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Soccer fans have a ball as U.S. advances despite defeat to Germany

They lived through the Group of Death, and for every iteration of USA soccer fan in Buffalo who watched their team lose to Germany, 1-0, at noontime Thursday, that was cause for celebration.

Of course, some late adaptors to World Cup international mathematics (like Celsius or the metric system in sports) needed to have it explained to them why the loss was a good thing, and why everyone was cheering for Portugal while the USA was spending far too little time in front of Germany’s goal.

That’s OK. Even the most diehard fans will admit there is time for explanations during the 90-minute games, along with time to explain why the games are always more than 90 minutes long.

Sarah Nesbitt did not need the help. Like many of the fans at Mes Que on Hertel Avenue, the area’s one, true soccer bar, she knows her futbol. One of Buffalo’s American Outlaws soccer fans, she asked for the day off as soon as the World Cup schedule was posted, and says she even chose North Buffalo to live in because of Mes Que.

“I’ve lived in Thailand, Tanzania, Australia, England, South Korea – sports culture is really big everywhere in the world, but Buffalo is unique since they get behind their team,” she said. “They’re not like other cities where it’s like, if our football team isn’t good then we’re done. Every year, Bills fans say, ‘This is our year.’ That’s a unique perspective in soccer. It needs to be, no matter what the outcome, we support our team.”

“This is the atmosphere to be in,” he said, adding to the color himself with a red, white and blue robe and American flag sunglasses.

The sea of red, white and blue there contained almost as many women as men, making it a little different from the heavily male crowds found at bars and other places around the city, and spirits were high throughout the match – jumping when the Portugal goals were announced, dipping when the USA missed some late shots.

In the end, spirits was bright, knowing that this was not the end for the USA.

“It’s great to see they still advanced to the second round,” said Edwin Schelp, who was on a long lunch with Adam’s Mark co-workers.

“Jubilation!” is how Chris Brunner put it. “We survived the Group of Death!”

And in local workplaces, there was a lot of multitasking going on. Staffers at Buffalo Niagara Partnership were unabashedly tweeting about gathering to watch the game.

At Rich Products’ Niagara Street offices, every available television screen in the break areas and cafeteria had a cluster of workers nearby, all busy on their laptops while keeping one eye on the game.

Because the outcome of the Ghana-Portugal game, being played at the same time, could affect whether the USA advanced, many people were multiplying their multitasking. As Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal asked on Twitter, “Aren’t these two games why they created TV picture in picture in 1972?”

Bisons fans who like soccer had their own picture-in-picture effect on a large scale. As they arrived at Coca-Cola Field for the 1 p.m. game, the World Cup game was running across the big-screen in the outfield with the loudspeakers on. Some baseball fans didn’t care either way, but Karen Gray was among those glad to be able to see some of the USA-Germany action.

“I like it, and I hope they update us through the (baseball) game,” Gray said.

She added that she doesn’t usually follow professional soccer but enjoys the game itself: “I’ve watched the kids play a lot,” she said.

Across the street from the ballpark, the Irish Times was one of many local lunch hangouts that were packed with far above-normal crowds watching the game, whether they could get lunch or not. Vicki Wagner, wearing a “Soccer: Just Do It” T-shirt, had brought her girlfriends in on the way to the Bisons game, to check on the soccer and have a cold drink.

It was the same all around the area. It seemed every television in a public place was tuned to the bright green field in rain-soaked Recife, Brazil. The crowd at the Acropolis on Elmwood Avenue flowed out onto the patio, and up the street at Café Aroma a packed house turned out for the match.

It also was the last day of school for many local children, and while some had parties or playground time. Ellen Meagan tweeted from School 198 that her kids were watching the World Cup during their lunch hour.

Of course, not everyone is a fan.

“I honestly don’t get it,” said Conehead, as he greeted baseball fans at Coca-Cola Field next to his cooler of cold beer. “I’m the older generation, and I like baseball.”

He admitted, though, that the enthusiasm is at least a little contagious.

“I’ve been out at a couple of bars where people are watching it and getting all excited,” he said, “and, I wouldn’t say I’m liking soccer, but I’m softening up on my dislike.”

He gets another chance to soften up on Tuesday, when USA plays Belgium in the knockout round.

News Staff Reporter Mark Sommer contributed to this report.

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