though the TVs are shinier and flatscreenier than I remember. Not that it helps, since both Fox Soccer Channel and Setanta don't broadcast in HD, regrettably.

The Food/Drinks: While Ginger's traffics in the same traditional British pub food, I have to say their breakfast is better than The Globe's. The beer list is pretty good too, though maybe not quite as expansive.

The Atmosphere: While it's not the empty cavern The Abbey Pub was, it's pretty clear that I wasn't the only person who had abandoned Ginger's for The Globe. The d├ęcor has plenty of soccer flags but it feels more like a British/Irish pub than a straight up, soccer bar. Maybe that's due to the fact that the rugby game being shown in the back room had twice the viewers as the soccer up front.

The Games: Liverpool vs. Middlesbrough, Chelsea vs. Wigan Athletic, Fulham vs. Arsenal. 3 games - All at the same time.

The Smacktalk: Smacktalk was pretty minimal. This might have been due to the fact that the game with sound featured Liverpool getting beaten by 2-0 in a huge upset to Middlesbrough, a team that previously hadn't managed to score a single goal in over 150 years of professional soccer (that's only a slight exaggeration).

Numerous people in Liverpool jerseys muttering swear words and letting out frustrated sighs, replaced the jovial banter I'm accustomed to. Also one guy spent a lot of time earnestly explained the difference between the 4-4-2 and the 4-3-3 formation to his bored girlfriend.*

Most disappointingly, nobody paid much attention to the other games. Part of it might have been because the TVs are set up at weird angles, making it hard to watch multiple games, but it it might have just been the overall lethargy of the patrons. That's a shame, because the other two games had a lot going on.

American midfielder Clint Dempsey's team, Fulham FC, gave the not-so-mighty-lately Arsenal a really tough time, and were unlucky to have to settle for a 0-0 draw. But I never heard a shout of excitement any of the times Fulham almost scored. Meanwhile, Liverpool's chief rivals in the battle for second place, Chelsea, seemed to be grinding out a dull, workmanlike 1-0 win over Wigan Athletic. Then Wigan scored, but nobody in the bar even seemed to notice. I had to wonder about all these guys in Liverpool jerseys. What kind of soccer fan can't take joy in the misery of a rival? And when Chelsea managed a last-gasp winner and the only Chelsea fan in the bar let out a yell of joy, well, I just drew blank stares instead of dirty looks.

I guess that was my big problem with Ginger's. It's a nice, quiet place to watch the games with better food and service than The Globe. But if you want good food and service, there are a million awesome brunch places in town. And if you want a nice, relaxing, low-key time, you could always just get cable or go to justin.tv and watch the games at home.

*Believe it or not, that guy wasn't me.

 
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