The haven: The sports bar |

The haven: The sports bar

Tom Winter

The bar wasn’t much.

Cramped and crowded, it stunk of wet gear and beer.

Outside the snow swirled and spit, a wet storm hammering the peaks as winter struggled to unleash a new ski season. We had been in France for three weeks but, here, in the warmth and dim lights we were at home.

Because, the bar, nestled at the base of the massive French ski station of Val Thorens, was a sports bar. So we drank our beers, watched highlights of the latest Manchester United game on the satellite TV and listened to the conversation spilling around us.

Everyone was speaking English. The French don’t understand sports bars, but the Brits and the Yanks and the Aussies do. And that’s who filled “The Frog and the Roastbeef” to the rafters on that drunken evening as Manchester took another one from Liverpool and the pints flowed freely.

Sports bars are a worldwide institution. In a more urban setting, particularly in the States, you’ll find hundreds of them. In the High Country we aren’t spoiled for choice, either. These are the places where you can go if you happen to feel like a solitary drink.

No one cares if you’re drinking alone in a sports bar. You’re not here to talk, after all, but to keep your eyes glued to the tele and focus on the game.

The specter of the lonely alcoholic with his drink doesn’t exist in the world of the sports bar. Nope. Have a solitary drink (or several) in the dark confines of the sports bar and you’re one of those exalted members of society – The Fan – who has to be there to give moral support to the home team, the beer and the booze, a mere afterthought.

But the sports bar offers much, much more than a port of refuge for lonely men to nurse their beers, while the Rockies drop yet another game on the road. They’re the places where even us non-athletes can get into the

competitive mood of the game.

After one or two or three or four, we can emotionally connect with the players, reliving our bygone days as athletes when we scored the winning touchdown in the crucial final game of the fifth-grade, flag-football season.

Yes, we know how it feels to hoist the championship trophy. We’ve been there and done that and, if those stupid men in suits had gotten their act together on draft day, we would have been a top round pick.

But it’s better that we weren’t picked. Because in the sports bar we can hone our coaching skills to a higher level. Mike Shanahan? Yeah, he blew it by signing Griese. We saw the weak incompetence in that arm the first season he played.

What the hell was Coach thinking anyway? And to hold onto that joker for the last couple of seasons? A waste. The Donkeys shoulda brought Elway out of retirement. Yup, that’s the ticket. Bring back God and the Super Bowl will follow.

Finally, there’s the issue of scoring those Stanley Cup tickets. You can’t. And, even if you could, the price is way, way out of your league.

The Sports Bar solves this conundrum with huge screens, multiple TVs, the kind of drink specials that you’ll never see at any arena or stadium and a packed house that screams at every hit into the boards.

In some ways, it’s actually better than being there.

The replays are better, the parking is free and if you’re really, really lucky, the Coors Light Girls will be prancing around in silver, hot pants so tight they might be painted on.

Be nice to them and you might score a free beer. Their phone numbers, though, are out of the question. (What’s wrong with you, do you think your last name is Forsberg or something?).

Yes, the Sports Bar. It’s an institution that only a real man could love -although once, I think I saw an actual female patron in one. It’s here where we sweat and strive for greatness at the pool table and can talk smack about Kobe Bryant.

Kobe, of course, isn’t here to pound us into oblivion. But no matter, because, if you’re a true-blue American male, this is your home, your temple and you are the king here.

This is true even if you happen to have the misfortune of being stuck in France, with a snowballs chance in hell of catching the best TV show on the planet – Monday Night Football.

Be it Manchester United or Real Madrid? Beckham is a wimp. Everyone knows that.

Just The Facts:

What is the best sports bar in Eagle County? The one you’re drinking in right now. Here are a few other suggestions if you don’t already have a favorite.

The Sundance Saloon: Dark, dingy and the best place to watch the Rockies lose again.

The Altitude Club: As close as you’ll get to the Pepsi Arena when the Avs are making a run at the Cup.

The Saloon: Free chips and salsa, an impressive collection of sports memorabilia and some of the best margaritas in the valley.

Paddy’s: A favorite with Eagle Vail locals, Paddy’s offers a large selection

of tap beers and great Buffalo wings.

Brush Creek Saloon: The Eagle local’s choice for cold-malted beverages and Broncos games.

When he is not lurking in a sports bar, Tom Winter is a freelance writer, based in Vail.

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