The strange parallels shared by my alter-ego Sixweasels and I continue to flourish, sometimes to a scary degree. I mean, she wrote an entry concerning the fallout of customers at the bar across the street from her Dads and the fact that it was a Steelers bar and something about mean spiritedness and I just sit here shaking my head.
‘Cause it happened here in the land of the Outfoxed as well.
I mean, there was stuff about Steelers fans. And bars. And mean spiritedness. Go figure.
It was last Saturday, the day of the football playoff featuring the Steelers and the Titans, and we were firmly entrenched at the Watering Hole playing pool. Corporate partner Stu has been running a friends-and-family pool tournament down there for months, a regular sort of thing to do on a Saturday afternoon. Perhaps as many as 20 people will show up and wile away the hours gossiping and laughing and sipping a beer. It’s all very much a bonhomie sort of event, much looked forward to by all.
We knew the football game was going to happen. The Hole is, for whatever reason, a Steelers Fan Club bar, and when they play, the normally quiet Watering Hole turns into something curiously resembling the television room on the 4th floor of the Bellvue Mental Hospital.
We knew they were coming and we kinda shrugged and said “Well, if they get loud, we’ll just deal with it. After all, the game starts at 4 and we ought to be just about finished up by then.” A reasonable plan, given that the Fan Club is normally stationed at one end of the Hole and the pool tables at the other. We can all get along, right?
It probably would have been a good thing if the Fan Club had felt the same way.
Things started to unravel at around 3 pm. The much beloved owner of the Hole, a funny little guy known universally as “the Greek” is not exactly the most informed of persons when it comes to the subject of sports. He may have been confused about the time that the game was going to start, or possibly that there was a game on at all, I don’t know. I do know that he only had one bartender/waitress scheduled to work that afternoon. And no cook. So when the first wave of Steelers fans started to flow into the Hole, things started getting hectic.
By the time 120 people were crammed into a bar that only had one bartender, the Greek was on the phone calling every employee he had. He had to be pretty loud about it too, since at least 100 of those in attendance were banging empty beer steins on their table demanding a refill. Or food. Or both.
Which, of course, did not go unnoticed over at the pool tables. I guess we got to feeling sorry for Mia the barkeep, who normally presides over our little Saturday afternoons like a mother hen, anticipating beer needs and occasionally even shooting a round herself. It annoyed us to see her having to run, actually run from one end of the bar to the other or fly around to tables trying to keep up. A couple of us lent a hand by ferrying beers for her or running food orders back to the kitchen, where the Greek had taken up residence as cook.
At 4, the noise level in the place was deafening. Screaming Steelers fans had overrun the dining area and spilled out into the pool table end. There are 14 TVs in the Hole and every one of them were tuned to the game, including the ones over the pool tables. For the friends-and-family crowd, the scene was not unlike that of a pack of wolves at a fresh kill. But we played on. In a benign spirit of “Hey, we were here first. Let ‘em have their fun.”
The tide really began to turn as the game got interesting. The Steelers started out well but the Titans were keeping it close and the crowd was getting into it. By this time the Greek had help, virtually every bartender and waitress that had ever worked there had showed up and the booze was really a-flowing. For the Fan Club, that certain level of happy drunkenness had already been reached and they were willing and able to take it to the next stage.
Which is not to say that there weren’t a few of the friends-and-family crowd who hadn’t been dipping their bill. Not at all. Not only dipping, but plunging face first, a few of them.
I don’t know who started the chant “Let’s Go Titans”, but you can bet it wasn’t the Steelers fans. It was kinda catchy. The friends-and-family are worthy assholes at times, and for gosh sakes somebody had to root for the underdog. It only seemed fair.
So I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised. Stu’s wife Patty, who is not exactly known for mousish behavior or sitting still for very long, began to have words with a flush faced Steelers Gal sitting nearby. Steelers Gal was loud and rather fervent in her desire to kick hell out of somebody, since her team was doing rather poorly at the time. And having words are one thing, but the throwing of ice cubes from cocktails is another. By the time Steelers Gal had launched cube number three in the direction of Patty’s head, Patty had had enough.
She took off her glasses, folded them neatly and set them on the bar. Which must be the girl equivalent of removing shoes. And I kinda looked in the direction of Stu, who shook his head as if to say “Nah. If she gets into a fight, I’d hate to be the one going up against her.”
