As the bartender and manager of Mac’s Tavern, Erica Dematreszik’s job is anything but boring.
Mac’s is located in the heart of Old Town Philadelphia, a busy area of the city’s merry crowd. When you’re there, you get to experience all sorts of hustle and bustle, like revelers who’ve had a little too much to drink, and fights. It didn’t go well between the customer and goodnight. But there are also stranger ones. For example, in the past year Mac’s Tavern has clearly become a lot… Welsh.
Two Welsh women brought in bakestones (the country’s traditional sweet bread) and placed them in the bar for the staff to enjoy. It was mixed with Philadelphia’s own interpretation of the English language, with an R and a drawn-out vowel.
And then there was the Wrexham jersey. Yes, behind the bars at Mac’s Tavern, just inches from former Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley’s jersey proudly displayed, is the Wrexham AFC jersey. A small Welsh club has carved out a place of its own in Mack’s, where the Phillies, Flyers, Sixers and Eagles have always dominated. And on Saturday, when Wrexham was promoted from the National League for the first time in 15 years, the place was a mob.
When the final whistle blew, Dematreszik stood at the bar and waved his Wrexham jersey over his head. The entire venue erupted in applause, chanting “We’re going up,” and downing down beers in celebration. People were in tears. In the corner, I parked my car in front of a TV showing a Sixers playoff game, with some inexperienced patrons watching in utter confusion.
“This is a huge deal for us,” Dematreszik said after a while. “And I’m fully on board.”
— Pablo Iglesias Maurer (@MLSist) April 22, 2023
Mac’s fondness for Wrexham isn’t completely random. This bar counts Rob McElhenney as one of its owners.His McElhenney who starred in and co-created his long-running FX comedy It’s always sunny in Philadelphia Philadelphia royalty and co-owner of Wrexham AFC, along with fellow Hollywood A-lister Ryan Reynolds.
A documentary series about McElhenney and Reynolds club ownership, Welcome to Wrexham This small provincial club has become a household name among football fans in the United States. It also managed to do the most elusive things, at least for things related to American football. It permeates the pervasive feeling of indifference that many Americans feel towards gaming, like Ted Lasso in his hugely successful Apple TV series of fish at the command of a British club. It depicts an American like Welcome to Wrexham It was a crossover hit.
The show has a feel-good energy similar to that of Lasso, and the people who came to support the club through Reynolds and McElhenney often find them less cynical than most of humanity these days. Those who attended Mack’s Tavern on Saturday to see the all-important encounter with Wrexham and Boreham Wood, with your average Philadelphia sports fan who can sometimes wear disdain with pride. I felt that I was far away.
Mac seemed like a very dangerous place for the negative, at least during the Wrexham game. There’s a whole segment of football fans on the internet calling newcomers like these “plastic fans” (i.e. fakes), but no one even knew what that meant. It is almost certain.
Philadelphia is one of the nation’s largest cities, but it can also feel strangely rural. As Dematreszik says, it’s a neighborhood city and people living in these neighborhoods know each other like family. In one corner of Mack’s, a group of patrons chatted about the area’s Catholic high schools. They had a very thick Philadelphia accent that felt almost illegal.
Dennis Hogan was among them. Soon, he revealed he was a little more than the average bargainer: in his St. Joseph’s Prep, he went to school with McElhenney, went to the same school, and still does. was accompanied by two of his others who count McElhenney as good companions. One of them, Rob, was the manager of the school’s soccer team during his freshman year. His post at Wrexham is slightly upgraded.
“He was more of a character than an athlete,” Hogan said with a laugh.
Hogan personally witnessed McElhenney’s love affair with Wrexham. McElhenney has long been known for his work Sunny But he’s got his hands on many other projects, both on and off screen. According to Hogan, Wrexham started as a simple investment for the actor.
“I went[to Wales]with him last summer,” Hogan said. “So I’ve seen both sides of this. He’s a successful guy, right? He’s got all these projects. This was just one of the first. And now, He went from being just another thing to being something he totally loves. . he’s totally in love with it.
Hogan’s love of football is outdated Welcome to Wrexham But he has his own theories as to why so many American fans, especially in Philadelphia, have grown to love the team. This is the theory reflected.
