Last time, Peter Biava was your typical “fish out of water” on a trip to England with his wife and daughter.
During the 2010 World Cup, Biava was all alone, and walked into an English pub donning the U.S. red, white and blue.
For the final U.S. game in its group play that year, against Algeria, he walked into the bar filled with red-clad soccer fans.
“All red,” he said, “but England red. I was the only American.”
The TVs, not surprisingly, were tuned into England versus Slovenia. Finally, toward the end, it cut away to a close U.S.— Algeria match, just catching a late Landon Donovan game-winner, which snatched first place in that group away from the Brits.
“I’m going nuts,” he said, laughing, “and they’re all ready to kill me.”
He didn’t have that problem on Monday. Biava took off from work — he’s a therapist — and put his two kids, ages 7 and 3, into day care. He then moseyed on over to the Playground Bar and Lounge on Congress Street.
“I just cleared the whole (expletive) day,” he said.
Playground is the unofficial home of the Tucson chapter of the American Outlaws, a nationwide U.S. Men’s National Team fan club. It was rocking from start to finish, and even before the start of USMNT’s 3 p.m. matchup with Ghana.
Tommy Amparano, the local American Outlaws’ chapter president, arrived at 9 a.m. — or six hours before game time — to get a good seat and watch the two earlier games.
At 1:30 p.m., a man walked into Playground’s downstairs bar area, clutching a large cardboard cutout of Clint Dempsey, a forward and captain for the U.S. team.
That was about 90 minutes before Dempsey opened the game with a quick goal for the Yanks. It was also 90 minutes before the crowd at the downstairs bar officially became raucous. Once the game started, the bar on the upstairs patio was quite possibly just as packed as the one downstairs.
It was already standing room only two hours before game time. And there was barely room to stand, really, by the time Dempsey scored his goal.
There were people by themselves and people with families. Everyone was wearing red or white or blue. Or some combination of the patriotic colors.
One man named Ryan Jay wore an American flag draped over his shoulders and a hat that could best be described as a beanie with a red, white and blue Mohawk, and stars and stripes on the side.
For much of the day, Jay was the ringleader for cheers and chants. There was the usual “USA! USA!” cheer, and perhaps most often, he led the crowd in singing the American Outlaw battle cry, in which the chorus goes: “Here we are, we are! / United States / and we all, we all! / can celebrate / that we are, we are! / United States / and proud to be the USA!”
The American Outlaws group normally comprises a fairly large group of fans — Amparano estimates about 50 people — but there were certainly more people than that for the Ghana match.
There were students and adults. There were grandparents and children (with their parents, of course). There were friends, and there were families.
But it was perhaps no more familial — and loud — than when John Brooks headed in a corner kick as the game neared its end, giving the U.S. a 2-1 victory.
Every single person at the Playground jumped, screamed and pumped fists in the air. Many spilled their beers. One man jumped so violently that his hat and glasses flew off his head and onto a nearby table. Yet he kept jumping, waiting until after the celebration to find them.
Amparano hugged the person to his right, then to his left. He turned around and hugged a few more people.
“I didn’t even know half the people I hugged,” he said, “but that’s the way it is for a U.S. game.”