Getting Their Kicks To find international matches on TV, American soccer fans must crawl the pubs and search the Web

March 08, 1999

Once a week I pay a greasy man who grants me entry to a seedy
establishment where I'm allowed to gape at a video monitor until
the time on the screen expires. On other days I buy Danish
magazines, swap German videos and consider a move to Amsterdam,
where this sort of thing is acceptable. What kind of pervert am
I, you ask? The worst kind, I'm afraid: I am a soccer fan in
America.

On Wednesdays I join my friends--the unemployed and the
unemployable--at a Manhattan bar for a five-lager lunch and the
live transatlantic satellite transmission of an English soccer
match. These games are not easy to find. Thank heaven, then, for
Mark Coker's Guide to Soccer-Friendly Pubs
(www.halcyon.com/mcoker), an Internet directory of U.S.,
Canadian and Caribbean alehouses that televise international
soccer. If you find yourself in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., at
seven o'clock on a Sunday morning with a dual thirst for live
Italian Serie A action and a pint of Theakstons Old Peculiar,
Coker can hook you up. "Rancho Cucamonga?" says the 37-year-old
Boeing engineer, who lives in Seattle and relies on a national
network of footy-mad correspondents. "Yeah, there's a place
there called the Final Score...."

A senior at Pace University recently E-mailed Coker to say he
was considering an Army JAG Corps posting to Fort Lewis in
Washington State. "One of my major concerns," wrote the student,
"is the availability of Scottish and English League matches in
the area." Coker commended the young man to a thriving Seattle
pub called the George & Dragon, where two years ago Coker
himself paid $20 to sit on the pool table for the English FA Cup
final. "For a lot of people," he says, "the ability to view
soccer is an important lifestyle criterion."

Important? Live television is lifeblood, is mother's milk, is
Caffreys Irish Ale to America's soccer fans. We will suffer any
indignity to find it, and do. On my cable system, for instance,
a single English match is available live at 10 a.m. every
Sunday, on the same pay-per-view menu as the porn movie Where
the Boys Aren't.

Mercifully, some European Champions League matches are televised
live on ESPN2, whose announcers are always saying things like
"The atmosphere is extraordinary here in the Estadio Nou Camp,
in the captivating capital of Catalonia." We all know they're
dubbing a live feed and that the broadcasters are really seated
on overturned mop buckets in a utility closet in Piscataway,
N.J. But so what?

It beats listening to a nil-nil draw on the radio, which many
American desperadoes do after locating the shortwave coordinates
at Soccer on the Radio, which sounds like the third runner-up in
the World's Most Boring Activities contest but is in fact a
bustling Web site. The lure of a soccer broadcast is such that
it, in turn, beats lying on a gorgeous beach and staring at
water bluer than barbershop-comb disinfectant while gentle
breezes play at your ear hair. That's why a joint called the Hog
Sty Bay, in the Cayman Islands, carries televised international
matches.

What can I say? We are a depraved bunch. Last month the U.S.
national team defeated Germany in Orlando, a match that ABC
chose not to televise live on the West Coast. No matter. Coker,
who may call his firstborn son Kasey--in honor of U.S. keeper
Kasey Keller, who hails from Washington State--found a plausibly
live play-by-play on the Internet. "It was just text on the
screen, and it was all in German," he says. "But I took some
German in high school, and you could kind of tell what was going
on, and...."

Do you hear that? It's a cry for help.

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: DAN PICASSO
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)