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Thursday, May 27,2010

The sports bar

By Tom Winter

When you feel like being a spectator instead

The bar wasn’t much. It was cramped and crowded and stunk of stale beer. Outside, the rain spit and swirled in the wind, a summer storm that had left three days of puddles on the sidewalks and wasn’t about to relent. But inside we were warm, fattening up on wings washed down with cold beverages. Boulder’s hardcores were out there somewhere, no doubt.

Sweating in the rain. Suffering for their sports. But here, we were suffering for ours, as well. After all, the Rockies were in a slump, football was a month away at least and hockey a dim afterthought.

The sports bar is a global institution. And for those of us who don’t think that running 100 miles in some horrendous race through the middle of the Gobi desert sounds like a good idea, the sports bar is where we can find like-minded souls in a town so chock full of elite athletes that if you’re not careful you’ll end up being passed in your car on Flagstaff Mountain by a guy in a tight pink suit on a bike — going uphill!

My advice? Give ’er the gas and head down to one of Boulder’s several fine sports institutions. Don’t have a date? Well, that girl who just climbed Everest for the 15th time isn’t your type anyhow.

In fact, you don’t need a date for a sports bar. These are the only places where no one cares if you’re drinking alone. You’re not there to talk, after all (or impress Miss Everest, for that matter). You’re there to keep your eyes glued to the telly 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 deep-fried poppers a mere afterthought.

But the sports bar offers much more than a port FREE of refuge $25 Team Hat for lonely men to nurse their beers whilethe 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 a 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 first-round pick.

But it’s better we weren’t picked. Because in the sports bar we can hone our coaching skills to a higher level. McDaniels? He blew it by signing Tebow. We can already smell the weakness in that throwing arm clearly over the stale beer. What were the Donkeys thinking? A waste. They should bring back Elway from retirement. Yup, that’s the ticket. Bring back God, and the Super Bowl will follow.

And then there’s the issue of scoring Stanley Cup tickets. You can’t. And 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 you’ll never see inside any arena or stadium and a packed house that screams at every hit.

In some ways it’s better than being there. The replays come from every possible camera angle, parking is free and if you’re really lucky, the Coors Light girls will be prancing around in pants so tight that they might as well be painted on. Be nice to them, and you might even score a free beer. Their phone numbers, though, are out of the question. (What, do you think your name is Tim Tebow 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 or dunk over our heads. 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’re doing the sports bar Boulder style: watching the Tour de France while sipping an iced tea before you meet up with that chick who climbed Everest for a 50-mile mountain bike ride.

Details, details

Everyone knows that a cold beer tastes better after you’ve been out in the sun climbing a mountain, rappelling in Eldorado Canyon or mountain biking Colorado’s singletrack. And Boulder has plenty of options to be a spectator with a beer in hand after your game in the sun is done. Here are a few of our favorites.

Dark Horse (2922 Baseline Rd., darkhorsebar.com) A Boulder legend, the Dark Horse fills up with students when big games are on TV. The mazelike interior means that some sight lines to the TVs can be problematic. Still, with a traditional bar menu featuring plenty of cholesterol, some of the lowest prices in town and plenty of pinball and other games, the Dark Horse is a classic.

Harpos (2860 Arapahoe Ave., harpossportsgrill.com) You won’t find flocks of migrating Boulder yuppies or guys in spandex here. Boulder’s most authentic sports bar serves up wings and cold ones to a mix of CU students and hardcore fans who aren’t afraid to wear their team’s colors, even when those colors belong to the Raiders during Monday night games against the Broncos.

The Lazy Dog (1346 Pearl St., thelazydog.com) Bright and airy, this large space features ample seating, plenty of room at the bar and a mixed crowd that is sometimes into the games, but sometimes is just there for dinner. An ideal choice for families when dad wants to watch the game but the kids are more interested in burgers and fries.

Old Chicago (1102 Pearl St., www.oldchicago.com) Skip the dining room for the bar at this venerable establishment located on the west end of the Pearl Street Mall. With one of the best beer selections in the state, Old Chicago caters to the discerning sports fan, like the guy who wants his cask-conditioned ale served warm while watching the Arsenal/Manchester football game. That’s “real” football, mind you.

Twisted Pine Brewing Company (3201 Walnut St., twistedpinebrewing. com) Fans of baseball (and gluten-free beer) flock to this brewery that features 19 taps of ales and — bring the kids! — homemade root beer. With the complete slate of Major League games shown here, you’re not going to strike out. And the beer? Let’s just say that, with a fistful of awards from the Great American Beer Festival to prove it, the suds here are a lot better than what’s on tap at most MLB fields.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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