Sunday, September 30, 2007

New York as a college football town

The closest comparison to college football season in New York is New York during the World Cup. The rest of the city is oblivious to the passions of small, provincial sects. Saturdays on the Upper East Side and in Murray Hill, you pass groups of strangers walking together in team attire, getting together in bars and watching something that reminds them of home.

Most Michigan games air nationally so the bars aren't an issue. Much better to get together in a friend's apartment with people who actually understand the game and watch it the same way rather than cram together in a bar with fellow alumni whose knowledge, intensity or agenda don't quite match.

The Saturdays still have the feel of a secret holiday. Walking around the East Village or the Lower East Side, there's a scattering dressed in shirts for Texas, Notre Dame, or Michigan, all of us headed for a more football-appropriate part of town.

After last week's Penn State game, a group of us passed a collection of Penn State fans standing together outside a Murray Hill bodega. Being friendly, sympathetic types (I've never met a Michigan person who doesn't like Penn State) we didn't say anything. An angry Penn State guy saw us and screamed, "Fuck Blue!", with the rage more appropriate to Columbus. I look back and smiled. "Yeah, why don't you fucking go on and lose three more games this year!" he said, in a way that was indicating fistfight more than trash-talk.

We went to a neighborhood bar where three girls in Arkansas shirts screamed at a TV and a table of Wisconsin fans watched their school edge past Iowa.

In 2003 -- the last time Oregon defeated Michigan -- we watched at Blondie's on the Upper West Side, none of us knowing that it was an Ohio State bar. The Buckeyes finished up just before the Michigan game. I had a beer and waited for my friends. One of the Buckeyes struck up a conversation about how much he hates to see Michigan lose, and how his ideal season is Michigan going undefeated every year until they play Ohio State. I had the same philosophy. We commiserated about the problems with our respective fan bases.

This phenomenon isn't limited to national powers with huge alumni populations in the city. Murray Hill and the Upper East Side are alumni central. Last year, after Michigan beat Indiana, a group of us ended the night in a bar on the Upper East Side that happened to be Manhattan's unofficial Kansas State bar. It was the most fun I've had watching a football game that didn't include Michigan, that Kansas State upset over Texas last year. There was happiness and surprise in the mere fact that the Upper East Side has a Kansas State bar, and the experience of being swept up in the euphoria of fans from a school utterly foreign to you.

The front of the bar hosted Texas Tech alumni that night. Every so often I'd walk up for a beer, past the table of Texas Tech fans, who watched on one mounted TV. There they were, the Texas Tech fans and the Kansas State fans, all of us stuck in a sports town mostly distracted by baseball, the credit markets and other frivolities.

18 comments:

dmbmeg said...

Correction:

Blondies has been an Iowa bar for quite some time now.

CrimeNotes said...

No Buckeyes, huh? I wonder where they watch now. Warren St. John did a long article about this a couple years ago.

blythe said...

once, last year, i made the mistake of watching the ou/texas game at blondies - i think the east side one (so sue me, i am forgetting my NYC geography) and it was terrifying! my friend and i couldn't find any ou people in a sea of burnt orange assholes. it was dreadful. we had to leave 15 minutes before the game ended or erik was going to get in a fight. i mean, he was seriously distraught. where's the secret oklahoma bar? i'll need to know if i ever live there.

Crunk Raconteur said...

Every once in a while this does work nicely for me down here. The Michigan fans that take up about 1/4 of my local sports bar every Saturday are always fun for some good-natured trash talking, as are the 1/4 of the place that loves them some Vols. Never a problem with those guys...

And then there's the other half of the bar. That's where the Texas A&M fans are. You've never known irritation until you've been in a Texas A&M bar. I remember vividly going to the bar one Saturday two years ago to watch Jay Cutler do his thing, and the Texas A&M fans were out in force for the A&M-SMU game.

At one point, they all roared and were jumping up and down high-fiving each other and generally acting like they just won the Rose Bowl or something. So I looked at the replay, and they were going berserk for a late 3rd quarter 50-yard TD pass that they threw despite the fact that they were up 45-7!

All I could think was that I've never seen such utter classlessness...and I grew up an Ohio State fan, for god sake, and we are not exactly known for class...

It was fun, later in the season, to watch those same guys when A&M was getting slaughtered by Texas Tech and Iowa State...

double entendre said...

Blondies (each one) has been a bar for various teams over the last decade that I have lived here. I'm sure one has been both an Iowa and an Ohio State bar, perhaps even simultaneously.

dmbmeg said...

The West Side one was the bar I was referring to. They have so lovingly nicknamed it "Kinnick East." I think the owner went to Iowa.

Except at that Kinnick they don't sell turkey legs as big as your head for me to throw.

dmbmeg said...

http://nycbalderdash.blogspot.com/2006/10/greatest-weekend-ever.html

Ladies and gentlemen....Exhibit A.

CrimeNotes said...

Blythe -- I think the Oklahoma bar is "Proof" on 2nd Ave. Also, have you read The Worst Hard Time? Finished it over the weekend. Stunning.

CR -- The Aggies make no sense.

DE -- Indeed. How's your thong?

dmbmeg -- I'll throw a turkey leg at your head.

dmbmeg said...

The turkey leg reference was for my dear friend Hellafied.

We were tailgating for a homecoming against Sparty I presume? Anyways, there is a guy that sells turkey legs outside of the stadium. I bought one, cause well, I was drunk, despite my hatred for any kind of meat served on a bone (insert crude sexual reference here).

About 3 minutes after I bought the thing, I realized I didn't want it. Rather than pass it off to children of Darfur or whomever was suffering more at the time (a MSU fan perhaps?), I decided to wind up like Nolan Ryan and throw the thing at Gatesy (Hellafied). It hit her square in the temple from about 15 feet away.

Eventually the story became a somewhat urban legend. What started off as a turkey leg, turned into a giant Brontosaurus leg covered in bbq sauce thrown with such velocity it knocked her off her chair and threw her into the wall of Kinnick--a good 50 ft away.

To this day, this story makes me smile.

blythe said...

so what, proof is for losers? i've never been there. of course, i haven't been a lot of places. also, there might only be like four oklahomans in the city anyway.

also, the dust bowl isn't a joke. ok, ha! wait, no, still not funny.

CrimeNotes said...

Wait, where did I imply that the Dust Bowl is a joke or that Proof is for losers? Timothy Egan wrote a great book (when I read it, I felt for you and Mr. Shain) and I believe that Proof is, in fact, an Oklahoma bar. Nothing more complicated than that.

blythe said...

ok, fine. i believe you. shain has turned me mean and cynical. and skeptical. and bitter. blame him. but the dust bowl is a little bit funny.

CrimeNotes said...

Shain is a bad influence on you. He is to be disregarded.

Dustbowl wasn't funny, Blythe. You wouldn't say that if there were dirt in your lungs and you were eating salted tumbleweed for dinner in a shack heated only by burning cow dung.

dmbmeg said...

Jesus Christ.

Who invited Steinbeck?

CrimeNotes said...

Tend to the chickens and stop being mouthy.

dmbmeg said...

I love it when you talk dirty.

crimenotes said...

I love it when the trick-performing chickens hear "Devil Went Down to Georgia."

Cock D said...

Blondies - West Side was also a PSU back in 1999-2001.

I used to love to go to the Gin Mill (Florida) where my buddy organized the outings and taunt the attractive young UF girls who knew squat about football.

Good times.