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Fans pull all-nighters for different kind of finals

by Mike Dinoffria, Special to the Daily Planet
Saturday June 15, 2002

The late-night hours soccer fans in the US have been keeping lately might seem suspect, but do not call them hooligans. They have been very well-behaved during the 2002 World Cup Tournament and the strange hours are not their fault.  

Because of the time-delay, the World Cup games being played in South Korea and Japan are being broadcasted here in the wee hours of the night. Now that the tournament is down to “The Round of 16,” the tricky time slot of 2 a.m. has been eliminated along with three-fourths of the field of competition. The remainder of the games are being broadcasted at 11 p.m. and 4:30 a.m. The 11 p.m. start-time is not all that unusual of a time for a sporting event, especially for those who have lived back East and are accustomed to watching late telecasts from the West Coast. But 4:30 a.m. is not exactly prime-time. The one exception will be the championship game on June 30 will actually start at 4 a.m.  

How are Berkeley’s die-hard soccer fans going about supporting their team and dealing with the strange times? Many different ways. For most it is a labor of love, because if your team is still alive, it’s a pleasant problem to have.  

For the faint of heart, there is the tape-delay telecast. The advantage of this method of coping is that fans can continue to contribute to society and do all the things only hooligans find inconsequential like hold down jobs, remain awake behind the wheel and be considerate to strangers. Some local establishments like the Trible Rock Brewery on Shattuck Avenue are seeing modest crowds for the tape-delayed games at sane times during daylight hours. One disadvantage to watching the game the next day is trouble one has to go to avoid learning the score and spoiling a ninety-minute soccer game. Overhear ‘one-nil’ or catch a glimpse of a sports ticker and it is all for naught.  

For some it is enough just to be up to watch the game in the privacy of their own home, but others need human interaction to truly enjoy their World Cup experience. Fans of one specific team especially need the comrade of other fans to make it the real deal. Mr. Pizzaman on University has been filled to the brim with electric World Cup excitement for almost every 11 o’clock telecast. Enthusiasm for the Brazilian team throughout the tournament has been high.  

Many local pubs have drawn large crowds for the 11 p.m. games. Beckett’s on Shattuck has for one. As for the late or very early game– depending on how you look at it-- manager Ciaran McDunphy said they will “stay open if the interest is there.” California law prohibits them from selling alcohol from 2 to 6 a.m., so it will truly be a gift to the fans. Down on Telegraph, soccer fans have been spotted spilling out of Raleigh’s and Blakes after the 2 a.m. game.  

It’s one thing if your team is still in contention, but what about the soccer fanatic who refuses to set the V.C.R. and insists on seeing every bit of action? For some the answer is simple, like Berkeley resident James Gavin.  

“I could not have chosen a better time to be unemployed,” he said, “every morning I have seen the sunrise and lots of amazing soccer.”  

Fifteen games remain on the schedule over the next two and half weeks. The round of sixteen will be complete by the end of the weekend, and the quarterfinals are scheduled for June 21 and 22. The semifinals are on June 25 and 26, and the championship game is Monday, June 30.