If you’ve watched TV for anytime in Las Vegas — such as for 10 minutes — then you already know John Barr will do anything to sell you a car.
That is, as long as his beloved England isn’t playing in the semifinals of the World Cup for the first time since Arthur Treacher’s Fish &Chips was a lunchtime option on this side of pond.
When I walked into Findlay Toyota in Henderson on Wednesday morning, I was greeted by the spiky blond back of the general manager’s head. Arms with clenched fists on the end were held in triumph above it.
John Barr was blocking the TV in the showroom. England had just taken a 1-0 lead against Croatia on — what else? — a free kick off a set piece, this one by a bloke named Kieran Trippier, who plays club soccer for Tottenham Hotspur. Or “Spurs,” as they say on that side of the pond.
— Joe Prince-Wright (@JPW_NBCSports) July 11, 2018
The big match was only five minutes old. Barr punched out a quick text that said “Great start,” tapped send.
“Chris Riggott,” he said of the recipient. “Played for the England under-21s. He lives here.”
There still were 85 minutes to play, minimum, plus a few minutes of stoppage time to be added on, depending on how many of the soccer players got nicked on the leg and proceeded to roll about the pitch as if gravely wounded by a howitzer shell.
It was much too early to count chickens or whatnot. But the Three Lions continued to pile on the pressure. They had Croatia, which was not sporting its checkered pizza parlor tablecloth jerseys, on its heels.
So John Barr permitted himself a small look forward to Sunday. England, if it prevailed, would be matched against France he said with giddy if tempered enthusiasm.
Before he played Academy soccer in the south of England and bass guitar in a band that toured with metal heads such as Queensryche, Ozzy Osbourne, Scorpions and Whitesnake, Barr became something of a historian, both of English football and of English history.
England and France have fought multiple wars against one another, he reminded. One started in the 14th century and lasted more than 100 years. And so that’s what they literally called it: The Hundred Years’ War.
Kinda makes Raiders vs. Chiefs look like tiddlywinks at a church social.
Barr said England beat France in 1815 (Battle of Waterloo) and at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. That one was not far from where he grew up in Fareham, between Portsmouth and Southampton — where John and Yoko stood on the dock trying to get to Holland or France, if their ballad strikes a chord.
King Henry V led England into battle, Barr said. Perhaps I remembered the speech from the movie by Kenneth Branagh?
I didn’t. But I told him I recalled the one by Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech.”
Anyway, Barr said, “The last time England was successfully invaded was by William the Conqueror in 1066.”
That would have been the Battle of Hastings.
You never know what you might learn when you go shopping for a new Camry.
English hearts broken
But this being soccer, and England being England — the Three Lions have won the World Cup but once, in 1966, and they haven’t been back to the final since — England was successfully invaded twice by Croatia after halftime and lost another heartbreaker, 2-1.
It was a heck of a run, but the legend of the 1966 England team still stands alone.
“Gordon Banks, George Cohen, the Charltons (Jack and Bobby), Bobby Moore, Ray Wilson, Nobby Stiles, Alan Ball, Martin Peters, Geoff Hurst, Roger Hunt …” Barr said, reciting the starting lineup from back of the pitch to front with a little boy’s twinkle in his eye. He especially was excited at the mention of Moore — Sir Bobby Moore — the English captain who was only 51 when he died of cancer.
“Pele said he was the best (center back) ever.”
Barr was six years old when England won the World Cup, and he’s 57 now. He forced a smile after England lost before eventually returning to the other side of the expansive showroom counter to attend to car business stuff.
He looked as if Jim Plunkett had just thrown a pass through his midsection. But his upper lip was as stiff as Sir Winston Churchill’s with the Luftwaffe circling overhead during the Battle of Britain.
John Barr said though England lost, you still could get a screamin’ deal on a new Camry with all the options.