"You Won't Be Dining Alone"

A Daily Babble Production

Under its working title, "Memo To Sports Bar Owners in the Midwest," this piece was well on its way to serving solely as a frustration-laced diatribe on the current state of sports bar management in the Middle America town in which I am currently situated.

Long story short, I am sick and tired of bar owners around here telling me over the phone that they have the NBA package and that, sure, I can come in to watch the game, only to find that what they thought was "the NBA package" was actually just the option to order League Pass showing up on their channel guide.  This is inevitably followed by the "Wow, dude, that's, uh, odd, dude, looks like we don't have this one tonight.  Dude."  Yeah, this one.  As though normal paying customers are just randomly slapped with the "Call to order" graphic all the time.  Dude.

I can live with the fact that the NBA isn't popular in this part of the country, and it's not the fact that these restaurants don't have the NBA package that drives me up the wall.  It's absurd to keep wasting time and gas heading out to restaurants that claim to have League Pass only to find that the staff couldn't be bothered to actually take the extra four seconds to figure out the correct answer to a phone inquiry.  Handling the TV monitor situation at a sports bar isn't a game for which the players should be held to the same standard as those who hit baseballs for a living.  Batting .300 shouldn't be the goal here for people who can keep customers like yours truly around (and thus ordering food and tipping) simply by competently getting requested games up on screen.  No, this is more of a "play darn close to 1.000 ball or bust" type of deal.  Alas, given the abundance of similar incidents that have occurred for me over the last two years, it appears the folks running the establishments around here are hovering around 2008 Andruw Jones production levels.  It's an embarrassment.

All that said, the astute reader may have pieced together by now that yesterday's stated plan of buying myself dinner and catching the Knicks-Celts game at a local bar didn't quite come to fruition.  As yesterday's column detailed, it was a game of heightened intrigue on a personal level, and the fact that some difficulties on my end prevented me from having normal access to the game made the restaurant a crucial player in the game-watching operation.

I left the establishment shortly after tip-off, feeling a rare brand of infuriation, and it was at that time that the original plan for this column took shape: a tirade full of rhetorical hyperbole expounding upon the sentiments expressed in the paragraphs above.  In short, not good times for anyone.

But a funny thing happened as I set out to write that enraged piece.  My eyes caught hold of a certain comment left by Babble regular Thruthelookingglass on yesterday's pregame piece.

"Cheers, you won’t be dining alone. Celtics Nation is rooting along with you."

And the feeling began to change.  Yes, there were many reasons (outlined yesterday) for which I wanted a chance to see this game in particular, but it simply wasn't in the cards.  In lieu of that, however, I had a throng of resources right here to give me the best idea possible of what was going on:  our front page game thread and forums activity, my pal Green17's great recap, post game reactions such as ma11l and company's wonderful hammer-dropping on the loquacious Quentin Richardson, and, of course, The Guru himself. 

There have been plenty of times over the past few years in which my single-minded willingness to put this nonsense most people call "the rest of life" on hold in favor of the Celtics allowed my father to miss a few minutes here and there taking care of certain obligations knowing he would get an hours-long rehashing from me.  It was odd to see the roles reverse this time.

So rather than dining (or really, moping) alone in any sense, I took a call from my pal Mays, and we had the following conversation right before going absolutely bonkers at a local pizza place:

Mays: What do you eat on your pizza?

SW: Anything.  You name it, I'll eat it.

Mays: Good.  I'm buying the biggest thing in the shop and going completely...nuts on the toppings.

Two hours filled with self-gorging and conversation later, after more toppings than I can name and several more slices than I would care to admit, the voicemail that made the night came courtesy of that perfectly relaxed voice that only The Guru seems permanently able to maintain: "Steve, happy birthday, from the Celtics.  They did it.  Got a little nutsy at the end, but the boys won, and I'm sorry you didn't get to see it."

The customary postgame conversation was a good one, with Dad sounding unusually excited in retelling, "In the second quarter, you should have seen it, Leon, he was something else.  You would have loved it.  And when they needed it later, they got a three from Eddie!  You would have been in heaven."  Scal, Perk, Raj, Pierce, the offense, the defense, the Knicks; we covered it all, and 30 minutes seemed to go by in the blink of an eye.

When the wonderful night-capping discussion had finally completed, it was back to the site to read all the postgame commentary from our membership that I could lay my eyes on.  As referenced above, you folks didn't let me down.

I know we're in the 21st century, and communication across geographic barriers is easier than ever, but as someone who has never lived in Boston, every now and then it hits me anew what a pleasure it is to finally be a part of a community of folks who love this team the way I do.

So thanks to Thruthelookingglass, to Mays, to all of you and most of all to The Guru for coming through in the clutch once more and making sure that indeed, both literally and figuratively, I wasn't dining alone as our beloved Celts beat the 'Bockers.

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