A crazy little thing called the World Cup

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 June, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 June, 1994, 12:00am

AS the song goes, ''I couldn't sleep at all last night'' and I somehow knew the day would be a strange one.

Out of nationalistic duty I tried to ignore the start of the World Cup finals, but even the Big Guy upstairs seems to be a soccer fan: he opened the heavens and they kept me and all of Hong Kong up with his thunder and lightning show.

At 7.30 am that morning, a Saturday, was when I started thinking maybe this World Cup thang was a big deal. That was when I realised they shut down all four elevators of my building, or maybe it was when I was walking down the 22 floors that it hit me. Pretty big stuff.

Anyway, I was heading to this new place which billed itself as ''HK's only genuine sports bar'' at the new stadium to watch the South Korea-Spain soccer match. Jimmy's Sports Bar and Grill had their soft opening the night before, and according to their promoter Loron Orris, about 200 people were still there at 5 am.

When I got there a few hours later, all the gates to the stadium which led to the bar were shut, but I could see the TVs going through the bar's windows - more like a giant goldfish bowl - and I saw the staff vacuuming inside.

I was outside in the rain, asking myself ''why don't I have a life''? Luckily, one of the staff arriving smuggled me in.

I felt like Shoeless Joe looking around Kevin Costner's field of dreams.

Build it, open it and tune all 25 TVs (I counted them) to ESPN and they will come. That's what the owners and investors of Jimmy's must have heard. It reminded me of the time (last month) I was at Toys 'R Us, but this was better: great view of the stadium field, giant TV screen, jukebox, pool table, darts, mechanical bull (it works) and foosball (table soccer) in the second-floor bar. It took me 15 minutes to decide which screen to watch.

The Spanish and South Koreans were 0-0 in the second half when the teenage Indian couple sat down at the next table, and my TV goes on the blink - of all the screens in the place . . . was it me? So I was forced to watch the screen near the couple, and I may not know much about soccer, but I was absolutely certain that his lips were offside.

Two Spanish goals later, people started trickling in for Game Five of the NBA Finals between the Houston Rockets and the New York Knicks (series tied two apiece). Most of the screens were switched over to the 9 am NBA tip-off, except mine. I was still hoping for a Korean miracle. More and more people came in for the basketball and my screen was still on the World Cup (I think the US embassy will be asking for my passport soon).

I didn't have the heart to switch off the feisty Koreans who were down 2-0, but I did. Was it me? As soon as I did they scored. In injury time, the Koreans scored again to snatch the draw. Know what? I saw both goals . . . on the far screen.

Four goals. A ''beautiful game''? Maybe, but I didn't see one cheerleader.

Still it was a good appetiser to the basketball. The Knicks had a 13-point lead when late comers to our table brought the latest CNN O.J. Simpson update: he was a fugitive, armed and dangerous, running from the Los Angeles police.

10.27 am - Knicks by four. O.J. update: CNN had live broadcast of the chase, O.J. had a gun to his head driving down the freeway, and people in other cars were waving to him, some holding signs, ''Go Juice Go''.

The O.J. jokes were flying fast and thick, almost as quick as O.J. . . . he's going to use the one-armed bad guy alibi; if you were O.J. where would you go and hide? Not the airport. Not in Asia. Too bad, if he was in Hong Kong, he could have escaped on the MTR.

The Knicks, meanwhile, won 91-84 for a 3-2 lead, and by the time I got to the office O.J. had surrendered to the police. My theory is he was watching the game somewhere, the NBA not the soccer.