The Celtic Supporter’s Club

by

10/13/2002

5422 Skillman Ave, Flushing, NY

Neighborhood: Astoria, Queens

I was born in Brooklyn and to my understanding it was a fait accompli that I would be a Mets fan. I was taught that all Brooklyn residents had been Dodgers fans and four years after the Dodgers sold their souls and moved to Los Angeles we became New York Mets fans. As a child raised in a non-denominational home, I followed the Mets with all the religious fervor and pride of the devout. My grandmother shared tales of the great deeds of Brooklyn Dodger saints like Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, and of course Gil Hodges, who later managed the perennial last place Mets to a miraculous world championship in 1969.

It was easy being a Mets fan when I started following them in the early 1970’s, as they were the best team in the city. I had assumed that all of my Brooklyn born friends felt the same fervor I did. But when the Yankees became the better team a few years later, most of my friends changed their allegiance as easily as they changed their socks. I realized then that being a Mets fan was not necessarily a Brooklyn birthright. And even though the Mets became a terrible team I was never ashamed of being a fan. Recently, I have began to feel some shame, not because the Mets aren’t good, not because they lost to the Yankees in the World Series, but because of the inferiority complex some of my fellow Mets fans have developed. For the last few years the chant of "Yankees suck!" has been heard nearly as many times as the cheer "Let’s Go Mets!" in Shea Stadium. Who are the fans addressing? The Yankees can’t hear it. What purpose does it serve?

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Some sixty blocks from Shea Stadium a similar scenario was being played out at an Irish bar/restaurant, the Coach House. The Coach House showed the weekly match of the Scottish football team, Celtic. The team hails from Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, and like the Mets they are a very good team, but not as good as their cross-town rivals and perennial champion, Rangers.

I came to the Coach House during the 1998-99 season through a Scottish friend of mine named Eddie. When he visited some years ago we went on a day-long sports odyssey: first driving down to Washington DC to see an afternoon soccer match between the US and Scottish national teams, and then stopping in Philadelphia on the way home to see a night game between the Mets and Phillies. It was after this game that Eddie declared himself a Mets fan and I declared myself a Celtic fan.

For me, it was like pricking our fingers and mixing our blood together. Eddie had brought two gifts for me: a Celtic jersey with my name on the back and a Jimmy hat – a tartan cap with red hair sewn into it which Scottish fans wear to international matches. I wore both at the US-Scotland game and two men in kilts yelled something indiscernible to me in thick Scottish brogues, which I returned by pumping my fist in their direction.

Back in Scotland, Eddie got to see the Mets play a few times that year as once a week a baseball game was broadcast. I didn’t know how I was going to follow Celtic until a friend of mine, Rick, told me about the Coach House in Woodside, Queens.

Along with Rick and my friend Russell, who had met Eddie on a trip to Scotland the previous year, we began a ritual of going to the game Saturday mornings. Upon entering the Coach House, we paid a $10 admissions fee to an older gentleman wearing a tartan hat similar to the Jimmy hat but without the fake red hair. Behind the bar was Celtic memorabilia, a placard identifying this as the Queens New York Celtic Supporters Club, and a slow moving, sleepy eyed, rather fat bartender. The bartender was like a child that mimics the emotions of the adults around him without understanding them. He would cheer after Celtic scored a goal, or groan when they let one up, always a step behind the rest of the supporters.

One time I remember there were problems with the satellite signal and the picture was constantly breaking up. When the picture became totally overrun by static the twenty or so supporters started screaming. The bartender screamed too until he realized that the rest of the bar was not screaming at the televisions but at him to fix the reception. With his back turned he hunched over a gadget for a few seconds and turned towards us slowly, smiling proudly as the reception got better, but instead of being applauded he was being screamed at again because somehow his adjustments had landed the hated Ranger’s game on the bar’s four television screens. This time he quickly turned around and made some more adjustments and the Celtic game came back on, taming the supporters.