“People fall in love with stories,” said Hogan. “The show does a good job of capturing the human side of the city. Honestly, Philly and Wrexham are a lot like the same town. The people there are a lot like Philly fans. Don’t like them, they’re in favor of them, but in the end nobody cares about it and they’re almost proud of it. Passionate.”
On the other side of the bar, Josh Kaplan was glued to the match. In his mid-40s, Kaplan wore his top at the Wrexham AFC track and was a newcomer to the club. He considers himself a lifelong fan of the sport, having played and watched it for decades.
The local Major League Soccer team, the Philadelphia Union, was mentioned sparingly in conversations at Mack’s. The idea of US fans supporting a Premier League team instead of the team in their backyard is easy enough to understand. The Premier League has some of the best players in the world and the quality of play is still far superior to the MLS. .
But it goes further down the English pyramid (Wrexham is one of the Welsh clubs allowed to play before the Welsh Football League) and down to Tier 5, where Wrexham sat before gaining promotion. increase. more cloudy.
“I’m a big Union fan too,” Kaplan said. There are multiple teams to cheer for here. In Europe, he often has only one team, the lifeblood of small places. Emotions in town make the difference between life and death through the actions of your team. It’s a very interesting dynamic that many fans don’t realize exists in America. ”
Kaplan, who says he traveled to Wrexham many times for the match, certainly felt like a proper representative of the Wrexham supporters segment (and Welcome to Wrexham viewers) chose to support teams thousands of miles away, rather than focus a bit more locally. Wrexham is his third oldest club in the world, he founded in 1864. The club’s stadium is the oldest surviving international football stadium. Its history and authenticity are irreproducible and its charm is powerful.
The mere presence of promotion and relegation, which Reynolds and McElhenney skillfully used in the show’s storytelling, is another interesting factor for American consumers, and one that MLS may not be at least in its purest form. The thing to do, at least on this side of the pond, is less about quality of play and more about believability, or at least the perception of it.
And that’s to say nothing of the heavy lifting the documentary series itself has taken on Wrexham. Without Reynolds and McElhenney’s involvement and their work on the show, Wrexham would have remained a tiny part of the international sports map. MLS should probably aim to emulate that level of storytelling.Prior to the start of the most recent season, the league It looked like there might be plans to do so.
Wrexham Counsel to the Board of Directors Shaun Harvey Talked about the club’s comparative appeal Sit in MLS earlier this year.
“It’s flattering from our perspective,” Harvey said. “Because it’s not The usualIt’s not normal. It is not something that has been commonly seen or ridiculed in the past. Its unique approach increases audience interest. ”
Among all the newcomers were longtime Wrexham fans. Alex Davis stood in the corner of the oval bar. Alex Davies is a bartender from Wrexham who had just flown in from Wales to Mac directly from the airport.
Davis seemed a little stupefied, but it was more than just jet lag. The mere fact of the whole situation that this small 5th division his team is bought by his two Hollywood stars and becomes instantly loved by a group of fans thousands of miles away in the limelight , was tough for Davis. wrap his head.
“It’s totally mental,” Davis said over a beer. “It’s something new every day. The other day[mixed martial arts fighter]Conor McGregor tweeted about Wrexham and sold his stout on Turf. (Hollywood actor) Paul Rudd is there today. It’s crazy. (Rob and Ryan) have done so much for the town, now it’s kind of a sense of belonging, everyone cares more, they donate to charity and help people I’ve been doing — especially Rob and Ryan, but I feel like Rob cares more about that in his heart.
The charm of Hollywood is here.Actor Paul Rudd just arrived pic.twitter.com/ppymhS1h70
— Tom Coleman (@tomEcoleman) April 22, 2023
Davis, who was passing through Philadelphia as part of a larger U.S. visit, is unsure if the club’s American fans will remain after initial interest in the club’s acquisition and subsequent documentary series fades. The interest certainly feels genuine and Wrexham are set to play a friendly in the US this summer. They are also in his 7-on-7 tournament in Cary, North Carolina, another attempt to establish a more permanent foothold.
For now, the club continues to cater to a very large segment of American football fans who prefer a British view of the game, elite level or not. Whether it will pay off remains to be seen. But there may still be hope for that. After the Mack frenzy died down on Saturday, a group of friends at the bar turned around and wondered where to go next.
“Let’s go to the union game tonight,” one of them suggested.
(Top photo: Emily Olsen)