It is World Cup Final Sunday, and this time Germany is playing in it, against Argentina. And the Schweinsteigers — what I like to call German soccer fans in deference to Bastian Schweinsteiger, their beloved bulwark in the midfield — are lined up around the building at Hofbrauhaus Las Vegas to watch it on TV.
Inside, in the beer garden, under the lucky tree where he always watches the big soccer matches when Germany is playing, Torben Scholer is painting German faces with black, red and yellow stripes.
Scholer, 42, has lived in Las Vegas for 20 years, long enough for his lucky tree to have grown many rings, if it weren’t made of plastic. He estimates he has painted the faces of two-thirds of the frauleins in the beer garden. And even a couple of herrs.
Germany last won the World Cup in 1990, less than a year after the wall came down. So this is a pretty big deal, he said.
He said he was there, you know. He was there when the Berlin wall came crashing down. What a scene! But as big as that was, this would be even bigger. At least if Germany won.
“(Tearing down) the wall was the great unifier,” he said. “Absolutely brilliant. But for years, German people were embarrassed to wave the flag.”
Beating Argentina in the World Cup final would make German people want to wave the flag, Torben Scholer said.
Pretty soon, the game would be starting.
There came a roar from the restaurant side. Three German soccer fans had affixed German flags to these long poles, and they were waving them.
They looked pretty darn proud, even with the score 0-0.
And then, over the roar, I think I heard a whistle.
1’: The World Cup final kicks off. A guy wearing an Argentina jersey is blowing on a vuvuzela. It is so loud that the infernal “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” song from the World Cup Gatorade commercial — and “Cinderella” — that has been stuck in my head since Mexico beat Cameroon on June 13 has finally become unstuck. God bless you, German soccer fans, and Argentina vuvuzela guy.
8’ (or thereabouts): I spot another guy wearing an Argentina jersey, on the restaurant side of the Hofbrauhaus. Marco Barnett owns and operates the Sunset Montessori children’s school on Sunset Road. He is from Mexico City but cheers for Argentina. Even when Mexico plays Argentina. He seems like a nice man. And a brave man. I ask how all these Schweinsteigers are treating him. “Great … up to now,” he says. I tell him I will check back around the 38th minute.
16’: A waiter named Jessie Vanert hauls nine giant beer steins teeming with copper-colored ale to one of the tables. He does not spill a drop. He receives a rousing ovation from the thirsty Schweinsteigers, though he said that was one stein short of his record.
21’: A young man named Patrick Hahn says Hofbrauhaus Las Vegas is identical to Hofbrauhaus Munich, except the light blue sky in the beer garden in the original Hofbrauhaus is real, not painted on the ceiling. And that a liter of hefeweizen costs a little less back home.
22’: A large man wearing a large print shirt dozes off in front of one the bazillion TVs in the beer garden. It could be because Argentina is stacking men outside the 18-yard box like dominoes, negating Germany’s offensive flow. It also could be because by the 22nd minute, there already are several empty giant beer steins in the large man’s 6-yard box.
29’: Germany has not yet scored. Up at the Texas de Brazil steakhouse at Town Square, they must be shaking their heads in disbelief. Because by this time in the World Cup semis, Germany had scored five goals against Brazil.
32’: A gray-haired man wearing a light blue shirt, pressed jeans and loafers is watching World Cup drama unfold while standing in the vestibule between the restaurant and the beer garden. This is Tony Sinzger, Hofbrauhaus vice president. He says the only thing that compares to a World Cup final with Germany playing in it is when Siegfried and Roy come down to tap the first keg at Oktoberfest, or whatever they call it.
36’: The Argentina vuvuzela guy keeps blasting away on his plastic horn until it sounds like Michael Schumacher taking the checkered flag at Hockenheim. Or that Sebastian Vettel guy who drives the Red Bull car. Also, and perhaps not coincidentally, the large man in the large print shirt who has been dozing because of Argentina’s tactics/those giant empty beer steins wakes up.
38’: From a distance, I spot Marco Barnett, the guy wearing the Argentina shirt who is not blowing on a vuvuzela. He’s smiling. It appears he is still getting along with the Schweinsteigers.
45’ + 2’: Halftime. Or as they say in soccer, Half Time. Two words. Germany 0, Argentina 0. The line to use the restroom is now longer than the one to get inside.
49’: A soccer fan makes it back from the Half Time line. He said a guy from Germany and a guy from Scotland were carrying on a conversation, each in his native language. He said the guy speaking German was easier to understand, because they both appeared to have been drinking.
55’: The Argentina vuvuzela guy keeps blasting away — and now instead of that infernal “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” song becoming stuck in my head, it’s the sound of a guy from Argentina blowing on a plastic air horn that refuses to go away.
71’: Germany is starting to push aside the Argentina dominoes. Each time the Schweinsteigers come close to scoring, a soccer fan with short shorts, long legs and a tight white tank top, who has been sitting on her boyfriend’s lap, sort of slides down his lap a little farther. Guys with cameras take pictures when they think she isn’t looking.
80’: Germany nearly converts a header or one of the other soccer plays. A guy wearing a Chivas Guadalajara jersey slaps the palm of the soccer fan with the short shorts and the long legs. Michael Vandever cleans elevators at Mandalay Bay. He had brought along a book titled “The World Encyclopedia of Soccer,” probably just in case he would meet a soccer fan with short shorts and long legs, and they would slap palms, and she might be wondering about the score of the Uruguay-Argentina game from the 1930 World Cup final.
90’+3’: Germany 0, Argentina 0. Extra time. And another extra-long line to use the restrooms. A chance for the German guy and the Scottish guy to resume their conversation.
113’: And then it happens! A German guy named Mario — Mario Goetze — chests the soccer ball down to his foot and then volleys it past the Argentina ‘keeper. GOAL! And a beautiful one at that. The Schweinsteigers go crazy, folks, go crazy! Germany 1, Argentina 0. Tear down this wall, Mr. Goetze!
120’: Plus injury time, plus the 5 to 7 minutes it takes to navigate the beer garden to where Torben Scholer is pasting little gold stars, emblematic of Germany’s fourth World Cup title, on the soccer shirts of his countrymen and honorary countrymen.
“Just brilliant,” he says, his voice hoarse from shouting at the big screens for the past 120 minutes, plus stoppage time.
“Better than tearing down the wall?”
“Yes. I think so.”
On the way out of the Hofbrauhaus, German soccer fans are shouting German soccer chants. The Argentina vuvuzela guy is still blasting away on his plastic horn. It’s still real loud.
Somebody nudges me.
Look, over there: A guy wearing a Chicago Cubs cap, sporting this twisted grin.
There are far too many Schweinsteigers between us to have a conversation, but I surely know what he is thinking.
So this is what it feels like.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski