Frequent contributor Jon Marthaler has written about virtually every sport in the Twin Cities, and fills in on Saturdays for the RandBall blog on StarTribune.com. He'll cover the professional soccer scene in the Twin Cities, whether at the Metrodome or at the National Sports Center.
Email Jon to talk about soccer.
Dana Wessel is a Premier League expert, who you can and should follow on Twitter at @DanaWessel. We have commissioned him to write about English soccer this season - a season that begins tomorrow. Dana?.
See? That wasn’t so bad was it? Everything begins anew again on Saturday, just a shade under three months since the end of the 2012-13 Premier League season. The time went by in an instant for American soccer fans, thanks largely to "The Summer of Jozy Altidore Part 1", "The Summer of Landon Donovan: The King Has Returned" and "The Summer of Jozy Altidore Part Deux: Revenge of the Hat Trick."
It seems just like yesterday that Manchester United won the league in dull fashion, QPR, Reading, and Wigan were sent to the abyss, and everybody ruffled Tottenham’s hair and said "Awww, good effort," much like you would to your kid brother trying to shoot a basket on a 10-foot hoop, even though you knew he had no chance of making it.
I have been commissioned by Marth to write a post here every Thursday or Friday about the happenings of the Premier League. It will always be about the PL, and it will always be fun. One thing I promise it won’t be, despite my Chelsea obsession, is a Blue slobberfest every week. There are plenty of places to get that on the web (including my Twitter feed).
It is going to be a fun season. Much more wide open than in the past. Sir Alex Ferguson is gone, Jose "The Special One" Mourinho is back, and Arsenal have the same odds of landing a trophy as I do of landing Anna Kendrick (like, 16%). There seems to be more excitement from budding soccer fans than I have ever seen. My friends, who five years ago were calling me "donkey" and throwing carrots at me for watching soccer, all of a sudden have an interest. And I think that is awesome.
So for this first edition of Nuclear Wessel, I thought I’d do a rundown of all the soccer bars in the Twin Cities area. The best way to fall in love with the sport is to watch with people who already love it. Learn from them, soak it all in, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Here is my take on the soccer bars in town based on my own experiences and a brief, unscientific Twitter survey (Hey Darren Rovell!)
Brit's Pub - Downtown Minneapolis: Duh. Even if you haven’t watched a soccer game outside of the final match in the 2006 Academy Award nominee "She’s The Man" starring Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum, you know that Brit's is where people go to watch soccer.
Pros: It is massive. Really massive. There are like three floors, a couple decks, and a bunch of side rooms. I swear I once even found a water slide in there. It is especially cool during the World Cup and European Championships, when they open up the bowling lawn for people to sit on and watch the matches.
Another huge plus for Brits is the amount of TVs and their cable package. If there is a soccer match playing somewhere in the world, Brits will have it. They also will open the doors as early as 6:45am if there is a big enough match to show.
Cons: Other than a few exceptions, I have never found the staff to be that friendly. A lot of them have that attitude like they are doing you a favor by being open so early. They know they’re the destination spot for soccer viewing, so they don’t have to work too hard for your love.
Supporters: A massive Liverpool contingent takes up the entire Long Room with the projector TV -- which is fine, out of sight out of mind. They are for the most part a friendly bunch, especially now, when they have absolutely nothing to be cocky about.
There is also a big group of Chelsea fans that hang out in the main bar area closest to the windows. We are a friendly bunch, come say hi. Then there is just the smattering of United supporters, and a few lonely Arsenal supporters standing with their hands in their pockets not knowing who to talk to.
(Quick tangent about United supporters: Have you ever noticed you constantly hear people talk about how they love United but you never see a big group of United supporters? You hear so many people claim to be huge United buffs, but you never really run into any, and when you do, they usually haven’t checked the table in weeks.
