On Sunday night, most sports bars in New York City will have the Super Bowl on their television screens. But, at Piekielko, a small Polish sports bar in Ridgewood, Queens, the TV will be turned onto a different kind of football – the European kind.
Agnieszka Wiatrowicz, a Polish immigrant, owns Piekielko with her husband. When asked whether or not her patrons watch football, she assumes you mean soccer. She says that most of the clients at Piekielko are like her: they love watching FIFA football and change the channel when the NFL comes on.
“Football has two words – the foot and the ball. Hand and egg – that is American football,” says Tomek, a regular patron of Piekielko.
Robert Miskiewicz, 32, Tomek’s friend, simply can’t take American football seriously. “Rugby is what American football is. It’s just a commercial sport,” he said.
Miskiewicz, who moved to the United States in the hopes of getting a better education in 2004, says that, unlike Americans, recent Polish immigrants are more tied to the European sport. “Football is the number one sport in the whole world,” Miskiewicz explained. “For the first generation of immigrants, we aren’t mentally able to change to another sport. I’ll always be thinking of Europe.”
Even some members of the younger generation, educated in America, care more for the sport of their homeland.. Piotr Dubi, 16.,moved to the U.S. when he was nine years old. He has attended public school here ever since. But, as a soccer coach and fan, he couldn’t care less for the NFL. “I don’t know, it’s boring for me. It’s like three hours,” he said. “[With soccer] there’s 45 minutes of play, I watch everything.”
Zbyszek Kudlacz, 56, has been in the U.S. for 17 years, longer than both Miskiewicz and Dubi, and has come to appreciate American football. He’s been fascinated with the sport since he came to America for the first time in 1979 for a basketball tournament. “We shared a change room with a bunch of football players. As Europeans, we didn’t know what it was, so we tried on some of their gear,” Kudlacz said. He says that, unlike many of his Polish friends, he plans to watch the Super Bowl.
Back at Piekielko, bar owner Wiatrowicz may yet air the Super Bowl for patrons like Kudlacz who like American-style football. “It’ll be there if we need it,” she said on Friday. That is, “If someone calls in advance and asks for it.”