Friday, June 22, 2018
News Roundup

Brits relish World Cup in Brandon (well, they try to)

BRANDON — Curtis Bickler knew he would be in the minority when he wore his blue Italy jersey to O'Toole's Irish pub Saturday evening.

The night before, Luis Wilson-Wolfe, a native of Sheffield, England, told him O'Toole's would be a designated gathering spot for Tampa area Brits who wanted to watch England begin World Cup play against Italy in the company of their countrymen.

"This man over here made it quite clear that this bar would be full of English people," Bickler said, pulling Wilson-Wolfe to his side. "So I said I was going to wear my jersey."

Wilson-Wolfe had not been exaggerating. The Brandon British Club, a group of local residents who hail from the British Isles, took up nearly half the pub, while similar organizations filled up the other side of the bar and the front porch. The Brandon British Club (named so that its initials, BBC, would match the broadcasting network) often gathers to celebrate traditional British holidays and enjoy quintessentially English pastimes like cricket (yes, they have their own team).

As the World Cup essentially qualifies as both pastime and national holiday, a party was definitely in order.

Even members who rarely attend gatherings made appearances, and almost everyone wore English national team jerseys. Some of the more prepared supporters brought flags to wave in case the English won, and several children took in the scene with the English flag painted on their faces.

There were patrons who did not belong to one of the clubs in attendance, but it was difficult to find anyone who had not come to O'Toole's to watch the game. Bickler was joined by two or three other contrarians who came to support Italy.

The only thing missing? The match.

A severe afternoon thunderstorm interfered with bar's satellite feed, freezing the TV screens just a few minutes into the game.

Although some patrons left O'Toole's in search of a place that was showing the match, many stayed and watched the rest of the first half huddled around the lucky few who could get the game to play on their cellphones. It was hardly the ideal way to watch an event many had anticipated for months, but they remained patient as they waited for the satellite signal to return.

"I think it's because there are kids around, so we're very calm," said Dave Wilson-Wolfe, Luis' father.

Seconds later, he was interrupted by shouts from a man holding a cellphone across the room.

"Yes! Get in there, my baby — 1-1!"

It took a few moments before everyone in the pub realized that England's Daniel Sturridge had tied the game in the 37th minute.

"1-1! 1-1?" the elder Wilson-Wolfe yelled, apparently torn between excitement and confusion. "I didn't even know Italy had gone up."

Unreliable TV aside, Wilson-Wolfe, who moved to the United States eight years ago, said he has few complaints about Florida, although he does miss Henderson's relish and Boddingtons Pub Ale in a can. He also misses the overwhelming excitement that accompanies the World Cup back in England.

"The pubs would be packed, the flags would be flying proudly," Wilson-Wolfe said. "It's a fantastic day. Rain, sleet or snow — or shine — we'd be in the pubs. There'd be a party going."

But Malcolm Stephenson, who moved from Yorkshire three years ago, said he missed English food more than World Cup mania.

"If you're among the Brits, you won't be missing much," Stephenson said.

The storm outside subsided and the game came back on part-way through the second half. The Italians had retaken the lead with a goal from Mario Balotelli, and the crowd at O'Toole's watched anxiously, hoping for an equalizer.

The remaining English supporters groaned at each missed opportunity in the second half, but no one had much to say when time expired. Some said they would be back to watch the remaining group stage matches against Uruguay on Thursday and Costa Rica next Tuesday — unless, of course, it's storming in Brandon.

Victoria Jacobsen can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2442.

Comments
The Daystarter: The Jameis Winston fallout; from CIA agents to minivan drivers; Pride comes back together in 2018

The Daystarter: The Jameis Winston fallout; from CIA agents to minivan drivers; Pride comes back together in 2018

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.   • Get ready for a wet morning as the forecast calls for scattered showers and storms to start the day. There could even be thundershowers and lightning out there, according to...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Boy George, coming to Tampa with Culture Club, talks fame, Pulse and the term ‘LGBTQ’

Boy George, coming to Tampa with Culture Club, talks fame, Pulse and the term ‘LGBTQ’

It’ll still be June when Boy George arrives in Florida this week to kick off a summer U.S. tour with Culture Club. But the LGBTQ icon says it won’t feel quite like a Pride parade. "I also bake cakes for straight people," he laughed. "Tha...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Pride divided no more: St. Pete Pride comes back together

Pride divided no more: St. Pete Pride comes back together

ST. PETERSBURG — The 16th annual St. Pete Pride Parade is getting ready to march along the downtown waterfront the second straight year. But many hope to move past the division caused last year when the parade was uprooted from its original hom...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Florida eliminates Texas Tech at College World Series, faces Arkansas for title-round spot

Florida eliminates Texas Tech at College World Series, faces Arkansas for title-round spot

OMAHA, Neb. — JJ Schwarz hit a two-run homer and Florida built enough cushion to survive Texas Tech's six-run outburst over the seventh and eighth innings to eliminate the Red Raiders from the College World Series with a 9-6 win Thursday night....
Updated: 7 hours ago
Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

So Hillsborough County commissioners — most of them, anyway — want voters to consider dropping political parties from certain elections, making those races nonpartisan instead.This would mean when you go to vote in those elections, you won’t know if ...
Published: 06/22/18
Joe Henderson: Hillsborough teachers have come to depend on foundation’s free supplies

Joe Henderson: Hillsborough teachers have come to depend on foundation’s free supplies

We have all heard stories about public school teachers reaching into their own pockets so their students will have basic classroom supplies.It goes on throughout the system because budgets are tight. The money allotted for pencils, markers, notebooks...
Published: 06/22/18
Kevin Knox to Knicks makes NBA history locally

Kevin Knox to Knicks makes NBA history locally

More than a year ago, Kevin Knox stepped across the stage at the Straz Center to receive his high school diploma.On Thursday, the former Tampa Catholic star was on basketball's biggest stage as he fulfilled his lifelong goal of making the NBA.Knox wa...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Plant City’s champion Al Berry, whose name shouted his passion, dead at 83

Plant City’s champion Al Berry, whose name shouted his passion, dead at 83

His name was Berry and berry was his passion — the strawberry that put his beloved Plant City on the map.Alfred "Al" Berry was born with the name, but he took on his role as chief promoter of Plant City through his four decades of work with the commu...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Missed time a good mental reset for Rays’ Matt Duffy

Missed time a good mental reset for Rays’ Matt Duffy

ST. PETERSBURG — Missing all of 2017 might have been the absolute worst thing for Matt Duffy.Frustratingly idled as he eventually recovered and rehabbed from ongoing left heel issues, he couldn't play the game he loved, couldn't show the Rays o...
Updated: 7 hours ago