It is begun. The World Cup opened this morning with a 1-1 draw between hosts South Africa and fellow high altitude dweller Mexico. The altitude at some of the sites is something I meant to touch on but always forgot. There are some stadia on the coasts, which, obviously, are at or near sea level. But in the central area of the country, it’s mountainous, way up, the air drained of oxygen. Even the fittest team are going to have trouble keeping up their energy for 120 minutes plus penalties. That might bode well for teams that sit back and counter, but there’s also a lot of energy to be expended in the tight marking and swift changes of direction necessary for that style to work. Teams that regularly play at altitude or have trained there for a while will be better off. For the US? Well, they play in Denver and Mexico City pretty often and have been in South Africa for a week, already putting 90 minutes of play under their belts (and oxygen tents) last Saturday.
Tomorrow afternoon, I’ll be sitting at a bar with friends as the match of the weekend kicks off. Nothing against Argentina/Nigeria, but come on. We’re all Yanks here (I assume) and to rally round the flag just once won’t kill us. So I’m going to eschew my usual Guinness (too hot anyway) or gin and tonic, because those are, for better or worse, drinks from across the pond. And though I generally disdain folks who choose it when there are other options, tomorrow there will be only one for me: Sam Adams — Brewer-Patriot.
Say what you will about the former microbrew turned behemoth, that’s kind of what the US does best. Start small and bulldoze the fuck out of everyone in their path. Take on the big boys at their own game, and then, when that doesn’t work, change the rules so you can win. For years, breweries assumed that Americans only wanted lagers, pilsners, light, airy beers that go down quickly. The big companies made a mint on providing us with just that. Cruise the beer cooler at your local liquor store and the count of “American lagers” will be in the dozens even today.
Sam Adams didn’t start the microbrew revolution, but it is probably the micros’ biggest success story. People around the country can find Sam Adams (in any of a dozen varieties) in their beer cooler or their local watering hole. Asking for a Sam Adams doesn’t mark you as effete or un-American (anymore). It’s just a part of life now. My father, who swore that Bud would forever be his only beer, will now, at a fancy meal, order a Sam seasonal. Hell, despite all its flaws as a craft brewer (when you’re brewing at the volume they do, it’s hardly craft anymore), Sam Adams made it okay to drink summer beer in the summer and winter beer in the winter. It introduced the idea that lager could be darker than Country Time lemonade and that a pilsner could have more taste than a warm cup of rice.
Celebrate the ever-changing landscape of the US by hoisting a Sam Adams tomorrow. Congratulate Jim Koch and those hearty souls who saw the deficiency in the market and exploited it. Do it for Uncle Sam, apple pie and baseball soccer. And though you may not prefer Sam Adams to the craft brewer of your choice, don’t forget that without Sam Adams, Fat Tire, Dogfish 90, Red Racer, Dead Guy and all those other over-hopped works of genius wouldn’t be available at your liquor store or flowing from your bar’s tap.
Drink one to Uncle Sam. Raise your glass high. Sing and scream your throat out. And on Sunday morning, let’s hope we can say with Adams as he did on 19 April 1775: “What a glorious morning this is!”