Mere hours after the Dolphins' recent victory over the Bills, I was engrossed in a game of Texas Hold 'Em at Jester's Pub, unaware of my home team's outrageous fourth-quarter comeback victory.
It's poker, baby! A bona fide ESPN sport that's sweeping the bar landscape in places like Waxy O'Connor's, Maguire's, AllStars Sports Bar, and now Jester's.
Indeed, who cares about watching the big boys making millions on the football field when you can throw flushes and straights while smoking? In the world of poker, Kenny Roger's wise words "know when to walk away" rule the game. But in Texas Hold 'Em, when you get the kind of hands I do, the shifty-eyed veterans push you right off the table. I picked up my beer and headed over to chat up the folks at the bar, looking right past the televisions, still unaware that the Dolphins had just managed the second-biggest comeback in their history. Even as a true-blue local in these parts, I've never assumed that pride in our professional sports teams is a part of the gig.
Neither do most South Floridians, if you take the word of a Buffalo native named Bodie, whom I met at one of Jester's two bartops.
"Miami fans are all yak and no shack," he said.
"At halftime, the score was 21-3, and Miami came back to score 21 points and win the game 24-23," he said, pointing out that many fans left at the beginning of the third quarter. "You're half fans. True fans stay in and hope to have their team win."
He should know. "The Bills have the biggest comeback in NFL history against the Houston Oilers," he said, referring to a January 3, 1993, playoff game when the Bills rallied from a 32-point deficit. "If Miami fans were true fans, they wouldn't give up on their team."
Twenty-seven-year-old Randy, a young brunet from Rochester, New York, also in town for the game, was hanging at Jester's with a rowdy group of friends. He comes to Florida for every Bills game, and he popped over to give his two cents worth on South Florida fans. "Up north, there's a better work ethic. People are harder workers. Down south, they're not real fans. They're there for entertainment, not for football."
Twenty-two-year-old Justin said: "I stayed till the end of the game. I was so hammered, and I knew the Bills were about to lose, because they blow every game in the third quarter. They play the game not to lose." But at least he supported his team, even with all its faults. "Anyone who likes the Fins definitely has something wrong. Who'd the Dolphins ever produce? Their best running back is a fucking pothead who's only playing because he owes the team money."
Why were these Bills fans coming down so hard on Dolfans?
Perhaps there is something a little odd about us. Like, even at rock concerts, Fla-botomized music lovers can barely muster the requisite applause for an encore. And when you do clap and whoop, they look over their shoulders at you and scowl. Is it the weather? Is it the transient society? Why, even when our boys the Dolphins spin a big win, can't South Floridians stick around long enough to be rocked?
Bill, a brawny bald guy with a mustache, sitting at the outside bar of Bru's Room, attempted an answer. "If you live in a town like Buffalo or Pittsburgh, you're into your team. When I lived in Buffalo and Cleveland, that's what you lived for, win or lose. Here, it's just a party."
Jeff, his bespectacled drinking buddy, added: "Miami's the only place where you can get a ticket to a football game. Who's actually from Miami? Ten percent of the population. I grew up on my daddy's knee cheering on the Giants. I'm never going to change."
For a rebuttal, I looked for a local who actually likes the home team. Shelley, a young blond, explained that there was only one reason for her Dolfanship: "I like Nick Saban. I'm interested to see what he'll do with the team. Before here, he coached for LSU and did great things with the team."
Her 23-year-old friend Kelly said, "You're Dolphins fans? Dolphins suck. I'm a Patriots fan."
"Why?" I asked.
"Because Tom Brady is hot," she answered.
Sheez. Surely, there had to be real fans of our local footballers. Finally, I found Dan, who said he was the biggest Dolphins fan there is. "I was at the game," he told me. But then he admitted the awful truth:
"I left ten minutes before the end of the fourth quarter."
His friend made him admit it was even worse than that: "You left before we had our first touchdown."
"Why," I asked him, "would a true fan leave then?"
"I had to go to the bathroom," he explained. "Then I left. It was over. It was done. As I went lower and lower from the stadium, I heard cheering. I went back to the bus, the most customized bus you could ever imagine, and watched the rest of the game from the parking lot. I paid $180 for those seats, and my brother-in-law from Jersey stayed up there."
"Any regrets?" I asked Dan the fan.
"I can't believe it. I fucking left."
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But, to put everything in perspective, Dan added: "Bills had the game won in the first quarter. Bills fans are talking based on humiliation."
In the end, it was anybody's game. A lot like Texas Hold 'Em.
The Dolfans walked out on their boys too soon, but the Bills still got pushed off the table. At the end of the day, we may be fair-weather fans, but oh shit, my calendar says it's almost January. And we're going to have fair weather again tomorrow.
Have fun in Buffalo!