My white linen short-sleeved shirt is my way of announcing neutrality. My leg is twitching, but not because of the tension filled atmosphere. Blame it on the over-caffeinated liquid alternative to alcohol that my two years of sobriety has created. From the despotic top shelf only ambivalent thinker to the analytical Starbucks enthusiast, monogrammed cup of Joe and all. The young man beside me, and to my immediate left, is wearing a straight from China bootleg Figo jersey with all the bells and whistles promulgating its false origins. The ill-fitting arms, the wretched stitching, and the iron on numbered decals coincide with Custom official’s inability to stop every shipment from the secondhand quality garment factories. On my right side sits a young man with a sailor’s mouth spouting off at every call that doesn’t go in his side’s favor. It is deep into extra time on a Wednesday afternoon in the Ironbound, and everyone is glued to a little semi-final Euro 2012 match being played in Donetsk between rivals Spain and Portugal.
Penalties concluded this mostly uninspired performance between the sides. In dramatic fashion, Portuguese No. 7 Cristiano Ronaldo decided to be fifth in the penalty shootout order. Unfortunately, he wasn’t given an opportunity for a photo-op finish. The conclusion of the match left Spain en route to a finals showdown with either Italy or Germany on Sunday.
With much of the Portuguese faithful nearly abandoning Ferry Street in droves within minutes of Cesc Fabregas’s winning PK, it was time for La Furia Roja to celebrate in true Ironbound tradition – namely, the impromptu ad hoc parade.
As the overwhelming joy of nationalistic pride filled the Spanish faithful with a desire to bask in a unified celebratory outpouring, the Newark Police Department saw fit to shutdown Ferry Street from any traffic. Roadblocks were put up on every major entry onto Ferry, while the equestrian riot police and C.H.I.P.S. motorcycle units stood at the ready alongside the sidewalks up and down the most populated areas of the main street. If the purpose of such a police presence was to deter stifling traffic, then shutting down the street only served to accomplish the same ends at the taxpayer’s expense.
In a community that embraces this tradition, it would seem that the City of Newark seeks to oppress any expression of its citizenry that would appear to others as a celebration of life via sport. It was an anti-climatic end to a wonderfully tense afternoon that was unnecessary, and it only reminded Mr. Saturday of the end of community and non-profit fun.