If I could get back every misbehaving minute I’ve spent in sports bars over the years, every buck I’ve spent on too-warm beer and peppery chicken wings, you know I wouldn’t.
Not everything you hug will hug you back. But sports bars do. Group hugs are the best hugs.
I find sports bars to be the warmest, most-reassuring places, with a conviviality largely lacking from modern life. The high-fives, the slaps on the back, the hootin’ and the hollerin’.
Jeez, I love sports bars. I like when the Buffalo sauce seeps into your cuticles till three days later. I like when the barmaids ring a little bell – ding-ding — when you leave a tip, or when you lean over to the stranger next to you and say, “That was a catch? Really?”
Rule No. 1: What used to be a catch when you were a kid is no longer a catch.
In the school yard, you knew if a guy caught it or not. And if a fullback churned and chewed his way to the goal line, never giving up, you gave him the touchdown. Today’s refs love taking away touchdowns. It gives them creepy bursts of joy to deny people pleasure, which is why they became refs in the first place. That and the tailored ref shirts. What’s with that?
Referees now dress in boy’s medium shirts in hopes of showing off their “guns.” Kinda crazy, and hyper-vain, like much of modern life.
So, to recap: Some people like libraries for their spiritual components. Others attend church. I like them all – libraries, churches, sports bars. Life shouldn’t just be one thing.
I also hate trends, any new thing whatsoever (FYI, America’s been going downhill since they mechanized all the lighthouses).
And the best places to avoid stupid trends? Obviously, libraries, churches and sports bars.
You remember Hegel from philosophy class, right? Of course you don’t. But the German philosophers always clicked with me for some reason. Perhaps it was their zest for life. The German idealists, like keno girls and bartenders, just seemed to “get” me.
Anyway, Hegel proposed that every large movement is flawed. In reaction, a counter-movement springs up, which is also — in some critical way — flawed. So, back and forth we go, deciding between flawed options.
So in a lot of ways, Hegel’s theories are like online dating.
By the way, people keep asking how Suzanne and I met, I usually say “at the gun range” or “on a blind date where we both closed our eyes.”
For the record, when I was a kid, that’s how I thought blind dates worked. You couldn’t look. Then, two hours later, you opened your eyes to see if your date matched the one you envisioned. In my mind, such a date would be the junction of hope, desire, companionship, need and lust. Like that awkward intersection in Beverly Hills, the one with five stop signs.
Anyhoo, I don’t remember exactly how Suzanne and I met. I believe there was some begging involved, and perhaps a bribe or two. “Are you perhaps some sort of gold digger?” I asked, going down my first-date checklist.
“Duh,” she said, and we’ve been together ever since.
When I was at the sports bar the other day, with Smartacus and Rapunzel, and her fiancé, an actual rocket scientist who roots for the Chicago Bears – two things that are rare but not mutually exclusive — I was telling the fiancé that there’s this great ’80s comedy called “Diner.” In “Diner,” one of the characters wouldn’t marry his girlfriend till she passed a Baltimore Colts trivia test.
“What was ‘Diner’ about?” Rapunzel’s fiancé asked.
“Dudes just joking around,” I explained.
Back in the day, you could make a movie like that. You didn’t even need superheroes or zombies. You just had real people talking about real life, as unsatisfying as that must seem by today’s high standards.
Steve Guttenberg: “When you’re making out, who do you prefer, Sinatra or Mathis?”
Mickey Rourke: “I prefer Presley.”
Paul Reiser: “This is why you are so nervous all the time. You have like chunks of roast beef in your heart!”
Always loved Reiser. Wish there were a way to spend a day in a funny person’s head, know what I mean? The way Bezos and Musk want to explore space, that’s how I want to visit Martin Short’s brain.
Point is, “Diner” was a great movie because it was so close to real life. Really, it was about banter, which is the best music. Conversation, wit, debauchery…all those compulsions that secretly make me glad I’m still Irish.
In a related development, I handed Rapunzel a significant check for her wedding next summer, right there in the sports bar. It wasn’t planned that way, it’s just that sports bars make me feel all warm and fuzzy. Like I suddenly have chunks of roast beef in my heart.
“Thanks dude!” Rapunzel said when I handed her the check.
She cried a little, I cried a little. Different reasons, but we both cried.
“Just the one,” I tell her. “No more checks, no more weddings. No more boyfriends. Just this one.”
Other than selling off my younger daughter, we had a great time in the sports bar, in fancy-pants Santa Monica. As with a wedding, everything was grotesquely overpriced.
Yet, when we were done, like a wedding, you couldn’t help but feel it was all worth it: the wings, the banter, the Bloody Marys, the spitty and screamy companionship. When the Bears won, I danced the Hokey Pokey.
Yeah, I love sports bars.
The burger at Tavern on Main is a reason to live – a little overpriced, sure, but isn’t everything these days? Get the double or triple patty. As my dear grandma used to say: “Dude, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.” For my money, Big Dean’s near the pier is still the best sports bar in America. Busby’s West also belongs in LA’s sports bar Hall of Fame. But Tavern on Main (formerly Rick’s) is awesome too. What elevates LA sports bars is the mixture of fans from all over, plus the way they can open the walls to the sea breezes. Score!