Over the last decade or so, my buddy Scooter and I would frequent Streets of London on a regular basis. Streets, as it's affectionately known, is a locally owned chain of watering holes serving a decent representation of classic English pub fare, even though it's mostly just known for its kick-ass St. Patty's day celebrations (which, along with Cinco de Mayo, is that most quintessential of all drinking holidays). On good days, they even have London Pride on tap.
They would also show football (SAHKERR) on their televisions, although the one closest to us, in the suburbs, only had the small, crappy CRTs way up in the corners that were hard to see in an empty bar, let alone with any sort of crowd. The main pub downtown however would often show matches by projecting onto a big screen and it was this arrangement that greeted me just before lunch time today out here in the Central Valley.
I actually had not been there for some time, as around these parts, everybody knows that you have to go to San Francisco to get the true fan/pub experience (Mad Dog, yo). But this was only the Europa League and it was midweek, midday, and, not to mention, on a workday so a few concession had to be made.
Thanks to a bit of scouting on Facebook, it looked like there were going to be a fair few who would rather not make the two-hour trip to the Bay and would just stay in the capital. At the end of the day, there were about 30 of us, most clad in classic royal blue, albeit with a rather unimaginative assortment of names of the back. A Lampard here, a Drogba there; here a Terry, there a Hazard ... how boring!
There was one dude with a goalkeeper's shirt - no name - who ordered just a Coke. What a pointless move, I thought to myself, until he came close to throwing chairs once Oscar Cardozo converted his penalty - at which point I was somewhat glad he had not altered his state of mind beyond just a bit of caffeine.
Watching a football match in a pub is not exactly the most ideal base from which to conduct any sort of analysis so we stuck mostly to moaning about lack of possession, yelling at Ramires, shaking our head at the referee, and screaming obscenities - not fit to print in any language - at the red-shirted piscineros.
Sitting at the bar with a couple expats, drinking [redacted for non-aleitude], the whole place dripping with Chelsea love ... I almost forgot that it was just another dry, sunny day in Northern California. We screamed when, out of nowhere, Fernando Torres walked in on goal, we almost lost our minds when Frank Lampard smashed his glorious effort against the crossbar, we went absolutely mental when Branislav Ivanovic scored the winning goal. We felt it on that corner you know, the spirit of Juan Mata to Didier Drogba guarding over us.
And as Bane's header looped, almost as if in slow motion, into the far corner of the net ... suddenly, the pain and the frustration of this season melted away. A season filled with false starts, false ends, and false nines of the truest kind: redeemed. On the eighth try, sure, but it's finally redeemed. Not even John Terry's turn as a full-kit [banker] could sour our mood (let's go with ... he was wearing it ironically).
While it may not be technically over quite just yet, I'm ready to close the books on this year, ready to file it away as successful enough for Interim work. Not only will I be proud of the (dubious) achievement of holding both major European trophies for the next ten days, I'll even open the door for him and hold it with a smile, as he walks out with the coveted checkmark* on his C.V.
* The checkmark next to the "Win a European final without using a substitution" achievement.