Monday, July 18, 2011

The Establishment's take on World Cup

We watched the women's World Cup final -- USA v Japan -- in at a bar Grangeville, Idaho. At The Establishment to be exact.

Our hearts were in our throats the whole time.

Not only because of The Match -- epic by all standards.

And not only because of a wonderfully schizo allegiance to both teams -- a lively love affair with the US team but heartfelt connection with the Japanese, thanks to our daughter-in-law, The Miz, and the Number One Son, with family and friends in a country devastated in March by natural disaster.

But also, ALSO, because there was This Other Factor -- we had No Idea who would storm through the door next in search of NASCAR. 


Ah, south-central Idaho.

We pulled into Grangeville with about 20 minutes before kick-off. It is truly beautiful country (much, much more about that later), but Idaho does have its quirks:

"What do you think of people who still fly the Confederate flag?" the Wonderfully Patient Spouse mused as we passed a small farm house who occupants weren't too shy about making their allegiances known.

"That we probably wouldn't get along too well," I answered, casually eyeballing their neighbors' Confederate flag mailbox.

The  congenial staff at the local gas-and-go advised that our best bet for viewing "that Women's Cup thing" was Ernie's Man Cave (I am NOT making this up.) just up Main Street before The Big Hill. With directions defying MapQuest, off we went.

Maybe it was the Man Cave thing, but when we spotted The Establishment, a hole-in-the-wall bar,  it sang to us. The WPS pulled over and said, "Go see if they've got The Game on."

The Establishment is a welcoming place. Unless you're a horse or a dog or don't have ID, that is.

I pushed open the door. A short, energetic woman with copper-colored hair was briskly taking stools down and setting them around tables. In the back, a slender blonde woman in a skinny, sleeveless black dress, sat bent over the bar, silhouetted by the mid-day sun pouring from a door at the back of the bar.

Promisingly, the wall-mounted flat-screen television showed a field of green -- it was either the World Cup or British Open.

"Excuse me? Are you showing the Women's World Cup?"

The red-headed barkeep nodded and tossed her head toward Madame X.  "We've got it on because she wandered in a few days before and asked if we would show it," she said. I looked at Madame X will new-found respect.

Sweet! I scampered to the door, gave the WPS the thumbs-up and grabbed seats at the bar. Game on. We ordered pizza and a couple glasses of chardonnay chablis.

Ring. Ring. 

Hello, chablis? It's pink rosé
Would you call the 1960s? They're wondering where you are.

Peg, the red-headed barkeep, was rooting for Japan. Madame X, who became a soccer junky while living in Europe for awhile a few years back, was watching for the love of the game but leaning toward the US. The WPS and I straddled the fence -- when the US did something brilliant, there were lots of "Woots!" when Japan did something brilliant, many "Sugoi-s!"

Billy arrived sometime during the the middle of the first half.

"Do you need a beer, Billy?" Peg, the red-headed barkeep, asked the portly gentleman.

"Nahhh. Already had one," Billy responded. Nodding, Peg automatically poured him a tumbler full of something generous and clear -- and handed it to him.

I don't think it was water. After the second round, Billy's beverage of choice made his face very pink. And inspired many comments and questions about soccer.

"Those girls sure do run a lot."

"Now, THAT'S a lot of running."

"Do they ever score after all that running?"

Following a brief soccer tutorial courtesy of the WPS, Madame X (who happened to be the region's early childhood education specialist, by the way) and me, Billy sleepily watched the end of the first half and a portion of the second half finally observing, I think, Alex Morgan's brilliant goal:

"Those gals are pretty healthy aint't they?"

We concurred.

About this time, the back and front doors started swinging open with enthusiastic regularity. Peg, the barkeep, knew everyone -- and their beverage of choice, reaching for beers, topping off shots of cheap whiskey and serving them up before her patrons barely had a chance to sit down.

"Danny, you're late! I opened early just for you!"

"Hey Eddie. No, don't sit there unless you want to watch soccer. I got the NASCAR on the TV up front today."

"Raymond! Where you been? You drinkin' beer or something else this afternoon?"

And so it went. Peg, the barkeep, didn't stop till Abby Wambach scored with her magnificently decisive header with minutes to go in the second OT. Peg slumped a little, then straightened up,  looked around at our plucky little bar-based gallery of new and old soccer fans, and said with a level of determination that would've made Abby wilt, "It's not over yet."

The WPS and I were exhausted by the shear emotion and passion of the game. We had the homing instinct, a hankering to see our gray dog, and so we rolled the dice and announced we best get on the road with the U.S. women's team up 2-1 with 3 to 4 minutes to go in ovetime.

Our farewells to our new BFFs at The Establishment were heartfelt and bittersweet. They wanted us to come back soon!

We were tempted, but. . . but we had miles to go blah blah blah.

Perhaps we should have re-thought that decision.

We felt slightly empty, sitting along side the highway where we pulled off, surrounded by verdant wheat fields, listening to destiny (and heartbreak) unfold -- shot by shot -- without our new soccer posse -- the gang at The Establishment in Grangeville.

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