By Matthew Wood
The biggest question is, Why? Why watch the big World Cup soccer match between the United States and Germany at Kaiserhof, the long-standing Ocean Beach biergarten and general German fan meeting place?
Like the idea of climbing so many mountain tops and starting so many world wars, I countered with, Why not?
When I came up with this hare-brained idea, I made sure to book a table reservation nearly a week in advance. I talked to my girl Ulla at the bar and told her I would see her at 9. She looked up from sorting her receipts and replied, “You vill be here at 8.”
So there I was at 8 a.m. on Thursday morning, waiting outside of the Sunset Cliffs Restaurant for one of the waitresses to let me and my jackass friends in the door, game time still an hour away.
Truth be known, I actually thought it would be much crazier than it was. We were one of the first ones there and they had a table waiting for us in the beer garden. Then, when it they found out they had a cancellation, moved us to the primo spot, right in front of the bar and big-screen TV.
As another famous San Diegoan (San Diegan?) once said, “I’m kind of a big deal. People know me.”
We settled into our seats, and I surveyed the place. I figured we would be the only USA fans, but there were actually quite a few. Probably 15-20 percent. One man in a handlebar mustache had a German jersey on for the first half, then switched to a US jersey after halftime – and nobody even seemed to judge.
A round of Bloody Marys came. They tasted very German – a bit plain and boring, but very blunt and quite austere.
A family came in with a little red-haired kid wearing a German jersey. We tried to focus some of our patriotic vitriol on the poor little unsuspecting child, but then he pulled out a mini-American flag and waved it around next to his little German flag. It was so stinkin’ cute. How are we supposed to hate these guys when they’re being so nice?
The game in Brazil started in a torrential downpour. Apparently, it had been steadily raining since 3 a.m., drenching the field and everything around. As I sat in the outdoor garden, the wind blowing lazily through the patio, I said to the table, “Man, it sure has been a long time since I saw that.” And you what? I was OK with it.
Around the 20th minute in the game, the TV feed went out just as the US was surging forward. A big groan went up from the crowd and I sensed that this could be riot time. … But then it came back on, just as American midfielder Graham Zusi put a shot over the net. The group cheered loudly, as much for the TV going back on as for a missed American scoring opportunity.
After the Germans scored in the 50-somethingth minute, the waitress came by to the table of German fans sitting next to us and offered some free shots. “No thanks,” the mane replied. “We have to work after this.” Leave it to the Germans to be the only ones with jobs in OB.
Following a couple rounds of Bloodies, we switched to pitchers of Hofbrau lager. As I drank, I couldn’t help but thinking how much German beer sucks. But we put it down. Hey, when in Rome … or Munich … or OB or whatever.
The game played out much as we expected. Both teams only needed a tie to move on, and would still advance even if the Portugal-Ghana matched ended in a draw. But even with a loss, there was a chance the US could advance to the next round. Trailing 1-0, that became more and more apparent, as Portugal scored a goal to take the lead on Ghana. Those wacky Portuguese – can always count on those guys.
Since it would take Ghana scoring two goals and winning – or another three Portu-goals for them to win the tie-breaker over us – it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that both the American and German teams would move to the knockout round. Once again we were all friends.
With the game winding down, everyone cheered on both teams – German fans for the win and American fans because we got what we needed, even though we basically got dominated and lost the game. It reminded me of a quote from Rosie Perez in the movie “White Men Can’t Jump”: “Sometimes when you win, you really lose, and sometimes when you lose, you really win, and sometimes when you win or lose, you actually tie, and sometimes when you tie, you actually win or lose.”
Just call us Billy Hoyle – but whatever, we live to see another day in this crazy tournament that everyone in the world seems to be watching.
As fans filed out, I glanced at the clocks on the bar. There was one on OB time and one on Munich time. They are nine hours ahead of us, meaning nearly 8 p.m. in Germany. I couldn’t help but think what things might be like over there right now. Their night was well under way and the celebrations were surely kicking into high gear in biergartens throughout the country.
Meanwhile, our day was just getting started in OB. We walked out of the bar to another beautiful morning in the ‘hood. I stopped and thought to myself: There’s no place I’d rather be.