Ironbound to Ironmen: ESC Invades Newark
You see those glistening mounds of slow roasted deliciousness? That is what I like to call 'perfect'. It's actual nom de meat is prime rib and it comes straight off the roasting spit and on to your plate at any Portuguese or Brazilian bbq joint worth it's salt. I defy you see that photo, read that description and still not believe in God.
Unless you are a vegetarian...in which case your probably getting sick right now. My Bad.
But anyways, that succulent meat miracle was served up to me and another 30-odd members of the Empire Supporters Club at Brasilia Grill in Newark, NJ on Saturday night prior to the home opener for the New Jersey Ironmen, an MISL expansion side. The famed rodizio was the 1st stop on own boozy, brilliant evening in Brick City that began in Portuguese section of town known as the Ironbound.
If you've never heard anything good about Newark, I'm going to tell you something good now. This food, this restaurant, and this neighborhood is the truth. And it's less than one mile from the future site of Red Bull Park. Also, one of guys delivering meat to our table looked like exactly like Kaka, seriously.
Following the meal Binks, Uncle L & I made our way to Newark's sparkling new arena, the Prudential Center for a pre-game VIP party that included an appearance by the great one himself, Pele. I say appearance because the man ran the gauntlet of the room in about 12 minutes total and it was absolute and utter....
Pandalerium isn't a real word but somehow it seems to be the one that works the best to describe the scene. That child he's holding in the image above? Someone just thrust the kid into his arms like he was a healer or some shit. It was also probably the only time in the history of Newark -a city that is 100% mentally ill with it's race issues- that a white child was given over to the care of a black man ever. It was that crazy.
Following this scene we headed into the media room for a press conference staring Pele, but also including Sunil Gulati (who said exactly zilch), the owner of the team, the commissioner of MISL, and up & coming political starlet and mayor of Newark, Cory Booker -whom I tactfully corralled into a photo op.
We ended up sitting behind Ives Galarcep, who was full of wit and wry observations on the equally chaotic proceedings. We didn't ask any questions but it was a pretty insane feeling to be sat 15 feet from Pele as he waxed poetic & cracked wise in broken English.
After the press conference we totally got lost in the bowels of the arena a la This is Spinal Tap. I made my way up to the seats but Binks and Uncle L ended up in a crush of little kids teams that were part of the opening match ceremonies and actually ended up on the field.
After all of the kids and pitch invaders were removed Pele again made another appearance -which if you just paid him 55K to show up you better make him work for it- and told us some other stuff about soccer, the world, and life and yadda yadda yadda. Then he told Tony Meola some secrets about something, possibly to do with retirement funds and Viagra.
And just before kick off, we saw an olde friend of New York soccer fans.
That dog used to be Metro Dog and he lived at Giants Stadium with the Metrostars. Then he disappeared and was presumed to be "living on a farm". But he has been found alive and well with the Ironmen and is now known as Irondog. It's always weird when people change a pet's name. I imagine it's like that scene in Roots when they try to change Kunta Kente's name to Toby and he's really not into it. But who knows, maybe he's just happy to be able to live indoors now.
Finally it was game time and it was a good time. We where well lubricated by this point and with 34 people up for a song and brew, we were definitely the loudest group in the place...although the kids from St. Benedict's Prep (alma mater of Claudio Reyna and Greg Berhalter) where trying there best to give us a bit of banter. Alas they where no match for "One shoe".
As for the game itself I would totally recommend you go in group: for only 8 bucks you can sit so close behind the goalie that you can whisper "You look like a broke-assed Will Ferrell" and he'll hear you. I didn't whisper though, I yelled it loud enough that he damn near walked to the half-way line to get away. Good times.
After the watching the Ironmen hang on to an 8-6 victory I was invited over to the Scots' Club up the road in Kearny. Every time I am in there it wigs me out when I see stuff like this on the wall.
That's a photo of Liverpool vs. a Kearny select team from 1947. People overuse the word 'historic' in the soccer community but this place deserves it hands down. And after downing a few pints of Magner's I wanted to put my head down and made my way to the exits, saying my goodbyes, reeking of meat, beer & happiness. I love match days.
Shouts to Jen, Binks, & Uncle L for the photos since my camera went to that great charging station in the sky. No thanks to Nikon for making such a piece of junk. Double shouts to Binks for organizing the entire caper.