New York City was in full World Cup fever mode Thursday afternoon for the USA-Germany showdown, a crucial match for the underdog American squad.
Though Thursday is a workday, New Yorkers in Manhattan’s commercial districts found ways to watch the match (and to keep an eye on the Portugal-Ghana game that had implications for the Americans' chances to advance).
From the Flatiron District to the Lower East Side and beyond, the city was festooned in red, white and blue; American flags billowed from windows and doorways as bars and restaurants tried to lure customers.
In the past, World Cup matches haven't been a big deal in New York -- or the rest of America. But this year, with Team USA's surprisingly good showing in the so-called Group of Death, New York City was abuzz on Thursday. Longtime diehard fans and newly minted diehard fans shared the excitement.
Revelers were dressed in their patriotic best, and nationalism seemed on greater display in the Big Apple than at any recent time not connected to 9/11. On the streets and in subways, many New Yorkers were wearing soccer jerseys--some of them World Cup style, but many more from school or local teams: a way to show off your soccer cred.
The Royal, a dark, cavernous bar a couple blocks off Union Square, was packed with fans swilling Bud Light and angling for seats or a few feet of floor space to stand and watch one of the numerous screens broadcasting the matches. A dozen more supporters stood outside, watching from the sidewalk.
Marshall Weinstein, owner of DJ and artist booking company SET Artist Management, wore a backwards America hat and a white shirt with red and blue stripes as he took in the games from a table he snagged by arriving early.
“I don’t miss any USA games, especially during the World Cup. I don’t care if I have to watch it on the ESPN app on my phone,” he said.
He watched the matches with a couple of DJ friends, eyes glued to a flatscreen until the half, when the tension subsided for a minute and they could order another round.
Dave Infante, a senior writer at the website Thrillist, said he was able to take a couple of hours to join friends at The Royal because his office was "completely shut down" for much of the day so employees could watch together.
Wearing an oversized, sequin-laden Uncle Sam-style hat, Infante stood near the front of the watering hole, drinking beer and cheering for the home team.
“We’re about 200 people at Thrillist and no one’s doing work today. There was an office-wide memo yesterday being like, since it’s such a big game tomorrow, let’s all go to the main area and watch on the projector and eat pizza,” he said.
“No one said don’t do work, but it’s sort of implied. It’s kind of a team-building exercise, which is pretty cool.”
Meanwhile, the 77-year-old Gramercy Theatre on East 23rd Street showed the USA-Germany match on the big screen for free, offering air conditioning and drink specials to gather with fellow fans and cheer on Team USA.
The crowd broke out into a sing-a-long of the national anthem when it was played in Brazil, and erupted into periodic chants of “USA! USA!” as the game got underway.
Brooklyn artist Bradley Pitts met his friend Robert Penn, a 66-year-old Manhattan writer and filmmaker, at the venue. Because they are self-employed, they were free to watch the game without hindering their productivity or drawing the ire of a boss.
“I lived in Amsterdam for years, but I think it’s actually better to watch the World Cup in New York than in Europe because you can travel the world within the five boroughs,” Pitts said.
Even fans not lucky enough to be able to take time off from work found other ways to keep track of the matches.
Hassan Shah works at a bodega in Lower Manhattan’s hip East Village neighborhood. The store is not equipped with a TV, so the Bangladesh-born fan kept track on his smartphone.
“I’m watching the score every single minute on my phone,” he said. “Of course I’m a big fan of the U.S. team.”
Amie Radanovich, Danielle DeTitta and Jesse Goldstein, who work in ad sales at two Manhattan agencies, couldn’t get the day off, but managed to turn a few hours of drinking and game-watching at The Royal into a work outing.
“Work is happy to let us go because we’re entertaining clients,” DeTitta said. “I emailed my client, Amie, and said do you want to watch the game?”
Radanovich said she couldn’t pass up such an enticing invite.
“I said, 'F*** yeah, go America!' she said, laughing. “Our email subject line was USA! USA! USA!”