Ode on a Sports Bar

No one really talks about loving sports bars. Very few of us actually do. And yet they're where we go, and something like home.
Share |

The theme of the latest issue of The Classical Magazine -- which came out on Friday, and which you can get here if you haven't already and want to do so -- is built around the idea of Being There, of how sports we experience sports in the various places we experience them. This week, we'll run some pieces that relate to the idea of Being There. Probably in the weeks after that, too.

Sports does something to us. Some things, really -- turning us weird and wild-eyed in the moment, picking us up on sudden surges of partisanship and then dropping us off someplace higher or lower than where we started. The games happen in stadiums and arenas and domes, but where these moments happen for most of us, or at least have happened for me, is a different location, one whose traits vary from place to place but not so much.

This is a grimy and maybe grim place lit by flat-screen TVs humming in the key of SportsCenter. Sticky film from spilled drinks probably covers the floor. The air, once thick with cigarette smoke, now is tinged with the spicy tang of chicken wings cooling on plates. It's a sports bar. It's always a sports bar.

These aren't perfect. They aren't always fun or clean or up to the standards of relevant local health codes. On a busy night, chances are they aren't quite following the fire marshal's orders. You will regret certain drinks in the morning, and, depending on the quality of liquor on the rail, might regret them instantly. You will regret the food next time you see a doctor or step on a scale or even stand up. You might wonder why you didn't just stay home, where it's never crowded and the beer is better and the bathroom less horrifying and you can choose who sits next to you.

Yet the sports bar is seldom deserted. There is a need and a place for it, so there it is, open and never empty.

Never empty doesn’t always equal popularity. The sports bar might not be your favorite place. In an era of rising ticket prices, rising parking fees and shrinking paychecks, even a place with $6 Buds is a cheaper alternative to ballpark camaraderie. It’s also probably a much closer drive, if you have to drive at all. Admission is free; the foremost class difference is not between a luxury-boxed elite and everyone else, but between the kind of person who prefers a stool to the patron who rathers a booth.

Even people who can't stand these places somehow end up at one, especially for big games. How do I know this? The same way you do, probably. I run into them at sports bars.    

***

Where we gather is important because being a sports fan is communal. We join fan bases without even knowing it and often are born into our various tribes, groups to call our own. This is strange, this random bit of birthright citizenship, but it gives us a reason to connect with what would otherwise be total strangers. It gives us instant entry into various conversations, which might be glib but almost always welcome.

Over time, our teams become extensions of ourselves. We say “we won” and “we failed.” Our co-tribemates become our cohabitants in our sort-of-chosen communities. We sing together. We dress alike. We always wear the same colors. Being together, win or lose, is as much a part of being a fan as having a favorite player or booing your enemy.

So it seems meaningful and a little sad that, given how important gathering is to sport itself, the ability to do that at a stadium has gotten only more difficult to manage financially. The Fan Cost Experience estimates how much fans pay to attend live games. Their research found that the average cost of a ticket to a regular-season MLB game in April was $27.48. The average ticket for a regular-season NFL game in September 2012 came in at $78.38. NBA fans saw little relief. Their average ticket price in November 2012 was $50.99.

And that’s only the ticket, not the hyper-inflated costs of parking and food and drink. And there is, moreover, the emotional cost of spending an hour, maybe more, driving to the stadium, navigating snarled game-day traffic, mumbling at our tribemates to remember how a freaking merge works. All this assumes you want to see a regular-season game in the cheap seats. Anything special -- playoffs or a tournament or even a mid-season game against a rival -- will cost much more.

So, essentially, the cost of all this is being trapped. It’s a good kind of trapped if the team wins and you find yourself surrounded by like-minded, giddy individuals. Nobody cares, then, about being confined to the stadium and to marked-up, stadium-approved beers in riot-proof plastic bottles. It's nothing to say “excuse me” ten times while pushing and smushing through people to get to the bathroom, or to say another ten “excuse me”’s on the way back. If things work out right, this is part of the show, something that's worth the significant price of admission.

Of course, if the team loses, you’re still there. There's the slow, shameful trudge out of the stadium after losing. There's everything else, which is the same as everything above, but feels notably different.

