On February 4, 2010, I wrote of a new bar opening up in Brooklyn and of Albert Dalmau’s potential inclusion in the first team squad for a match against Getafe. Dalmau never got his chance, becoming a journeyman currently plying his trade with Lleida Esportiu in Segunda B, but the bar became my local hangout. In fact, it changed my life.
Let’s start at the beginning, though:
A little after I moved to New York, I met a few friends The Offside blog I ran for a couple of years prior to BFB. We hung out at houses and met up at Nevada Smith’s, the Union Square home of the NYC Penya, but which was extremely inconvenient from Brooklyn. I hosted the 2009 Champions League final at my house and friends introduced me to new friends. We formed a futsal team and started watching Barça matches after our own leagues and pick-up games ended.
Then Woodwork opened.
It is hard to write about this because it is over. Woodwork closed in December 2018 and with its departure, there is a sense of finality to a major part of my life and those of my friends. The simplistic view is that Barça brought us together and made us friends, but the reality is that Woodwork provided us with a physical space in which to thrive, to be ourselves, and to grow as human beings. Yes, we connected over “omgMessiisthegreatest” and “DID YOU SEE THAT XAVI PASS” and certainly we let the drinks get the best of us a few times (okay, maybe most times), but there are few spaces in which one can enter and know that you are not judged for what you are, but rather for who you are.
During the 8 years that I attended matches at Woodwork I experienced all of the emotional highs and lows of sports, but I also got married, had a kid, moved away, returned, and had another kid. One friend had her bachelorette party there (during the 3-2 clásico at the Bernabeu when Messi scored at the last moment). Another friend met her now husband there. Another would post up at a table and sip tea and hold seats for us before morning matches.
It was a collection of motley wooden tables (get it?) and occasionally surly owners and bartenders, but they put the matches on and didn’t judge. You’ll see a theme in the people I mentioned above, but I cannot speak for them, so I will let their own words speak for themselves. We were telling stories about the bar as it closed and my friend said of her experiences there:
They made women sports fans feel welcome and not weird, and not every place is like that.
We were raucous on occasion, of course. We brought the noise, especially after one friend – CJ, who has made various appearances on this blog – purchased a small megaphone that played the Cant del Barça. They hung a Barça flag on the wall and sold half liter beers for $5. During one clasico, we broke so many glasses and bottles on those wobbly tables that the bartender just threw us a towel to keep for our next spill. The soaked rag was subsequently thrown across the bar and it miraculously hit its intended target – a madridista – in the head. They rang a bell that hung behind the bar and everyone in the place who knew the drill would shout FUCK RONALDO.
We broke one of their tables. I made the announcement of my wife’s pregnancy with our first daughter there. I took that daughter to her first match at the bar when she was just a couple of months old. We did birthdays and engagement parties there. One friend took her parents to a clasico. They loved it. We hugged random Barça fans in happy moments and shouted at random Madrid fans in sadder ones. We spent hours chatting over beers. We became friends. Then best friends. There was drama and there was fun. We look after each other and have a thousand inside jokes. We share Netflix accounts and—during Game of Thrones—HBO accounts.
Most of my memories of New York are somehow related to that bar and those friends. It is with sadness that I watched it go, but it is with happiness that I remember it. And it is with profound joy that I can flick open my phone and there’s a Whatsapp group of all these friends, who are now sprinkled around the world – Brooklyn, Indonesia, South Africa – and I can write “Remember that time Andrew fixed my hand up during a Barça game at Woodwork after I nearly died in pick-up?” and I’ll get a chorus of laughter and a few stories about that day, about another day, about what we’ve done. And then we’ll plan the next one.
We’ll see where we go from here. Visca el Barça y visca Woodwork. Thank you for everything, Ross, Matty, and the various people who worked there and put up with us. You’ll be missed.
This was written a few months ago, in the immediate aftermath of Woodwork’s closure, but I wanted to get it out anyway, late as it is. I still miss it, but the friends are still there and still going strong in a new location.