By FRANK SWERTLOW
It’s noon, and David Frick is sitting at the crowded bar at the Cock’n’ Bull in Santa Monica. Beer is flowing, a middle-aged waitress struggles with plates of fish and chips, and the crowd of more than 100 is yelling, shouting, even screaming.
No, there’s no fistfight or wrestling match going on. It’s the World Cup, 64 games that will determine the best soccer team on Earth. This afternoon, it’s the struggling United States vs. the powerful Germans, one of the favorites to win the coveted cup. (The U.S. lost 2-0)
“I am not much of a soccer fan,” admitted the 84-year-old Frick, who looked a little out of place in a CBS Sports baseball cap. “I prefer more popular sports like football or baseball.”
But for this crowd, mainly young men in T-shirts and shorts and heavy British accents, the most popular sport in the world is soccer. Many of these die-hards had showed up at 5 a.m. to watch Great Britain beat Tunisia 2-0. Stewart White, who stayed around for the U.S. game, was delighted that British fans, known for brawling and boozing, rioted in Marseilles.
“I love it,” he said, wrapping his hand around a Budweiser bottle. “The French are always picking on British fans. The French are the ones who start the fights. They taunt us.”
Joining White at the bar was his wife Lisa.
“You have to have your priorities,” White said. “Football (soccer) is better than kids, better than work and almost as good as sex.”
Business is so good at the Cock ‘n’ Bull during the World Cup that owner Tony Moogan arrives at 4 a.m. to get ready for early-morning fans who want to watch the first game. Moogan, who has a giant TV screen and four smaller monitors scattered throughout the darkened restaurant, said his restaurant is so busy that he has had to roll up his sleeves and help wash dishes.
“These games mean a lot to the English who live here,” said Moogan. “It’s a little bit of old home again.”
All over Los Angeles, soccer fans (Americans and emigr & #233;s from soccer countries from around the world) are gathering at pubs, bars and restaurants for World Cup games, and business is booming.
“We’re up 40 percent,” said Gary Richards, owner of the Fox & Hounds in Studio City. “I used to be a professional soccer player (Queens Park Rangers in London) and I opened this place eight months ago in anticipation of the World Cup. We’ve geared up for this moment.”
A year ago, the Fox & Hounds, which has a giant TV screen and three smaller ones, was just a couple of apartment buildings. Richards cobbled them together to create his restaurant, which, like the Cock ‘n’ Bull, caters to a mostly British and Irish crowd.
In West Covina, soccer fever has hit the National Sports Grill, which has 80 TV sets that can be seen by as many as 500 fans at a time.
“We’re up 10 percent,” said John Garrett, one of the sports bar’s managers. “We’ve been getting a lot of telephone calls to see if the games are on.”
The National Sports Grill opens at 11 a.m., but on weekends it opens at 8 a.m. to cater to the growing crowd’s hunger for early games.
“We are located in a Hispanic area,” said Garrett. “We have a great mix of people but the majority of the fans are Mexican Americans. We don’t see the English or the Irish here.”
Even Budweiser, the best-selling American-made brew, is trying to capitalize on soccer mania. The St. Louis-based brewer sent an actress clad in a mini-dress resembling the Union Jack to the Cock ‘n’ Bull to stir up business there, and at other soccer bars in the Los Angeles area.
“It’s good for sales,” said the actress, Tess Broussard.
As the matches progress and World Cup fever increases, owners and managers anticipate that the final games will boost business even more by July 12, when the championship is decided in Paris.
The Americans who showed up at the pub amused John Teasdale, another former professional soccer player from London.
“You have to understand something,” he said. “This is in our blood. It’s a way of life. For the Americans, they’ll watch, but they are not really bothered by who wins or loses.”
Most fans acknowledge there’s a difference between the crowd in Santa Monica and the rabid fans that fill the pubs of London and other British cities.
“No fights yet,” said Lee Cannon. “In London, there would have been five fights by now.”