***

There are different types of sports bar in different places, but they tend to follow very specific, if entirely unwritten, rules. The walls will be covered in sports memorabilia, generally with very little connection between pieces except that they all are part of sports and reflect some rooting interest. There will be lots of beer -- sometimes good ones on tap, and sometimes familiar ones in bottles -- and even more TVs. There will be booths and, of course, a bar. These are the basics.

For the most part, too, the place will have the dark hush of night in the middle of the day and thump with brightness and energy in the dead of night. Music will play, and everyone will ignore it.

It will carry, to an extent, the air of a tree house. A place where everything becomes a game or a gamble, strangers become temporary best friends and the only rule is this better be fun. So: a boozy Neverland for grownups with close-captioned SportsCenter looping through the lulls.

Change cities, change jobs, get married, have a child, divorce and remarry. At no point will any of those things preclude anyone at a bar from accepting you as a Vikings fan or a Dodgers die-hard or a Penguins aficionado—this is a space in which you are who you say you are. In an era where so much feels unstable, our sports identity is not, unless we change our minds, renounce citizenship. That means we always will have a home of sorts, if often a loud, greasy and dim one, in our bar of choice, in whatever clearing our tribe chooses or whatever clearing chooses our tribe.

There are choices. In 2007, the U.S. Census estimated that the United States was home to 46,924 "drinking places." Throw in places that thrive on a mix of food and drinks, and that Census number climbs to 571,621.

For the big game, they will be full. After Landon Donovan scored the winning goal in the U.S. men’s national soccer team’s defeat of Algeria -- sending the Yanks into the next round of the 2010 World Cup -- a compilation video of Americans celebrating quickly went viral. For more than five minutes, as inspirational music swelled in the background, fans across the world hugged, screamed, jumped up and down, waved flags and chanted U-S-A, U-S-A! It has more than four million views. Almost every clip -- from New York to California to Europe -- shows fans gathered in sports bars.

***

My strongest sports bar memory comes from the night the Miami Heat won the Eastern Conference in 2006. I was a Miami Herald reporter out getting "fan reaction." This is not nearly as enjoyable as covering the game, but possibly as rewarding.

My assignment that night was the Pembroke Pines Ale House, a typical suburban sports bar in the shadow of a mall. One of its signature sandwiches, predictably, featured spicy fried chicken breast. It served buckets of beer, pitchers of beer and the occasional mixed drink. Every TV showed the Heat, and people packed in.

Fans who could squeeze in found their spots; the ones who didn't fit stood outside, close enough to hear the action. Everyone was a Heat fan, and any personal space was forgotten. Hearing the game was nearly impossible. The only thing harder to do was move. Seeing the action on the TVs wasn't necessary. The various shades of oohhhs and uuuggghhhhs told the game’s story.

I shuffled through the crowd, trying to get quotes from people. It was a lot like a cheesy advertisement, except true -- the fans packed inside all had different jobs, different backgrounds, different homes and somehow all chose from those various starting points to spend an evening mashed together for this moment.

But this wasn't a place for interviewing. Frustrated, I went outside, where there was a bit more room to move and a slightly better chance to hear what people said. The moment the Heat won the championship a gigantic roar emerged from the bar, every voice all together once the clock hit zero. It felt like an audio flare, telling everyone who could hear that the Heat had won and we should celebrate right here and right now. Everyone listened, everyone agreed, and everyone celebrated.

Only a few blocks away, all was silent. The suburbs were asleep, and I drove through a vast, dark, slumbering stretch on my way back to the office. If ever a sports bar was a bubble dream world, putting off adulthood one night longer, it was that night. The quick transition from euphoria to the emptied-out everything else was what sticks.

***

I still think about that moment, when people mock those who leave Heat games early, or when Rembert Browne writes about his realization that the true Heat fans were not the high rollers in the pricey seats but the arena staff, watching from the sides, their hopes rising and falling with every basket. I think about it when I remember how the Pines Ale House exploded, and people partied like they were the high rollers, because they'd decided the Heat win belonged to them.

I've been thinking, in writing this, about where we watch. Which for the most part is not the luxury boxes, or even the cheaper upper bowls, so far from the field of play that most of the action is relayed to fans on giant screens. It is, for all but the VIPs and the boosters and the elite, definitely not at the pricey after-parties. We watch where we can -- on a TV on breaks, or at a friend's home, or at the place that stands in most closely and most affordably for the place we want to be. No one really talks about loving sports bars, but it's where we go. It's where we are, and so we go there.


