Finding Home In a Sports Bar
Published: Friday, September 13, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 13, 2013 00:09
Watching the Buffalo Bills give the Patriots a run for their money this past Sunday was an epic experience, but for me, it was more about the venue than the game itself. Weaving my bike through traffic on the four-mile ride to downtown Washington, D.C., I arrived at the Laughing Man Tavern just before the 1 p.m. kickoff. Finally, it was the opening game of another hopeful season.
As fans packed into the tavern, a lot was on our minds. We crossed our fingers for another 1,700-rushing-yard miracle season by C.J. Spiller, proving that last year was not just a fluke. We prayed that rookie E.J. Manuel would be worth his first-round selection and that the new coaching staff could master the hurry-up offense. With visions of a Week 1 upset dancing in my head, I locked up my bike on G Street and headed towards the bar.
The atmosphere inside was surreal. Walking through those doors felt like being teleported back home to upstate New York. For the first time in my four years at Georgetown, my bright blue Bills t-shirt did not seem out of place. Everywhere I looked, I saw jerseys and signs worshipping my football superheroes. Of course, there are the staples — Spiller, Manuel, Mario Williamsand Stevie Johnson. There were some throwbacks, too, like Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas. It felt like a circus — the “Bills Backers” were selling raffle tickets for a bus trip to watch the Bills play at home in December, and giant plates of chicken wings and nachos were being hustled around by nimble waitresses. Hundreds of people were standing shoulder-to-shoulder watching the dozens of TV screens decorating the walls.
This was certainly not what I was expecting. I knew Bills fans were a passionate bunch, but I never knew that so many would make the trek to the Laughing Man Tavern. Who would have thought that the Bills — one of the perennial disappointments of the NFL — would attract such an audience? I was definitely excited; heck, I would have biked twice as far to watch my team play our AFC East rivals. But to know that hundreds of other fans cared just as much, and some even more, was really an amazing thing to behold. Swallowed in a motley crew of college students, young graduates and older professionals, I did not feel like I was four hundred miles away from home.
And I probably was not the only sports fan that had such a revelation. Every Sunday, there are undoubtedly dozens of other bars and restaurants serving as the “home” of a certain football team. The Redskins obviously dominate the headlines and the culture; but in a city as large and diverse as Washington, other teams are also well represented. Indeed, many D.C. residents are not born and raised in the city; rather, they are outsiders, migrating to the city to attend college or find employment. They bring passion for their hometown sports teams with them, holding onto their jerseys as a sign of who they are and where they come from.
And because many out-of-town teams are rarely televised, fans make that weekly pilgrimage to whatever restaurant or bar will show their games. It sure beats sitting on the couch and staring at the game-tracker on the computer screen, constantly hitting the refresh button in between each play, and being surrounded by hundreds of fellow fans trumps watching by yourself. In this home away from home, you feel a fiery adrenaline that makes every touchdown and close call much more exciting.
And when your team loses on a last-second field goal, it makes the disappointment a little less bitter. Last week, I walked back onto the street knowing that I was not the only one crushed by Tom Brady’s game-winning drive. I had friends who felt the same way. I had fellow fans with whom I could sympathize.
Playing football is all about the collective. You win as a team and lose as a team. Watching football is no different. On Sundays, the couch is for loners, so do some research and find out where fans go to watch your hometown team. Trust me, your experience will be epic.
Nick Fedyk is a senior in the College. MORE THAN A GAME appears every Friday.