Thanks to the famous axiom, we know that when we laugh, the world laughs with us, though when we weep, we weep alone. To this I’d add the recent lesson that when you scream “Who Dat!” with such fire and frequency on Sunday night that you’re reduced to a hoarse whisperer on Monday, the Who Dat Nation croaks its exhausted but euphoric allegiance along with you.
The volcanic rapture our city enjoyed on Sunday night was a communal one. We can all bask in it together because we all witnessed it together. Obviously, those lucky enough to get seats in the Superdome experienced the veracity of being there. But because the Dome can accommodate just a fraction of Saints fandom, it was up to the rest of us to turn whatever venue we had found into its own, momentary, satellite Dome. Everywhere, rooms packed with Saints faithful became intense huddles of hope where, in the final, crucial minutes of the game, all attention, prayer, gris gris and imagination were focused on the play.
Dens and decks became domestic stadiums, while many of those on the job during the game’s final minutes surely found ways to tune in, too. And all across town, it seemed that every neighborhood watering hole, every corner joint, became a dedicated sports bar. Because the chances are harrowingly slim of scoring a ticket for the next Saints game, which is of course (brace yourself), Super Bowl XLIV, these gathering places will be even more important. These are the places where friends and strangers alike will cram together to share the tension, the enthusiasm, the fervor and the final emotion of the game’s result.
Mention of a “sports bar” can conjure certain central casting images. There will be TVs mounted everywhere, with unobstructed sightlines from just about any vantage in the house. There will be team emblems and a profusion of sports memorabilia on the walls –– so much the better if bartenders and waitresses wear team jerseys or referee stripes as they work. New Orleans has lost two local archetypes of this sort of sports bar –– Hyttops inside the Katrina-shuttered Hyatt Regency hotel and, more recently, Kabby’s Sports Edition Bar inside the Hilton Riverside hotel.
But in these extraordinary times of all-consuming interest, such theme elements are hardly necessary to lure a crowd, and our neighborhood bars are embracing their roles as surrogate stadiums. It’s safe to assume that as kickoff time nears on Super Bowl Sunday, no one will be shooting darts at Finn McCool’s Irish Pub in Mid-City or playing shuffle board at Markey’s Bar in Bywater or racking up the pool table at Bruno’s Tavern on Maple Street. There will be no room, and anyway the crowd will be too busy jockeying for position, exchanging predictions and venting anxieties to partake in any such barroom distractions.
Fans may already have their favorite spots fixed in their plans for Super Bowl Sunday. Perhaps it’s the place closest to home and thus the safest for the return trip, or perhaps it’s a Quarter bar, the better to preposition yourself for the wild wassail sure to follow in the streets there should we win. Maybe it’s the place where you’ve stored up a lifetime of Saints memories from previous seasons, the glorious and the sour, and where you are now compelled by tradition to watch this new chapter play out. Maybe it’s the place with the most generous food, the best drink specials, the ablest bartenders or just the right “it.”
Where is that place for you? Where will you watch the game, and why, among the many options, is that your pick?