Bob headed to work. The cold December wind chilled his bones and the sky was filled with ominous clouds, a possible storm approaching. He hurried his steps anxious to get inside.
Another Saturday night at the bar. Last weekend before Christmas so it shouldn’t be too crowded. Maybe just a few regulars, Bob thought with a sigh.
As a San Fransisco transplant Bob often wished he worked at Finnerty’s the Irish Sports Bar just up the road. They usually had Bay Area fans. Just now he felt homesick. He knew the holidays did that for lots of folks so it might be fun to be around other transplants. But today Finnerty’s might be crazy. Who needs to referee trashed sports fans? The LA Rams vers the San Francisco 49ers. What a rivalry and what a match up.
Bob felt the vibration in his pocket and reached for his phone.
“Hey, what’s up,” Bob said already knowing who was on the other end.
“Getting ready for the big game?” His dad said with excitement in his voice. “Good match up. But personally I just can’t handle another nail biter. Your mother won’t even watch. We just better win.”
“Yep, it’s been a roller coaster ride the last few weeks, but I’m still betting we go to the Super Bowl. Us against the Ravens. Hell yeah!” Bob roared into his phone.
This was how he always related to his dad. Sports. Not politics, not emotions, not movies. Just sports. That was cool Bob thought as he navigated the crumbling sidewalk. He didn’t mind the sidewalks and sometimes graffiti scarred buildings. He’d take the lower East Side any day over ritzy uptown. He was certainly glad his classes at NYU were located downtown by Washington Square Park.
“Hey, you day dreaming son? I was talking about Joe Montana. No one can ever live up to him and Jerry Rice. Those Hail Mary’s were amazing. That’s where you get your middle name, you know.”
Bob went back to thinking about his graduate classes, his slightly cock roach infested apartment, and his girl friend back home who recently dumped him. His dad’s conversation never ended without a mention of the famed number 16. Or his middle name.
“Okay, yeah Dad, should be a great game. But hey, I gotta go. Almost to work. I’m aiming for a quiet night hopefully everyone is doing their last minute holiday shopping.”
As an afterthought Bob added, “Oh, hey did my package arrive?”
“You’ll have to ask your mother. The game is starting in five, at five California time. Ha ha. Gotta go, but here she is. Convince her to watch son I need the support!” He said signing off.
“Hey mom,”. Bob said trying sound up beat.
“Hi, son, oh I wish you had decided to come home. First Christmas without you, just won’t be the same. You eating okay, are you warm enough, did you get our care package? Did you get your Christmas present? Today is the shortest day of the year, the Solstice your sister says. She’s at some crazy celebration. You hear about this pagan holiday in New York? Oh we are going to miss you. Why didn’t you come home?” His mother asked her questions so rapid fire. And didn’t spare her emotions which always made him feel guilty. So different from his dad. Maybe conversations with his dad were preferred.
“Yeah, I’ll miss you too. Hey did my package arrive?”
In a cracked voice his mother answered, “Oh yes, we’ll open it on Christmas. Oh, Bobby Joe it just won’t be the same.”
Whenever she called him “Bobby Joe it was time to hang up. “Gotta go.” And he clicked off his phone.
Pushing open the bar door he was relieved to see it almost empty. The steam heat of the radiators hit him as did the smell of stale beer and pretzels. Only problem with the place, too small for great ventilation. But he smiled anyway. Home away from home.
He hung his jacket near the tiny fake tree with tiny blinking lights. He pulled his 49er beanie from the pocket.
“Say, glad you’re here. I gotta leave early tonight so you’ll be on your own. But what’s with the beanie? I thought you didn’t like wearing your “colors”. You’ve always said you’re the impartial juror when it comes to sport fights,” his fellow bartender, Jay, said.
“Tonight should be quiet. And yeah, leave anytime I’ve got this. Eight o’clock on a cold winter night and right before the holiday, whose gonna come?” Bob said pulling his beanie in place.
“Game time!” Bob cried clicking on the TV and adjusting the volume.
The few customers looked up but quickly looked down again and into their beer. Standings wasn’t known as a sports bar, just a neighborhood hang out. Sometimes the they broadcast Fox News or CNN or games or even “Ninety Day Fiancé.” All depended on the bartender at the taps.
Bob had arranged his schedule this fall and winter so he could work and catch the 9er games. Not that he was such a fan but it was in his blood. Him and his dad had been to Candlestick Park seven times in his youth. He knew the stats, sided with Colin Kaepernick, and hoped they’d make it to the Super Bowl this year. Yeah, in his blood. Besides they were doing good this year. He’d get excited and definitely cheer but not enough of a fan to get into a fight. He’d seen enough of them. Those tailgating parties at Candlestick with drunk fans enraged as the referees called the plays. One reason he was actually glad he didn’t work at Finnerty’s. Definitely more exciting with bigger tips but tons of raucous fights he’d been told. Yeah, he didn’t want to fight. Nothing was worth a broken jaw or black eye.
A bit into the game a young woman entered also wearing a red and gold beanie. “Hey, another fan,” Jay yelled with enthusiasm. Names were exchanged and Alice made herself comfortable at the bar.
Together the trio cheered and booed and slapped their thighs. Alice seemed the loudest.
“I’m here on holiday visiting relatives,”. She said during a commercial. New York is cool and all but I’d rather be at the game.”
