Game Day

In the midst of a new store opening, one can imagine the energy, the excitement, the exhaustion that comes along with it. We are in the home stretch before opening our new location in Noe Valley. Yesterday, the construction walls in front of the store came down, revealing the first lavender boulange. The smiling staff has been training all week and every day, new furniture or equipment arrives to get us closer to our Tuesday opening date. So what do you think the highest point of tension in the last weekend before a new store opening might be? Well, this time around, it is the World cup play-off match between Ireland and France.

To appreciate this completely, we’ll need to rewind a bit. As you are certainly aware, the whole of La Boulange is made up of Frenchmen and Francophiles who are clearly rooting for the red and blue. But among us is one lone Irishman, Adrian, who manages our kitchen operations, and over the past few weeks, he’s done a fair share of smack-talking leading into this match. There is a soccer ball in the office above our pine street store that is kicked around regularly and the opposing fans rib each other incessantly. From an outsider’s perspective, I’ve been trying to learn a bit about all of this soccer stuff, and from doing my research, asking other citizens of the world who follow the sport, and listening to the verbal battle in the office, the gist of the situation is this: Whoever wins this match tomorrow, as well as the second leg in Paris on Tuesday, will get to go to South Africa in 2010 to play in the World Cup. And the smack-talking story behind that is that the French team is the better team that did not win enough matches to make it into the World cup based purely on their season, so they must now play in a play-off, and since there are some French heavy-hitters on the FIFA board, they decided to “seed” the teams, ensuring that a “beatable” team, like the Irish, would be put against them, hopefully ensuring victory. I asked my non-French, non-Irish soccer source point blank, “so who’s going to win?”

His response without even pausing to consider, “the French…they’re very good.”

And so, although the Irish are the clear underdogs in tomorrow’s game, if they are anything like Adrian, they might just be scrappy enough to do some damage, or (dare I say it?) even pull off a win…

We’ll be working furiously on the final touches in Noe, no doubt checking in online on the score. And there is a bar just down the block, The Dubliner, where Adrian can celebrate with like-minded individuals (or drown his sorrows) depending on the outcome. Vive la France!