Sunday, June 27, 2010

Reasons not to watch the football in Sanlitun

A number of my friends are lobbying that we should meet somewhere in Sanlitun for the big game between England and Germany tonight.... but I'm not keen.

The only strong argument in favour of such a move seems to be that - for such a potentially momentous clash - it would be useful to have an English commentary (it does indeed render the action much more intelligible; and, strangely, more memorable - the names of the players involved in important moves just don't stick in the mind very easily if you haven't heard them spoken).

However, amongst the many, many reasons why I fear it will be an horrendous experience:

1) Crowds
(I get claustrophobic in crowds: I hate the restriction of free movement.)

2) Yobbish England fans
(Oh, sure, I get a bit rowdy myself watching a game once in a while. I may even scatter the odd f-bomb around when I'm particularly emotional. But I try to be aware of my surroundings and my companions; I don't push ribbing of the other team and its supporters too far. And I keep mostly to humorous abuse. Many of the 'England fans' we have to suffer in this town [and all around the world too, alas] just keep up a constant stream of obscenity.)

3) Chinese football fans
(Almost as obnoxious as English fans - with excessive and inappropriate enthusiasms, mostly based on a staggering ignorance of the game. Most of them, strangely, support England [although they'd support Argentina against us in the next one: no logic, no loyalty!].)

4) Crappy sports bars
(I've complained before about the myriad fundamental failings of Beijing's [comparative handful of] 'sports bars'. I don't think there's really one worthy of the name.)

5) English commentary???
(The crappy sports bars haven't done much if anything to advertise what channels/commentaries they have available. The satellite that had been providing the South African Super Sports channels - our main pirated sports coverage here for the past two years - was 'decomissioned', or something, at the start of this month. I hear varying reports as to whether any alternative pirate feed has been accessed. I suspect a handful of the more successul or 'upmarket' venues such as The Den and The Pavilion may have bitten the bullet and shelled out big money for a legitimate satellite package [unheard of!]. But more rough'n'ready joints like Luga's Villa and Paddy O'Shea's?? There are rumours that some places are trying to accompany the local CCTV5 coverage with English commentary from an Internet feed [we tried the BBC's Radio 5 Live briefly in 12 Square Metres at the start of the tournament, but it was hopeless: constantly interrupted by adverts, and subject to a 3-4 second time-lag!!]. And even if there is English commentary, will the bars be playing it loud enough to be audible above the hubbub of the crowd? Of course not. And will they remember that the half-time and post-game match analysis is also an integral and vital part of the commentary? Of course not!!)

6) Expense
(The Den sneakily lulls you into a false sense of being able to afford it. Its happy hour price regime - everything discounted 50% from 5pm to 10pm - is reasonable, but not particularly cheap; when you suddenly find yourself being charged 50 kuai for a Carlsberg or 60 kuai for a Guinness after 10 o'clock, it hurts. In general, I try to avoid going to 'happy hours' at bars where I couldn't afford the normal tariff; but The Den's 'happy hour' is so long that I am scarcely aware of it having any other price scale - I only ever go there in the early evening, for a 'Western' pub meal on my way to a speaker meeting or something, or to catch some highlights of the previous weekend's sports. No, watching late-night games in The Den is just not within my budget. The Pavilion and Paddy's [and the dismal Danger Doyle's] are just as bad. And I hear some of those places have actually started charging door fees for the big games as well - outrageous!)

7) Cab shortages
(The crowds out in Sanlitun on the couple of occasions I have ventured over there this past fortnight were so enormous that even Beijing's extremely generous per capita supply of taxis was seriously overstretched. In the immediate aftermath of a game, you could be looking at a half-hour wait to try and find a cab; more after the late game, since even hard-working cabbies usually settle down for a little cat-nap around dawn.)

8) The games go on just too bloody late
(Even the 'early game' doesn't finish until nearly midnight here; later, if it goes to extra time, penalties. Even that's a bit of a strain on a 'school night'. The late, late games drag on until dawn is breaking. That's just not doable. At least if I'm hanging out around Nanluoguxiang, it's only a 20-30 minute stagger home afterwards [or a 5-minute cab ride, if I'm feeling that tired/lazy]. That makes the pre-midnight games a very reasonable prospect. Facing a 90-minute walk home from Sanlitun [or a 20-minute cab ride, assuming there are any cabs...] makes even the early games seem very unappealing.

I really, really, really want to see this one with English commentary. But the Sanlitun bars are just so godawful, I can't bear the thought of it. I'm wondering about maybe heading all the way out to the Lido, hoping that The Irish Volunteer isn't going to be too packed.....

1 comment:

Froog said...

Ah well, perhaps Chinese commentary is good enough after all.

I had hatched a 'Plan B' of heading over to The Brick for the game; but with the weather turning thundery, I was nervous of running the risk of getting stuck over on the far side of town in a heavy shower. I consulted THE COIN, and THE COIN told me to stay at 12 Square Metres. As it happened, the rain held off, but there was still a dearth of taxis between 12 and 1am - presumably every cabbie in the city was lurking around Gongti then.

I think I might try out one of the big outdoor screens somewhere for one of the upcoming games...