Share |

Comments

This is my initial stopover to your blog! We are a club of enlists further recent ambitions in the unchanging for more infoslot. Blog gave us worthwhile info to process. You acquire through an incredible career!

It's really nice and meanful. it's really cool blog. Linking is very useful thing.you have really helped lots of people who visit blog and provide them usefull information.chimney cap installation

I was very pleased to find this site.I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.minecraft 0.11.0 apk download

Dr. Wharton interest in ethnicity and medicine led him to the study of hypertension and then to obesity under the guidance of Dr. Arya Sharma, an international recognized leader in obesity research Click here

Dr. Wharton is the medical director of the Wharton Medical Clinic, a community based internal medicine weight management clinic. He also works as internal medicine specialist at Toronto East General Hospital, and the Hamilton Health Sciences Click here

Dr. Wharton is the medical director of the Wharton Medical Clinic, a community based internal medicine weight management clinic. He also works as internal medicine specialist at Toronto East General Hospital, and the Hamilton Health Sciences Visit this link

I must say that overall I am really impressed with this blog. It is easy to see that you are passionate about your writing. If only I had your writing ability I look forward to more updates and will be returning. stress symptom

If your looking for Online Illinois license plate sticker renewals then you have need to come to the right place.We offer the fastest Illinois license plate sticker renewals in the state. We are tied directly into the sate’s renewal database which allows us to process your request almost instantly.nutrafarms inc reviews

I don’t have the time at the moment to fully read your site but I have bookmarked it and also add your RSS feeds. I will be back in a day or two. thanks for a great site.film langue francais

Two full thumbs up for this magneficent article of yours. I've really enjoyed reading this article today and I think this might be one of the best article that I've read yet. Please, keep this work going on in the same quality.איו אונות

You're in point of fact a just right webmaster. The website loading speed is amazing. It kind of feels that you're doing any distinctive trick. Moreover, The contents are masterpiece. you have done a fantastic activity on this subject!daily life hack

Regular visits listed here are the easiest method to appreciate your energy, which is why why I am going to the website everyday, searching for new, interesting info. Many, thank you!best microwave oven

MacDougall’s work with these projects gave him the opportunity to gain experience in international drilling efforts and allowed him to work in a variety of locations around the world, including West Africa, Central Africa, Western Canada, India, China, Atlantic Canada and the North Sea Click here

Blair MacDougall is a Canadian oil and gas engineer and consultant with nearly twenty years of experience in the offshore drilling industry. Following a Bachelor of Science degree from St. Francis Xavier University in Mathematics View this site

Blair MacDougall is a Canadian oil and gas engineer and consultant with nearly twenty years of experience in the offshore drilling industry. Following a Bachelor of Science degree from St. Francis Xavier University in Mathematics View this site

The worst part of it was that the software only worked intermittantly and the data wasn’t accurate. You obviously can’t confront anyone about what you have discovered if the information isn’t right.ซ่อมเปียโน

This is an excellent post I seen thanks to share it. It is really what I wanted to see hope in future you will continue for sharing such a excellent post.filme online gratuite

I most likely appreciating each and every bit of it. It is an incredible site and decent impart. I need to much obliged. Great employment! You all do an incredible blog, and have some extraordinary substance. Keep doing awesome.vila sol

Thank you Ella. Now, lets work on getting you posting on here more often. Everyone opinions mean something to us beginners. Do you have a website?http://eatrightidaho.com/how-do-i-give-my-child-up-for-adoption/

Very informative post ! There is a lot of information here that can help any business get started with a successful social networking campaign !http://www.thepeachdesign.com/your-baby-adoption/

The matter you've highlighted above is surely valueable for anyone to workout. the concept of your article is very true and It will result in a positive way.credits: http://motorcyclespictures.in

I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.http://thesmileconference.com/2014/11/smile-conference-for-giving-baby-up-for-adoption/

A very awesome blog post. We are really grateful for your blog post. combat, law enforcement You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. I was exactly searching for. Thanks for such post and please keep it up. Great work.Luxury Horseboxes

It is really no surprise that this building was found to have bed bugs infesting it. I mean, it is in New York city, which is pretty disgusting itself. And some of the people who work there, even if they do make decent wages, probably don't make enough to afford what is considered a "nice" place to live in New York City. Especially in midtown, of all places.cornea transplantation

