Over the past few weeks, and for the foreseeable future, the coronavirus [Covid-19] has strangled the United States and most of the world of The Beautiful Game.
Therein lies the reason why someone who genuinely looks forward to every match - going as far to say that their weekends have lost meaning now that they are no longer being played - would greet a substitute… any substitute, with open arms.
Flashing back over a week ago, one such substitute caught my eye: the Philly Bar March Madness 2020 Tournament created by a Twitter user named Jeem [@unclejeem].
For the tournament, he selected 64 Philadelphia bars, seeding them similarly to that of an NCAA Basketball Tournament; while creating a poll for each matchup. Following the completion of each poll, a bar could only move on if they had a higher percentage of the vote.
But, “Why was a soccer fan, from outside Philadelphia nonetheless, interested in this tournament?”
Well, over the past month or so, I have visited a number of the Philadelphia Premier League (PL) Supporters Groups, and their bars, with the objective of finding the best environment and experience for the uncommitted — a fan who has yet to pick a PL Side they wish to put their emotional well-being at risk for.
I started with Tir Na Nog, Manchester City’s bar — as well as Chelsea and Crystal Palace.
I then attended both Misconduct Tavern for Arsenal, and Victoria Freehouse for Liverpool.
Then came Founding Fathers, a bar which plays host to Tottenham’s Philly Spurs, and it was honestly the best soccer watching experience I have had to date in Philadelphia.
They, the Philly Spurs, were as curious about me, as I was of them. Taking the time to get to know me, and making sure I felt right at home. This seemed pretty typical of the environment, as even the staff at Founding Fathers was this way — all the while ensuring that my glass never stayed empty.
That’s why when I saw the tournament, and their inclusion, I was hooked right away.
Did this so we know where to go once this bar ban is lifted. Stay tuned as twitter polls for the first round will be released tomorrow. Spread the word so everyone in philly has something to argue about for the time being pic.twitter.com/QqAsX7y3GU— jeem (@unclejeem) March 17, 2020
Founding Fathers entered the tournament as a relative unknown No. 14 Seed.
But following their win in the first round against No. 3 Vesper, 59% to 41% (242 votes), they arrived in the second round with “the” label, and were no longer an “unknown.” They were looking like the tournament’s proper Cinderella Story. And, while many would have believed this put a target on their back, it also meant that they were a few steps closer to a title that no one expected them to take.
This label became decisively more credible when their second straight victory came against Philadelphia soccer royalty — Fado’s Irish Pub (54-46, 478 votes).
With their next match-up, in the Round of 16, Founding Fathers took down its strongest opponent yet, as Morgan’s Pier never left “our” Cinderella’s crosshairs (winning 52-48, 595).
An on-looker would likely have been forgiven for thinking that their win against the summer hotspot was going to be their last, because when Founding Fathers lined up to face the “Gonzaga” of Philadelphia Bars, in K-Lot, they were ready for a battle. And battle they did, as regulation would not determine this one.
Instead, it took a controversial Saturday Morning Overtime, a second one-hour poll following a 50-50 split, where a grand total of 802 votes was submitted. Winning against K-Lot meant they took home all three poi… went to the Final Four!
But sadly, like most great title runs for Tottenham, it did not end happily.
In the semifinals, after nearly 1,300 votes, Founding Fathers fell victim to the Irish Pub, 53-47. The eventual tournament winners upended Ocean Drive in the final 52-48 (2,274).
While this certainly was not ideal for both Founding Fathers and Philly Spurs, it gave many some excellent insight on what it was like to be a Spurs Supporter.
Do yourself a favor and find some time to stop by Founding Fathers, especially if it’s to catch a match with Philly Spurs, as they are a great group of people and will welcome you as if you have been a Spurs fan for your entire life.
***But please only do this once you are that it’s safe to do so, as nothing is more important than the safety of you, your loved ones and everyone else.***
Please also take a second to check out @unclejeem on Twitter.