World Cup fever has reached rheumatic proportions: at noon last
Saturday, I found myself not at the beach, working on my tan; nor
at Anthropologie, casing the sale racks, but waiting outside the
Press Room, Santa Barbara’s pretty-much official World Cup
headquarters, along with a handful of other sweaty suckers, hoping
for a dose of luck that might allow us entry. The U.S.-Italy match
had just begun, and the little bar was packed to capacity — this
according to Charles Kirkby, who occupies the unenviable post of
World Cup door guy, often rising at 6 a.m. to manage the crowd. And
so I leaned against the bar’s exterior, in the heat of midday,
angling for a peek at one of the TVs, wishing I had it in me to be
just a little bit pushier.

My personal relationship with soccer is somewhat conflicted.
I’ve always been small, but size didn’t matter much to my coach,
who’d steal me away every halftime, walk me down the field, and
instruct me to knock somebody down. I’d suck on my orange wedge,
nodding vigorously, only to rediscover my manners as soon as the
time came to pull the trigger. Later, I refereed younger kids’
matches; being yelled at by crazed parents as their 7- and
8-year-olds charged mindlessly up and down the field helped me
sympathize with the whistle-blowers of the world. All of these
memories remain largely dormant, except during World Cup

That Saturday, waiting outside in the sweltering heat, I thought
of my coach, wondering if I should attempt to elbow my way in, but
knew I’d never do it. So I waited, figuring halftime would be my
window, and, sure enough, when the masses began filing out for the
break, I made my way inside. Whatever the temperature had been
outside, inside it was easily 20 degrees warmer. Kelly Dunne and
his posse — the Press Room’s self-proclaimed Board of Directors —
led me to the owner, “Raff,” who posed with his World Cup replica
before sending me on my way. I wandered around, hurriedly grabbing
shots of the multinational peeps before the second half began, as I
felt pretty sure if I dared asked some of these fútbol fanatics to
smile for the camera during the action, I’d likely get tossed out
on my peeping patootie. “Born in the U.S.A.” blared from the
jukebox repeatedly, and, when a cold Stella appeared in my hand, I
settled in for the second half.

The crowd piled back inside just in time to catch a questionable
call, and then the chanting began. “The ref’s a wanker,” they sang,
quickly segueing into, “I’m blind, I’m deaf, I wannabe a ref!” For
the fleeting moment when it looked as though the U.S. had broken
the tie with another goal, the crowd — save for the two Italy fans
in the house — roared, only to offer a collective wail at the
replay. And so it went: cheers, jeers, toasts, and more toasts,
but, alas, nary a goal; the game ended in a tie. I wandered back
out as “Born in the U.S.A.” began again, said my goodbyes, and
headed home, craving an orange wedge.

Where will your Peeps be? Email


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