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Watching the game is harder than it sounds

August 25, 2010

I have to admit that I have a refrigerator full of generic brand diet colas. They may not taste as good as Diet Coke, but does Diet Coke really taste as good as regular Coke?
The point is that if you look around my place, and if you look around your own house, you’ll probably find that you’ve gone generic on a lot of products. It might be food, drinks or even paper plates.
Companies will always find a way to make a cheaper version of a product that often runs out of my price range, and I don’t mind that.
There is one example of something that has been cheapened down, well sort of, that I do mind.
Many years ago, someone came up with the idea of the sports bar. This would be a place where people could gather on game night, have a couple of drinks, eat some slightly overpriced food and watch the big game.
The sports bar mania, if you could call it that, obviously caught the eye of many restaurant owners who saw the financial advantages to showing the big game.
These owners decided to convert their eating establishments from the more family oriented environment, to a place where large groups could gather to watch things like Monday Night Football, and get a little rowdy.
The only problem with that is many of the people who converted their eateries into “sports bars” obviously didn’t know a lot about running sports bars.
These cheapened down versions of real sports bars are all over the place.
Just because you put a bunch of sports pictures on the wall, hang up a bunch of flat screen TVs and turn them all to ESPN, does not make your establishment a sports bar.
The reason I rant is because I have found it very difficult, in the last few months, to find a decent place to watch sporting events. The places I’ve been to, which have touted themselves to be sports bars, have all fit the criteria of being the generic sports bar, much like the diet colas in my fridge.
These places have elements of the sports bar, but they are not sports bars.
This past Saturday, my brother was in the area, and we both wanted to go somewhere to watch baseball and eat a burger.
We get to the “sports bar” that we know has the most TVs, and we sit down and order our food. Just like the typical generic sports bar, every one of the 30 flat screens are on ESPN. At this point, ESPN was showing a basketball game. This seemed odd to me since no basketball seasons will begin for another three months.
We asked the waitress if they could turn one of the TVs to the specific channel the baseball game was on. She went to get the manager. As three employees wrestled with the channel changer, they eventually got the TV to change to the Lifetime Movie Network.
We were a bit stunned as we watched “Too Young to be a Mother” but assumed they were going to get the channel guide so that they could get us to our diamond destination. This was not so. The TV remained on that channel for over 10 minutes, before we finally signaled another waitress.
My brother said, “can we get the TV turned to Fox Sports South?”
She responded, “let me go get the manager, because he’s got the remote.”
After a few minutes passed, the manager emerged with the channel changer, and he proceeded to flip the dial.
After several moments of channel changing, the TV defaulted back to ESPN, which was now showing NASCAR highlights.
We told him that we wanted to watch the game, and he looked at us, pointed to the TV and said in a mumbled voice, “this is the game.”
As I chewed on my $10 chicken salad and watched some race car drivers fighting each other, I couldn’t help but wonder how this place could call itself a sports bar.
So that you don’t make the same mistake I did, I’ve compiled a list of things to look for, to alert you that you might be in a generic sports bar, and not a real one.
• The restaurant may have pictures of athletes doing athletic things on the wall, but that does not mean you are going to see the Vikings vs Saints game on opening night.
• Your eatery may have up to 50 flat screen TVs, all turned to a pseudo sports network, but this doesn’t mean that you will get to see the Braves battle the Cubs.
• There may be a beer company sponsored schedule of SEC football on the wall, but that does not mean that you will see Mississippi State on Saturday afternoon.
• They may serve overpriced food you can get anywhere else $5 cheaper, but that does not mean you are in a sports bar. These are all things found in real sports bars, but it doesn’t make it a real sports bar.
Real sports bars’ managers are acutely aware of what is going on in the sports world. They don’t have to be told that the Cardinals are on another network. They’ve already checked the schedule and made sure the TV was changed at game time to satisfy that demographic.
No one has to tell a real sports bar owner that they need to change the channel off of the World Series of Poker to the World Series of Baseball.
If you’re planning on going out to watch the big game with the guys this year, do your research. You don’t want to get caught paying $15 a plate just to watch the World Series of Billiard Trick Shots.

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