Patty squared up to Steelers Gal and one or the other of them yelled “Bitch!” and off we went. Patty got in a clean right cross and followed it up with a fine hair grab (why is it always the hair snatching thing with girls, anyway?). There was a shoving match and the two separated, breathing heavily, both of them no doubt thinking that age and beer were probably not helping their pugilistic efforts at all. Stu and I watched impassively, figuring that the whole thing was over before it had even started.
It probably would have been over if Steelers Gal’s husband hadn’t decided it wasn’t. He got between the two of them and shoved Patty away. It wasn’t hard for him to do this since he weighed in at 250 pounds and stood 6’-2”. But for Stu Jr., it was a bit too much to watch. With a loud “Get off my Mom!” he launched himself at the big guy and succeeded in getting him on the ground before he was rabbit punched in the general area of the groin and smothered by the big dude, who had at least 75 pounds on him.
And that’s about the time when Stu got involved.
Stu isn’t a small man. And you don’t spend 8 hours a day tossing lumber around like matchsticks without acquiring a certain amount of bulk in the upper body and arms. He picked up the big guy with little effort, moved him over on a separate piece of ground (“Thanks Son, I got it from here”) and proceeded to tattoo the big guy’s forehead with a jackhammer series of blows until squealing contrition was heard. In the meantime, Steelers Gal was being similarly dispatched by Patty, although it was more like Friday Night Wrestling than anything else.
Then it really was over.
And where, you might ask, was Outfoxed in the midst of all this?
Well shoot, somebody had to make sure the beer didn’t get spilled.
Actually my role was clear. I waded into the scrum and grabbed handfuls of contestants and nudged them, not unkindly, to neutral corners. Checked for any obvious injuries (nothing serious, that I could see) and yelled “Enough!” in a basso profundo tone. Several times in fact.
The whole incident took about 30 seconds.
By this time the football game was nearly over and, for sure, any resemblance of a pool tournament had long since passed. Stu and I gathered up wives and friends and shooed them, along with Stu Jr. out the door. I hung out long enough to see everyone out while Stu huddled in conversation with the Greek. From what I could see of it, it wasn’t a happy encounter. No indeed.
We all gathered at Stu’s house for food and, of course, a blow by blow re-telling of the Rumble. Stu was loud and profane. “That’s the last time I set foot in that joint. Bastard tried to jump my family! I told that Greek to keep those damned Steelers fans over where they belonged and everybody would get along fine. But nooooo, can’t have that can we?!”
I pulled him aside and asked “Look man, what were you and him talking about there at the end?”
“I told that rotten Greek what happened and he was all like, ‘These things happen’ and shit. Where was he before all this was going on?”
I reminded Stu, as gently as possible, that the Greek had his hands full with a barload of customers and wasn’t it just possible that he was in the kitchen at the time?
Stu wasn’t hearing it. “That’s the last time, dammit. As a matter of fact, this is an official boycott! NOBODY goes into that place!”
Now this isn’t the last time that this threat has been made, to boycott the place. The last time it happened it was for much more beneficent reasons, the rate of service by the one and only bimbo bartender.
And there were no demands of solidarity from Stu, or anybody else for that matter. Eventually (I’d say about a week) we returned and all was well in the land.
But for the past week or so Stu has been firm. “I just hope I don’t hear of anybody going to the Watering Hole! Place is no good I tell ye! I’m taking all my business down to the Fat Guy’s Place and we’ll just see how long the Greek lasts!”
Fat Guy’s Place is a dive, but a dive with good intentions. It’s a beer only place, as opposed to the Hole. Since Ally likes an occasional splash of Parrot Bay in her Coke, it’s not the sort of place I’d expect her to want to hang out in, or play pool in. So.
I’ve been breaking the boycott.
As a matter of fact, so has everybody else.
Yeah, we’ve done more than our share of breaking the boycott. But the barkeeps and regulars at the Hole keep asking, “Where’s Stu? What’s the matter with Stu?” With good reason, since Stu and I are probably the best tippers in the joint. And Stu being Stu, he really does make the place fun. His is the sort of personality that draws people into a place just to see what will happen next. So in that respect, I guess he’s somewhat justified in thinking that a boycott will ruin the Greek.
I don’t know. The Greek seems to be doing just fine. And Fat Guy is pleased with the sudden influx of new customers. So maybe everybody is happy.
Me, I just wish for one day I wouldn’t have to hear the story of the Fightin’ Stu’s all over again. And I do miss the pool tournament on Saturdays.
Maybe I should get my own pool table. Put up a bar in my garage.
But you can bet your last dollar it won’t be a Steelers bar.
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