As much as I enjoyed the games, I equally enjoyed the dry, somewhat acerbic announcer. I liked how he would call a well passed ball near the goal a "tempting ball," or a man who positioned himself strategically during a penalty kick "loitering with intent." The supporters were great too, screaming at the screens, "For fook sake’s, will ya score a goal!"

I went to five or six games that year but never one against Rangers. Rick went to one and told Russell and me how the bar was packed, singing Celtic songs and screaming anti-Protestant slurs. This had caused a slight crisis for both Russell and me as we hadn’t realized there was a religious connotation in rooting for a football team. We should have figured it out as Woodside is heavily Irish and most of the supporters were not Scottish, but Irish. A Scottish Protestant friend told me that in Glasgow, along with putting down Catholic on your birth certificate you might as well as add Celtic and vice versa for Protestants and Rangers. Russell and I have Scottish-Protestant blood and we wondered if maybe we should switch allegiances. But ultimately we decided to place our loyalty to Eddie over religion.

Celtic won all but one of the games we saw that year. We saw them win against Dunfermline, easily; Kilmarnock, Dunfermline, who they beat again in a rout this time; Aberdeen, and again Dunfermline who they really routed this time. But despite these wins Celtic finished a distant second to Rangers in the final standings.


If you are interested in some Celtic merchandise, the team web site sells all sorts of interesting items, including these attractive hand towels.

The following year, the 1999-2000 season I didn’t go to one game at the Coach House as my wife and I had our first child. I followed the season through the New York Times , which printed the results every Tuesday. Celtic had a good season, but Rangers were undefeated most of the year and won the league title again.

This season I was itching to get back to the Coach House and the Celtic Supporters Club of Queens, New York.

Celtic were having a terrific season, undefeated until a loss to the third place Rangers. Barring a total collapse, they were going to win the league title. On the Celtic web site I saw that they were playing Hearts the team from Edinburgh and invited my friends to a game. And while Russell couldn’t make it, Rick said he would go as long as it wasn’t against Dunfermline. But when we arrived at the Coach House we saw that i not only had it changed its name to The Bridge, but it didn’t show the game anymore. For half an hour we walked aimlessly down Roosevelt Avenue hoping that we would stumble across the place where the game was. We didn’t. That night I called the Bridge and learned that the Supporters Club of Queens had moved around the corner to Woodside Avenue and Sixty First Street, to a place called Copper Faced Jacks.

I went to the Celtic web site Celtic web site and saw Celtic’s next opponent and laughed out loud: it was our favorite Dunfermline. I immediately left messages for Rick and Russell. Neither called me back, but I decided to go by myself. Unlike the Coach House, Copper Face Jacks is only a bar. The games are played in the mid-afternoon in Scotland, so with the time difference most games begin at 10 AM. And while most of the patrons didn’t seem to mind drinking alcohol in the morning I stuck to cokes. I ordered them from a young Irish woman. I guess the slow moving bartender didn’t make the trip to Copper Face Jacks. He must have kept The Queens New York Celtic Supporters Club plaque, too.

It didn’t take long for me to see the same defeatist inferiority complex that I’d noticed at Shea. In the first minute of the game, Dunfermline did what I had never seen them do before, they scored a goal. The supporters screamed at the three televisions and one giant screen television, "Jesus Christ we need a new goal keeper if we’re going to do anything this year," and "Fook it all, our season’s finished," almost oblivious to the fact that it would be nearly impossible for them not finish on top.

Then Celtic scored three goals and won the game, and for a moment the ghost of Rangers were erased from the supporters’ minds, and The Celtic Supporter’s Club of Queens, New York, was, for a that brief moment, a happy place. 

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§ One Response to “The Celtic Supporter’s Club”

  • Attorney says:

    You didn’t realize that “there was a religious connotation in rooting for a football team?” In a heavily Irish area? I’ll bet you realize it now. ūüėČ

§ Leave a Reply

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