REQUIEM FOR TWO SPORTS BARS

I feel like a woman without a country. My neighborhood Buffalo Wild Wings closed on November 25. For the past few years, that B-Dub’s is where I’ve watched most of the Green Bay Packers’ football games with a small group of regulars. A new B-Dub’s is opening a couple of miles up the street, but that’s a few weeks away. I don’t know whether I’ll like the new place, or which of my viewing companions will make the move.

A while ago, I wouldn’t have cared about the B-Dub’s. I used to drive across the Ohio River to a sports bar called Tickets in Covington, Kentucky, about a half hour from my home. Tickets used to be a genuine, official Packer bar. When I first stepped in there, sometime in the early ‘90s, a sea of green shirts greeted me. There must have been two or three hundred Cheeseheads in that Kentucky bar. There was a trophy case filled with Packer mementos, and I contributed a few of my own over the years. Sometimes they’d do “tailgates” before the big games. We’d have a private room and feast on bratwurst and Leinie beer.

I picked up a few "fan bobbleheads" in Green Bay and donated one to Tickets' trophy case.

Tickets was like Cheers on the TV show, “where everybody knows your name.” I’d slide onto a barstool and Claude, the bartender, would uncap a bottle of my favorite beer without my asking. I’d party with the same fans, year after year. We didn’t always know each other’s full names, but we were a family nonetheless. We watched a young gunslinger named Favre mature into the NFL’s premier player. We exulted in Super Bowl XXXI and agonized over XXXII.

But times changed. Chris bought a satellite dish and stayed home. Buzz and Ginny moved away. The owner said or did something that upset Don, so Don didn’t come anymore. The Bengals had a couple of good seasons, and the green shirts gradually gave way to orange and black. Finally Tickets was sold, and the new owner didn’t want a Packers trophy case in his bar. Claude packed up the souvenirs and took them home.

There was no longer any point in driving across the river, so I embraced the B-Dub’s, just a few minutes from my home. And I found a new group of friends there. Aaron called me “old school,” which I took as a compliment. One of the servers announced that her great-grandfather was an early Packer—and bought a copy of Incomplete Passes. And I found Philip who, like me, has to watch games outside his house because his yelling disturbs his family. Philip is even more superstitious about the Packers than I am. We have our checklists. We have to wear the right shirt, order the right food, and sit on the right barstool. We understand each other. But now our meeting place is gone.

The Packer organization runs a great website called PackersEverywhere.com. If you put in your zip code, it will list the Packer bars in your area. Problem is, there aren’t any listed on the east side of Cincinnati. (Can anyone recommend one?)  I’ll have to check out the neighborhood bars and take my chances.

Traditionally at a sports bar, the most popular team gets the sound turned up on their game, while the other sets are silent. I’d love to find a bar where the Packers get the sound. But I can live without that if I have to. All I need, after all, is to share the experience with one other serious fan in green and gold.

And I know if I look for a while, I will find him—or her. In fact, I’m sure that sometime, somewhere, I’ll open a door and see a cluster of green shirts, and I’ll be home again. Packer fans are everywhere, after all. Regardless of what they say in Dallas, the Packers are—and always have been—the true America’s Team.

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