I've always hated football. Maybe it's because I personally suck at organized sports. Maybe it's because I just never saw the appeal of watching a bunch of hulking idiots trying to break one another's bones and making millions of dollars doing it. Football fans, I thought, were a low-brow pack of male chauvinists who never read a page of Chaucer or took their wives to see a string orchestra.
To my chagrin, in the past of couple years, I've ended up spending a ridiculous amount of time hanging out with a football fanatic. Because he didn't fit my preconceived notions about football fans (well, not all of them, anyway), I decided to try watching a little of the run-and-grunt epic. Next thing you know, my TV's playing ESPN, I know the teams, I'm acquainted with the players, and I'm tuned in to all the personal drama (like the way Vince Young's mama recently told people to stop picking on her poor baby boy). And this year, not only do I have a fantasy football team but I have even stooped to verbally abusing my TV set ("Phillip Rivers, you idiot, didn't I just tell you to score a touchdown?!"). Out of loyalty to my hometown, I selected the Dallas Cowboys (America's team) to root for.
Sunday-night football is a great time to sit back with good company, sip cheap watery beer, and scream at lots of TVs — in public. We decided to check out the Quarterdeck by the beach (2933 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale) to witness the Dallas Cowboys obliterate the Green Bay Packers (or so I hoped).
Quarterdeck, 2933 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale.
Ambiance: For a place with dozens of sports-showing TVs positioned to accommodate every eye in the bar, Sunday night was mysteriously quiet. We walked around the giant blue aquarium (with fewer fish in it than TVs in the bar) and took our seats at a wooden booth in the corner. The walls were decorated with neon beer signs and beach-themed pictures; kayaks and canoes hung from the ceiling. A giant plaster statue of a marlin (a spot on his side devoid of paint indicated he had lost a flipper) hung right behind my head. Low overhanging green lights illuminated the big wooden bar, and a few guys sat around it, engrossed in the big-screen TVs. Our tabletop had a picture of a hungry shark printed on it, and I quickly vowed to cover his beady black eye with the bottom of a full glass of foamy beer.
Drinks: Simple as this: Everywhere was the Coors Light logo. It's the official beer sponsor of the NFL — which means it's cheap. Yeah, Coors is a bit watery and maybe not quite delicious, but it's beer, and the napkin holder informed us that it was going for $2 a pint. No-brainer. It was our drink of choice. My football buddy, Mike, also ordered four sliders (I stole most of the onions off the miniburgers while he focused on Tony Romo), and I ordered a plate of mozzarella sticks. Our waitress' nametag read "Lisa Turtle," and she took her sweet time bringing us our beers (slow and steady doesn't win the tip, sweetie). But she smiled politely at our stream of Saved by the Bell jokes. She was short and adorable, with a headband and well-applied mascara.
"So we're clear, your nametag is, er, a Bayside High reference?" I asked. "NBC around 1991, I'd say. Any particular reason for it?"
"Well, my name's Lisa," she said thoughtfully. "The other part is kind of a joke."
"Oh, because you're slow?" Mike asked innocently.
"Like, slow-paced, not stupid," our other companion, Tom (a Packers fan), quickly clarified.
"So what was it like dating a skinny guy who buttons his shirts up all the way?" Mike asked.
"Do I look like the kind of girl who'd date Screech?" Lisa demanded indignantly, putting her free hand on her hip.
"He's kind of a jerk now," she said.
"Yeah, have you seen his sex tape?" I asked.
"Never Google Screech," Tom said. "It's... dirty."
Football fans: The first quarter of the game was, to be honest, kind of boring. Both teams went deep into enemy territory but traded only field goals. (Look at that, Mom; your baby girl is a sportswriter now!) Somewhere after my fourth (or maybe sixth) glass of watery beer, I noticed a trio perched at the bar, all seemingly engrossed in the game. Cliff was dark-complexioned and thin, and Jay had a mustache and matted dark hair curling out from under a white baseball cap. They both had their eyes fixed on the game. Anna, who had big dark eyes and wore a sundress, absently stirred her Captain Morgan rum.
"Who are you guys rooting for?" I asked.
"No one, but it's better than sitting at home alone," Anna said.
"I like the sport," Cliff said, "but I'm not rooting for anyone in this game."
"No? Did you like the Packers better before Brett Favre left?" I asked, beating Cliff in the face with my football knowledge. Oh, ESPN, how you've paid off.
"No, I like him less now," Cliff said. Fair-weather fan.
"Who are you rooting for?" I asked Jay.
"Romo," he said. "He's my fantasy football quarterback."
"Nice choice," I said, struggling to stop from squealing that I had a fantasy football team too. "Just hope Jessica stays out of the stadium."
Unnecessary noise: We couldn't help noticing the loud clanging of a bell that shattered our football-watching trance time and again. It was obnoxious, but none of us would stop gazing at the TV long enough to find its source. Finally, when Lisa Turtle came back with the umpteenth round of $2 drinks, we asked her.
"They ring it whenever we drop something," she said matter-of-factly.
"Seriously?" I asked. "Who's the butterfingers? We've heard it, like, 12 times."
"Yeah, it's like as if dropping that entire tray of drinks wasn't embarrassing enough, let's call more attention to what a klutz you are," she said, seemingly speaking from a very recent experience.
"So," Tom inquired, "who are you rooting for in the game?"
"The Packers," she said. "I'm from Wisconsin."
"Not Romo?" Mike whined. "He's from Wisconsin too!"
As Mike went back to watching the game, Tom and Lisa Turtle exchanged stories about rural Wisconsin.
A few minutes later, we heard the distinct clatter of glass hitting floor and covered our ears. The bartender, looking dementedly smug, reached up and tugged the shit out of the rope, sending a blast through the room.
Disgruntled football wives: I noticed another couple sitting at a table under a TV showing the football game. Tyrone had a stud earring and wore a white T-shirt over a white wife beater. Nadine had a round face and flawless skin. She wore a floral dress — this was not standard game wear — and a sour expression.
"Can I talk to you guys a second?" I asked.
"I'll take a cheeseburger," Tyrone said without looking at me.
Nadine rolled her eyes. "She's not a waitress."
"Oh," he glanced at me quickly, then turned back to the TV.
"I, uh, came over to ask you who you guys were rooting for in this game."
"No one," she said, pointing at her companion. "I've got nothing to do with this."
"I'm rooting for the Cowboys," Tyrone said, still refusing to tear his eyes from the TV.
"I like T.O.," he said. Mere months ago, that would have sounded like gibberish to me, but now I know he meant Terrell Owens, the motor-mouthed wide receiver for the 'Boys.
"I'm actually from Dallas," I said in a bit of a bigger-'Boys-fan-than-thou voice. I turned to Nadine.
"You have any favorites?" I asked.
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Nadine was adamant. "No. I'm not watching this."
"We'll go home at halftime," Tyrone said, trying to placate her.
Halftime came and went, and the pair remained at their table. Finally, halfway through the third quarter, I glimpsed Nadine walking across the parking lot. Tyrone still hovered near the television set, hoping to glimpse a few more precious seconds of the game.
By the end of the game, Mike was pleased with Romo's performance and Tom could only shake his head at his talented but disappointing Packers. Despite a lackluster game from T.O., the Cowboys dominated. ("How 'bout them Cowboys?!") I'll admit it: My fantasy football team is less-than-stellar (anybody want to trade for Plaxico Burress?). But unlike most of the bored girlfriends here tonight, I know a quarterback from a wide receiver. And if our table full of empty pint glasses was any indication, I still rule at beer-drinking.