“Hey, you’re a real fan. You should meet my father. He’s a diehard. Why, he even gave me the middle name Joe.” Bob said with a smile.
“Cool, cool. Joe Montana. Yeah, I’m a diehard fan. Born and raised in S.F.. Good thing there aren’t any Ram fans here. Might get ugly.” Alice said emphasizing ugly.
Bob shook his head, glad it was a quite customer night.
During halftime Jay put on his coat. They’d been enjoying the game. Even yelling a bit. A true New Yorker who loved the Mets, Jay was actually learning to appreciate the San Francisco 49ers. Or maybe it was the bond the two men had been developing. One thing, though, Jay would fight. A good bartender who got into the tussle. Black eyes didn’t bother him.
“Well, see ya. See ya tomorrow night. Same time same place different game.” Jay said reaching out to shake hands. “My wife says it’s the shortest day of the year, the Solstice, whatever that is. To me, just another cold winter Saturday night.”
Bob laughed and grabbed his hand.
“And remember, if I forget to mention it tomorrow, come on over on Christmas. The wife wants you to taste her apple pie. New York apples makes the pie sweeter,”. Jay said winking. “Hey, maybe Alice wants to join us, you know maybe you guys will hook up.”
Bob felt the heat rise, and it wasn’t from the radiator. Alice was pretty cute, and it wasn’t a bad idea but Jay had a big mouth.
Tipping his cap to Alice Jay winked again. “Don’t get into trouble “ladies.” Bob uncomfortably coughed. Said in jest Bob knew, but still an unnecessary farewell.
Despite his thought Bob said, “I’ll be there and I’ll bring some ice cream. And wine.”
“Safe home”, Alice yelled as the door swung closed. Then looked at Bob and smiled.
As the third quarter began it was another tight game. 21-24 their favor. Bob smiled and hoped his mom decided to watch the game with his dad. Another nail biter. But the bar itself was mostly quiet. Some customers yelled with them, others just enjoyed the pretzels and peanuts. Alice continued to keep him company, yelling louder than everyone.
Suddenly the door opened and a crowd of people rushed in. Three guys and three gals all dressed in Rams colors.
Settling themselves at a table near the TV they motioning to Bob. In a small joint like this and this late at night usually the customers walked up to the bar to place their order. These guys expected service.
Remembering his beanie Bob quickly pulled it off. No trouble. No trouble, he thought walking slowly over.
The apparent head of the group said with sluggish words, “Moscow Mules for everyone. Can you believe we just got booted out of Finnerty’s. Apparently, too noisy.” We’re Ram’s fans and we’re gonna win the game!”
Bob took the order and glanced at Alice. Fortunately it was a commercial and she missed the comment too absorbed with her phone.
No trouble. No trouble. No trouble.
The game continued, Bob kept his beanie off and Alice seemed to have quieted down a bit, apparently distracted by her phone.
Then fourth quarter and two minutes and thirty seconds to go and the Rams 52 yard field goal tIed the score. 31-31.
Alice looked up and loudly booed and the Rams table noticed her for the first time.
Commercial break and the blurry-eyed man stood up. “Hey, girly. Don’t insult my team!”
Alice straightened herself on her stool, all five-foot-four of her.
“Hey, them there is my team. And I can boo if I want!” Alice yelled, gesturing at her beanie and the T.V..
No trouble. No trouble. No trouble. Bob thought wishing he could hide and realizing although he could make great drinks he was too insecure to diffuse or break up fights.
The game came back on and Bob turned up the sound hoping this would distract. And it did. Although everyone thought they’d be going to half time they turned their attention to the screen.
As much as he loved his team Bob hoped the Rams would win. Alice, although gutsy, she wasn’t stupid. She wouldn’t take on this group. Or would she? Bob wondered nervously.
Then as the clock went to zero the Forty Niners kicker Robbie Gould made a 33 yard field goal to win the game. 31-34!
Alice threw her beanie in the air, cheering at the top of her lungs. The Rams table booed and tossed their drinks.
No trouble. No trouble. No trouble.
“Hey, girly, shut your mouth. That team of yours are babies.” Those referees suck. Unfair unfair. And you girly shut your mouth.”
Alice stood up and put her beanie back on.
But before she could voice her opinions and defend herself one of the other customers, a regular stood up. All 6 feet 5 inches.
“Hey, mister. That’s no way to speak to a lady. You need to mind your manners. Looked fair to me. Hope you didn’t have any money on the game. Now apologize.”
Blurry-eyed Rams fan stopped in his tracks. All 5feet 10inches of him. But he had homies why should he apologize? After all it was a rigged game. “You kidding?”
“You heard me, no way to speak to a lady,” the regular countered.
Blurry-eyed looked around. His team looked even more wasted than him. Slamming his drink down he motioned to the door.
A cold wind blew as the group exited the bar, cursing as they left.
Bob signed in relief. Then he locked eyes with the regular. “Say, thanks.”
“Always need to stand up for a lady. And a true fan,” he said smiling at Alice. A short time later they walked out the door together.
The next night Bob and Jay got to work at the same time. “That was some game. I caught the highlights after I got home.” Jay said. “All quiet after I left? You go home with Alice? I mean two passionate fans.”
Bob remembered the disappointment in her eyes as she flashed a look at him as she left the bar. “Yeah, all quiet.” He said