Monday, November 16, 2009

the ticket

I spent two hours yesterday in a local sports tavern which I have attended on a few football Sundays this Fall. There is a long bar in one room of the establishment and a restaurant in an adjacent space. Typically I sit at the bar and watch several games displayed concurrently on the high tech screens above the bottles of spirits. Yesterday, I first sat at the bar, but then moved into the restaurant.

I found a table and saw that in this room there were some very serious fans. Many taverns like this one buy what is called "the Sunday ticket" which is a package from the NFL that allows the televising of all games on a given football Sunday. Therefore, serious fans will go to these bars in order to watch a game that otherwise would not be available to them at home. In front of me in the restaurant sat a woman with a Tampa Bay jersey that read "Barber" on the back. Barber is a defensive back for the Tampa Bay buccaneers. To her right was a table of Steeler fans facing the other way so that they could see the Pittsburgh,Cincinnati game on a screen on a wall opposite from where Tampa Bay was playing Miami. Almost comically, next to the Steeler fans were two very very serious Cincinnati fans facing in the same direction as the Tampa Bay fan rooting for the Bengals but watching it on another screen on the opposite wall. To the left of the Tampa Bay fan were two diehard Buffalo rooters periodically slapping the table in disgust as the Bills succumbed to Tennessee.

So there I am perched behind all of these people. The Bills fans in a corner to my left banging on a table, the Tampa Bay fan in front of me banging on a table, The Steeler fans facing in one direction sighing in exasperation, and then the Bengal fans adorned in striped jerseys cheering in the other direction. Finally, there was a quartet of inebriates all the way to the right who did not seem to care who was playing but cheered periodically for nobody in particular.

I asked the Bucs fan how tough it was to root for the Bucs since they are 1-7. I then heard her very educated analysis of this game. I was not dealing with an amateur. When a fellow came in to root for the Dolphins he quickly went over to the Bucs fan and apologized for rooting against her team. He then confided to me, "She's here every week" which seemed to be disparaging a bit, except that he must have been there every week himself in order to be able to make the report.

When the Bucs lost on a last second field goal, Barber left sadly and could not even respond when I told her I was sorry. The Bills fans had already given up. The only people in the place that seemed happy were the Bengals fans because their team won and the inebriates who were oblivious to it all.

Just before I left I noticed that the tavern was beginning to be populated by people wearing Patriots garb. The Patriots would be playing four hours later. This game was on local television, but the bar provided a bit of a stadium atmosphere for the rooters. I thought of the place at midnight when the Patriots managed to blow a lead in the last seconds.

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