For the record, the rock beach at Bray has nothing to do with this post. Sometimes I just forget to take photos while I’m in the middle of living my life. How very un-millennial of me, I know.
We figured the pub would be empty. Sunday night, nothing on the TVs but the AFC and NFC Championship games and what self-respecting Irish person cares about that?
Leaving the house about 45 minutes before game time, Abbie, Jess, Courtney, Simon (remember him from my last blog? The romance saga continues), and I arrived at the Woolshed Baa and Grill (sheep pun level: expert) thirty minutes before game time. We planned on asking politely which dark corner the game would be playing in and taking an inconspicuous seat out of the way of everyone.
I think we under-estimated how many Americans there are in Dublin. We walked in the to the massive two-story place and found every single seat in the house taken up by reservations people made weeks ago. All the rest of the place was packed with bodies standing in both red and blue Patriot’s jerseys and hats and orange Bronco’s t-shirts and jerseys. The noise level was booming, the sweat levels were putrid. We found a little corner where we could sort of see the big projector screen if we crouched down and sat on the sticky stand where dirty dishes normally go. There was beer everywhere and poor wait-staff trying to peel apart bodies so they could get through with their trays. I’m sure they dread us Americans with our football that’s not really football, a ridiculous game when you watch it from an Irish perspective.
We didn’t last long. Courtney claimed to have seen a bar on the way that was also showing the game, so we sent her and Simon on a mission to find it not expecting she’d be successful. We got a phone call ten minutes later telling us she found a pub – a mercifully empty pub – down the road playing the game on al their TVs. We abandoned our stations at the sticky dish stand (my pants were already filthy) and went out looking for the pub. We found it on a quiet corner of Capel Street, and though we’d walked down that street several times, we never once noticed the place.
Slattery’s. The bar itself was a big dark wood piece in the middle of the room with big bar-stools that could easily accommodate our American-sized butts. It wasn’t anything special, and their music selection was bizarre (One Direction, some unidentified rap songs, and traditional Irish music all in one go…am I the only one who finds that strange??). Jess and Abbie ordered a vodka and cranberry juice and Guinness, respectively (Abbie will never again order a Guinness, but she can officially say she’s had one). There was no sound to the football game, which was a bummer, but the bar was fairly quiet, we had seats, and somehow we were in an Irish pub watching American football surrounded by locals who were pretty enamored with our interest in this strange game where giant men collide into each other to carry a ball ten yards at a time down a massive field.
As resident football experts, Jess and I answered all the questions we got, which ranged from, “Why doesn’t the same kick through the same goal get you the a different amount of points every time?” and “What are they trying to do here?” It was almost as fun watching the locals try to make sense of the game as it was to watch the Broncos win. Jess is an avid Patriots fan, and me, an avid Peyton Manning supporter. We’re always rivals and we noticed the Irish lad next to us smiling to himself over our competitive banter throughout the game (even though the Irish lad changed three different times through the course of the night). Abbie doesn’t watch football or understand it, but she said she’d support the Broncos because both Courtney and Simon were rooting for the Patriots and I was totally outnumbered. All it took was some nice dreadlocks worn by a Patriots player to sway her loyalties (seriously).
Side note: during the game Courtney and Simon sat with each other just down the bar from us. The three of us would glance over from time to time and watch how captivated with each other they were and when the game was over, we mad sure to walk quickly so the two of them would have some privacy for The Kiss. We told Courtney not to come home if she didn’t kiss him and we meant it. As soon as we got to the first corner, we took off running along the River Liffey and didn’t stop for a few blocks. It was great fun, running through the streets of Dublin late at night, laughing. It was plain strange when a random guy walked up and asked for a hug, which we declined.
The game itself wasn’t exceptional by any means, but it’s one we won’t ever forget purely for the experience of watching it in Slattery’s. In America, many people watch or at least know about our kind of football; in Ireland, we were the odd ducks out for enjoying the game, for having stake in its outcome and yelling/cheering loudly at the screen at random intervals.
Towards the end of the fourth quarter with about two minutes to go – the Patriots with their last shot – a guy from a group of twenty-somethings at the table next to us asked us to join him. The three of us exchanged looks that said, “Do we have to? I don’t really want to. Okay, but we probably can’t say no.” We tried to tell him that the game was almost over and we needed to watch but he wouldn’t accept that and so came over to sit by us at the bar. He asked us where we from and when we said the United States, he said, “Well obviously, but where in the United States.” It’s still taking some time to get used to the fact that anytime we open our mouths, people immediately know where we’re from (and the fact that they know and have usually been to more individual states than we ourselves have been to).
We relented when the guy told us the truth: he was only asking because his friends had dared him to. If we came with him, he’d get a free pint of beer. If we hadn’t already made up our minds to sit with him, hearing this would have made me say no immediately. How pathetic is it, daring your friend to convince the three Americans at the bar to sit with you just because they’re American (and particularly quiet). One of the first things they asked us when we sat down was why we weren’t drinking, which is the most annoying question on the planet. Not everyone drinks. Not everyone can drink. All the girls at the table were stunningly beautiful, as most Irish women are. We were warned by the academic staff here, but it really is true that every Irish person has a relative in New York or the greater New England area (and clearly NY means NYC).
They took a selfie with us, saying right before the shutter went off, “Smile tourists,” and we got mad and tried to tell them off nicely. When he asked for my name so he could tag me in the photo on Facebook, I further embarrassed myself by asking, “My real name?” I don’t know what it is about these situations, but I can’t seem to sound intelligent for the life of me. According to them, my last name is very English, which is not a good thing. When the game was over and the Broncos won, the group of Irish “friends” were bored of us and talking among themselves. We slipped our coats on and tried to be discrete. They told us goodbye and I attempted to leave out of a locked door (oh the embarrassment).
When we were out of the bar, I felt angry but not surprised. As an American, I’m often at the butt of every joke here. I suppose it’s only fair because for most of my life I’ve lived in a place where everyone else is the butt of the joke. It’s frustrating to be tied so tightly to the identity of a place, and identity I don’t always feel fits me. Many Irish people I’ve met have asked at one point of another whether I’ll be voting for Donald Trump. People here assume things about me that aren’t always true because of my accent (and my proclivity to try and go out locked doors and answer questions by repeating the question back again). I think that’s been the most frustrating thing, and I’m sure everyone experiences it when they travel. I have my biases too.
A lot of my friends studying abroad as well say that Irish people are the nicest people they’ve ever met, but I have to disagree. They aren’t overtly rude most of the time and give directions on the street when asked, but no one says hi on the street like they do where I’m from. There’s no sense of community that I’ve felt here like I do in the states. The old folks sitting at the bar will always chat with you and have something nice to say about us. But the twenty-somethings? I’ve yet to have a positive experience with one and I sincerely hope I’ve treated visitors in America with a bit more compassion and warmth. (And for God’s sake, what’s so wrong about being a feckin’ tourist?)