This summer, my roommate and I watched every United States World Cup match at a soccer pub called Courtyard Hooligans. You might have seen “fan reaction” videos from Hooligans floating around the Internet, as many of the clips found their way onto sites like USAToday.com and FoxSports.com.
If you watch the video, I think you’ll see how the atmosphere at Hooligans kept us coming back—hundreds of USA fans jam-packed around television screens, screaming, chanting, and singing all as one.
Now, going to Hooligans might not have been the most comfortable or convenient place to watch a game—that’s what your living room sofa is for. It was a half hour away (located in uptown Charlotte, NC), and we had to pay for parking and arrive at the pub 90 minutes early (the length of an entire soccer game) just to make sure we got in. Even then, there was a long line. By the end of the match, I’d be exhausted from yelling and drenched in sweat from baking in the hot, southern sun for multiple hours. Oddly, the heat never seemed to bother me during the game, nor did the fact I’d have 10 different people’s sweat on my skin by the final whistle. Hooligans was the only place on earth I wanted to be.
During the USA’s third game in Group play against Germany, we actually tried watching the game elsewhere—at a place that was much closer to our apartment and had air conditioning. But five minutes after sitting down, we were saying to one another, “It is isn’t the same, let’s go to Hooligans.”
Later that day, I remember standing in the middle of a sweaty crowd at Hooligans thinking to myself, “What is it that makes this place so special? Why do I keep coming back, game after game?”Perhaps the fact that it was the World Cup had something to do with it, but the truth is that I could have watched the exact same game on my couch at home. I knew being in a happening place like the heart of Charlotte had something to do with it, but there were plenty of other restaurants and bars around; and there was a reason people waited in line for hours to get into Hooligans specifically. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was the people that made it such a great experience.
We were all united—one nation, one team—under one flag, and our differences were set aside. There were no agendas but the desire to win. No labels but fans of the red, white and blue.
I started thinking about “labels” and how this idea applied to