People always liken Manchester United to the Yankees, and I do too, but for a different reason than most. People seem to claim they both “win all the time.” That is an insult to United. I could never picture them falling off the way Yankees have, unless we see headlines this season about Robin van Persie shotgunning jugs of deer antler spray behind Old Trafford, or it turns out Ryan Giggs had metal, Terminator-like legs installed to explain his longevity. If you compare titles between the two the last 20 years, it isn’t even close.
United fans and Yankees fans are the same because, for the most part, both groups just enjoy saying they are United fans. It is something they like to mention at happy hour to sound cool - my Yankees! - or to annoy their friends who are much more passionate about their own squad. It is trendy to wear a Yankee hat the same way it is trendy to wear the United crest. They have history and along with the history comes the bandwagoners -- and they are annoying. Just admit you don’t really care. And, if you really are as passionate as you claim, time to ditch that bootleg size-too-small Beckham United jersey you got while studying abroad 12 years ago and get something current.)
OK. Sorry. Where was I?
The Local - Downtown Minneapolis: The Local is just a few blocks down from Brit's, and is kind of like Brit's Lite, if that makes sense.
Pros: Much, much more laid back than Brits. If Saturday/Sunday morning crowds at 9:00am aren’t your thing, you’ll like The Local.
Cons: The TVs. Woof. They are small and set up in a way that makes viewing a chore. You know that one tiny TV they had in Cheers that they only ever acknowledged when the plot called for them to be watching something on TV? That is kind of what the Local is like. The vibe is cool and it is a fun place to go to at night, but it just isn’t really set up for mass TV viewing.
Also, someone from Twitter claims that the ManU fans always get the “good” TV. Not really much of a prize if you ask me. Sounds like getting the “good” stall at the Metrodome. You still lose.
Supporters: This is where most of the Tottenham fans hang out, desperately trying to convince anybody who will listen (and themselves) that they actually matter. Just kidding. They are a good bunch of people and will likely see a top four finish this year. My Twitter findings also tell me there is a good core of Arsenal fans that hang here as well.
The Nomad - West Bank: I won’t breakdown this one in much depth because I have only been there to watch soccer once. I think it is kind of that thing where if you like going to the Nomad when soccer isn’t on, you’ll likely enjoy going there when soccer is on.
Morrisey’s Irish Pub - Uptown: This place is the wild card and could be a total game-changer in the Minneapolis soccer bar scene (see what I did there? I used the word scene. I am SO Hollywood). Uptown residents like myself have long been clamoring for a place in the neighborhood to watch matches. I met with the owner Roy the other weekend and he says he plans on opening up early every weekend for matches.
The place has a cool vibe and actually feels like a pub, whereas Brits feels like the Mall of America of pubs.I will do some recon this weekend and let you know in this space (and my Twitter feed) what I discover. I am hoping for good things.
Sweetwater - St. Paul: Last, but certainly not least is the Sweetwater in St. Paul -- one of my favorite bars of all time. I haven't heard much about people going there for PL matches, but it belongs on this list for one very important reason: it is the Official United States Soccer Bar of Minnesota. This is the place to be for any and all USMNT matches. The owner is a great guy who once plunked down $10,000 for a 2009 World Cup Qualifier at Honduras that was only available on closed-circuit television.
I have heard some rumblings of people wanting to ditch Sweetwater and make Brit's the place for USMNT matches. Really? A British pub to watch the United States play? I'd like to watch you try to explain that move to the men who signed their names on the Declaration of Independence.
Your couch - Your basement: There's nothing wrong with hanging out and watching it at home. I say this because the league is now on NBC Sports, and between the NBC family of networks and their tablet/phone app, every single game will be shown live. Yes, you read that right. Every one. How awesome is that? Gone are the days of tape-delayed “No spoiler!” matches, and getting the seediest of seedy viruses on your computer for going to illegal soccer streaming sites.
The season starts Saturday. Grab some pals, head down to the pub, grab a glass of OJ and toast to the greatest sporting league on the planet being back for the next 9 months. Cheers.
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