Really nice and interesting post. I was looking for this kind of information and enjoyed reading this one. Keep posting. Thanks for sharing. Get deal

I want you to thank for your time of this wonderful read!!! I definately enjoy every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff of your blog a must read blog!!!!Birth Defect

It is great to have the opportunity to read a good quality article with useful information on topics that plenty are interested on.I concur with your conclusions and will eagerly look forward to your future updates.Eazy E

If your looking for Online Illinois license plate sticker renewals then you have need to come to the right place.We offer the fastest Illinois license plate sticker renewals in the state. We are tied directly into the sate’s renewal database which allows us to process your request almost instantly.Buy Tramadol online

Strategic Group fosters a corporate culture of entrepreneurship, creativity and unconventional approaches. The result - an always evolving, vertically integrated group of companies that encompass every step of the property process through business Click here

Bike Race 3D" for FREE on android Google play now! Are you ready for Bike Race? Start your engine and gear up to race down the track. An Amazing racing game features with exciting race tracks to compete with your extreme rivals. Be an extreme moto racer and drive the world class sports bike. Win race to Unlock & upgrade new bikes to challenge your opponents.Moto Racing

To say the veracity I am truly impressed by what you told. You use tons of fascinating information, precise furthermore fantastic mosaic you’ve got here. It’s finally unit of the most educational load on this point I’ve always scan video songs

Regular visits listed here are the easiest method to appreciate your energy, which is why why I am going to the website everyday, searching for new, interesting info. Many, thank you!http://www.grandandgold.com/2015/02/adoption-is-an-option-for-your-kid/

This is a wonderful article, Given so much info in it, These type of articles keeps the users interest in the website, and keep on sharing more ... good luck. app

Great post i must say and thanks for the information. Education is definitely a sticky subject. However, is still among the leading topics of our time. I appreciate your post and look forward to more.Letting Agents Leicester

This is cool post and i enjoy to read this post. your blog is fantastic and you have good staff in your blog. nice sharing keep it up. live music

Thank you for your post, I look for such article along time, today i find it finally. this post give me lots of advise it is very useful for me. Ludu Boiler Replacement service

Really appreciate this wonderful post that you have provided for us.Great site and a great topic as well i really get amazed to read this. Its really good.R Kelly Songs

I like viewing web sites which comprehend the price of delivering the excellent useful resource free of charge. I truly adored reading your posting. Thank you! David Nepo Getanswers

Such a very useful article. Very interesting to read this article.I would like to thank you for the efforts you had made for writing this awesome article. Catering

I just got to this amazing site not long ago. I was actually captured with the piece of resources you have got here. Big thumbs up for making such wonderful blog page! แต่งงาน

Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which I need, thanks to offer such a helpful information here.retirement planning

Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which I need, thanks to offer such a helpful information here.hostgator promo 2015

I am really enjoying reading your well written articles. It looks like you spend a lot of effort and time on your blog. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work. זיקפה

Really nice and interesting post. I was looking for this kind of information and enjoyed reading this one. Keep posting. Thanks for sharing. Diabetes Mellitus Types 2

I really enjoy simply reading all of your weblogs. Simply wanted to inform you that you have people like me who appreciate your work. Definitely a great post. Hats off to you! The information that you have provided is very helpful. free fighting games

I finally found great post here.I will get back here. I just added your blog to my bookmark sites. thanks.Quality posts is the crucial to invite the visitors to visit the web page, that's what this web page is providing. Chris Brown Songs

If your looking for Online Illinois license plate sticker renewals then you have need to come to the right place.We offer the fastest Illinois license plate sticker renewals in the state. We are tied directly into the sate’s renewal database which allows us to process your request almost instantly.Celestron Telescopes

Eagle water products can help you save money, time and effort. With our systems, there is no more need to buy bottle water which is better for our environment. Soon, bottle water will be a thing of the past View this site

Took me time to read all the comments, but I really enjoyed the article. It proved to be Very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here! It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained!טיפול בפטרת ציפורניים

Easily, the article is actually the best topic on this registry related issue. I fit in with your conclusions and will eagerly look forward to your next updates. Just saying thanks will not just be sufficient, for the fantasti c lucidity in your writing. I will instantly grab your rss feed to stay informed of any updates.quickfansandlikes