Monday, June 14

In a Hollandaze; Italy's College St Walk and Gawk

Netherlands 2-0 Denmark
School Bakery & Cafe has figured out their World Cup marketing strategy. Pick a team, tell everyone you're the Cup HQ for that team, deliver a huge patio, gourmet breakfast and big screens, and the media will follow. Does School have any obvious apparent ties to the Netherlands? None that I can see. In 2006 it was Betty's who claimed Dutch territory rights, and I saw a couple matches there. But I skip that King E watering hole and ride Mario to the urban-suburban blend of newly rebuilt Liberty Village, where gentrification has achieved nirvana.

The breakfast at School smells delicious, but I don't eat any. There's nowhere to sit down, so I snap a few pics of Dutch flags and head across the neighbourhood in search of Denmark. My intel says the Brazen Head pub is the place. Brazen Head sits in the Liberty Market Building plaza, beside the world's most gentrified smokestack. An Irish pub as Denmark HQ? Too bad Brazen Head forgot the key element in dubiously claiming an obscure country's fanbase: actually opening your doors for the match. Blargh, they're closed, so I give up and head to work. So much for my Hamlet sandwich. Note to pub owners: I know 7:30 is early but this is why the Dutch are kicking your ass! Here's to a 2-0 win and knowing how to market to bandwagon-jumpers like me.

Italy 1-1 Paraguay
Experts keep saying Paraguay has a chance to beat Italy, just like experts keep saying that you might catch swine flu, or that climate change could destroy all life on Earth. Whatever, it's not going to stop the party, nor stop Italy fans from swaggering. I head down from work on lunch to be among the family.

Toronto Italians have perfected the art of the World Cup Walk and Gawk: the televised match blends seamlessly into the streetscape. I don't even need to watch at any one bar; I watch at all of them. If you cruise along College, the bars, patios and flat screens follow you as you go.

I can't count the number of places with cheering fans: The Dip, Gato Nero, Marinella, Bar Azzurri , Coco Lezzone, Vivoli, Vecchoo Frak, Southside Louie's, John's Classic Italian, Bar Italia, CHIN radio, Riviera Bakery , and more. Fans lining up and down the sidewalk, spilling into side streets. Groups of men, young and old, literally standing and staring, like late stragglers at mass in back of the cathedral.

Italy are known for slow starts, and Paraguay is good indeed: the latter score first thanks to an effort by awesomely-named Antolin Alcaraz, and the rancorous Italy self-blaming begins. But Azzurri gets it back in the second half on a goalkeeper miscue that allows De Rossi to score, so end up with a queasy draw--already the fans lose a bit of shine from their swagger. Make no assumptions about Slovakia nor New Zealand, ragazzi!

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