Honestly, the only times I religiously follow American Soccer are during the Olympics and The World Cup. With all the flying about the map, I sadly haven’t been able to follow sports as I would like. I am a tomboy. I’ve always loved sports, including playing on season on a boys’ soccer team as the goalie as there wasn’t a girls’ league in the small town I lived in as a kid. Being a junior flight attendant often means working through weekends and holidays as well as using some creative schedule maneuvers to secure desired days off. I lucked out with a full weekend in between blocks of six day flying. While trying to coordinate an outing with some friends in west Orlando, Pat suggested attending the Orlando City Soccer Club’s U.S.A. versus Portugal viewing party. Having flown through my teams losing the NBA Finals as well as the Stanley Cup, I needed some semblance of normalcy for my inner sports hooligan.
We planned on meeting up at 5PM as kick off was scheduled for 6PM. I gave myself an extra hour window to find parking in downtown, but it seems that most of the revelers had been firmly entrenched for several hours. I opted for using the parking garage on Central opposite the Fire Station because I loathe the hunt for street parking. Thankfully, I had cash as they weren’t accepting credit cards for event day parking. We met up on the Orange Avenue side of Wall Street Plaza, but had to loop around the back of the block to get in. Thankfully arriving an hour before still meant there was space for us to get in. Unfortunately, it was too late to lay claim to any table real estate at any of the restaurants. We wound up hanging out near the back of Wall Street Plaza and getting our beverages from Hooch. I met up with one of my favorite married couples, Pat & Cici, and met Cici’s friend Juliana. Later on, two of Pat’s coworkers joined up, too!
Over the past few years, I’ve only caught glimpses of big sporting events while passing through airport concourses, or by getting updates from the pilots and passengers in flight. Occasionally, I’ve lucked out and managed to enjoy an event in the comfort of my own home, layover hotel, or local watering hole. Being far removed from the game day madness I became accustomed to in Gainesville, I had forgotten what it’s like being three deep at the bar and packed in tight like a can of sardines. It had been a long while since I had to use my charming personality to flag down a bartender just so I could get served and get the H-E-double hockey sticks out of the fray. As Pat and I were to tallest of our tiny group, we were on beer run duty, and later helping the outdoor bartenders “make a hole” to get cases of beer through the crowd to avoid rioting.
I love watching sports with people who love to watch sports. I am thankful that I have friends that love going to sporting events and enjoy yelling at referees, debating questionable calls, and aren’t afraid about a little beer. Conversely, those who show up at events purely to party, talk over the game, and try to use the game to get some game. During the first half, our patience was tested by a group of 20-somethings who vocally announced they were only there to party. It took every fiber of my being not to tell them to go home right there. They were talking loudly over the game, smoking dainty cigars, and bemoaning all the people, while legitimate, football loving fans whom were denied entry as the event space reached capacity were stuck craning their necks over the barricades to try and enjoy the game.
For ladies attending any sporting event, keep the following things in mind. You may be standing the entire time, so wearing heels or wedges, though totally cute, are not in your best interest. Nobody truly interested in the game wants to hear you complaining how much your feet hurt and how offended you are than guys aren’t giving up their seats. They were there first and they certainly didn’t force you to make that fashion decision. If you are worried about people leering or bumping into you, don’t go. Just stay home. There will be plenty of inebriated folks in attendance and with flowing beer, social filters go out the window. Do not threaten to swing on someone if they bump into you, as one girl did to me. I’m not picking a fight nor do I intend on getting run over by cases of beer, so if you don’t like it– leave. No sense in ruining the day for everyone else because you have personal space issues. Now, I am not advocating sexual harassment or unwanted advances. If someone is intentionally touching you and you’re uncomfortable, by all means, call for help. If its an accident graze, do not be quick to fly off the handle or demand an apology.
I love the vibe of game day, but I am thankful my friends didn’t want to make their way up to the one big screen at the top of the plaza. The multi-screen displays at the back no only provided a clearer picture, but also breathing room. I wish that smoking would have been banned because I nearly got singed by a careless spectator and his cigar. The game was intense and quickly picked up momentum once Portugal scored the first goal! When Team USA’s Jones’ score the equalizer, the spirits of the crowd soared, and when Dempsey’s goal pushed us to 2-1 beer rained down, flags waved, and chants of U.S.A. erupted from the plaza. We cheered harder as the clock wound down, and then fives minutes of additional time was added. As the seconds ticked away the frenzy of excitement grew, until the last thirty seconds when Portugal tied it up. Many of the fans were angry, but I’m still proud. We didn’t lose and it was a great game.
One of the best ways to beat the heat in Orlando this summer is cheering on Team USA during the World Cup! Orlando City Soccer is doing this right For Club and Country! They have a USA vs. Germany Viewing Party scheduled for Thursday. It’s a midday game, but keep in mind that there may be a lunch rush downtown. Wish I could be there!