Sidelines Sports bar buzzes with healthy conversation as basketball flickers on the many flat-screen television screens. Men, many still in their workday business attire, sip frothy brews and shoot pool.
Suddenly, the distinct first couple of notes of a song trickle from the speakers, and the conversation quiets. All eyes abandon the basketball game, and by the time Cher's familiar synthesized voice breaks across the speakers, a spontaneous ass-shaking party breaks out. "So sa-ad that you're leaving..." A blond girl near us grinds her two guy friends before launching herself at a green pole. Nearby, two guys wiggle their hips exaggeratedly and several patrons bob in time to the music. Eventually, voices mingle together to rise in a cacophonous climactic chorus, "Do you believe in life after love?"
By the second verse, everyone has had enough with the '90s trance-pop and goes back to the basketball game.
Spontaneous celebrations of Cher? That's how you tell apart the sports bars and the gay sports bars. Or, as I like to call them, the sports bars and the awesome sports bars.
Ambiance: An island bar is situated near the front door, and another stretches along the left wall. Grizzly older men take part in an intense poker game at the front of the room while baby-faced boys tease the bartenders and dance to the pulsating pop music.
Brawny bartenders man both bars, which feature several dozen flat-screen TVs. An impressive collection of autographed Marlins stuff, framed baseball cards, Miami Heat jerseys, World Series newspaper clippings, hats, bowling paraphernalia, and fluorescent beer signs pepper the walls, which have been painted a cheerful shade of Miami Hurricanes green. I climb up on a stool at the island-shaped bar, push the complimentary bowl of peanuts aside, and try in vain to capture the bartender's attention away from the dozens of adorable gay guys.
Bartender: Patrick, tall with a goatee, finally brings me a Bud Light, which I reach for expectantly.
"Not so fast," he says. "I have to put a diaper on it." With a remarkable combination of dexterity and doting, he lovingly fastens the beer with a napkin that manages to stay on for the duration of its consumption.
I ask him if they always play sports on the TVs.
"We play sports when they're on; for example, on Sundays," he says. "You're not going to get any HGTV or Food Network in here, that's for sure."
Shots and shenanigans: "Rut-Roh," says the other bartender, James, in a loud and distinctly Scooby-Doo-like voice. A pair of guys claim the spots next to me. The slighter guy of the pair, who wears glasses and enjoys overusing the word fabulous, laughs. His friend, a well-dressed Frenchman, covers his face in embarrassment.
"Rut-Roh," James tells the guy. "We saw you coming."
"Why do you keep saying that?" I ask.
"He's got this cute little face, and when he drinks, he doesn't remember what he does," James explains. "We call him Rut-Roh because that's what you say when you wake up after a night of drinking and can't remember anything."
Rut-Roh laughs. "Oh, it's absolutely true. The other night I told a cabdriver I needed to get home because it was Friday. I gave him my address, but somehow I ended up at TGI Friday's — in Pompano."
Ending up at a bad chain restaurant? That is what's called a negative consequence of alcohol, kiddies.
"What did you do?" I ask.
"Well, fortunately, they were still open, so I went in and had a beer," he says, like it was the most obvious thing in the world. He turns to the bartender. "Shots! Shots over here!"
"Rut-Roh," says James, bringing the two guys buttery nipple shots, which they quickly drain. Inevitably, these gentlemen down four buttery nipples in all.
"There was supposed to be a big group here tonight," Rut-Roh says. "A bunch of friends are moving away. I called two guys who are leaving tomorrow, and they told me they were packing. I told them, 'You're crazy; you should have packed your shit last night.' " He smiles, clearly proud of his dirty gay joke.
Patrons: I told Rut-Roh and his friend that I'd check in with them after they'd marinated in liquor for a few more minutes. The three youngish patrons I'd detected dancing earlier to Cher's "Believe" seem to be settled down at the moment, so I walk over to ask a few questions. Upon my arrival, the tall, electric-blond dude, Josh, grabs my hand and twirls me. We shuffle for a few seconds before their inebriated female friend stands up. "Let's go, guys," she says. "I want to go."
"No, calm down," instructs Josh. He turns to me. "She's drunk." She tries to pull Josh away from where I'm standing.
"I'm sorry," I say. "I just wanted to talk about the bar."
Wes, their compact, stubbly friend, tries to reassure me. But she won't make eye contact with me and stumbles to pull Wes away. Josh takes the opportunity to latch onto my arm and lead me away, leaving Wes to deal with their drunken lady friend.
"Sorry about that," I say.
"Oh, it's OK, she's just drunk," he says. Alcohol is supposed to make you happy, not turn you into a complete bitch. A few minutes later, I run into Wes on the other side of the bar.
"Sorry about my friend," Wes says, referring to the drunken blond. "It's just that she's my fruit fly, and she's really intimidated by other fruit flies."
I wouldn't have minded swatting her, I guess. But what the heck is a fruit fly?
"OK, so you know what a fag hag is?" he asks. "It's an 800-pound, pizza-faced girl who hangs out with gay guys. A fruit fly is a hot girl who hangs out with gay guys. And when my friend sees another fruit fly who's got it goin' on, she gets jealous."
The only kind of fly I've ever been is a barfly.
"Anyway," Wes says. "This bar is really fun, draws a lot of different people.
"The manager of the bar is pretty cute too," he continues, pointing at a tall, dark-haired dude behind the bar. "But I don't like the peanuts. You can quote me on that. 'Wes hates the peanuts.' "
"Done," I say. "But what about the sports? Is there a difference between gay sports fans and straight sports fans?"
Wes laughs at my naiveté. "Gay guys don't like sports."
"That seems like a blanket stereotype," I observe.
"Well — unless it's figure skating," he smirks.
Eventually, "Billie Jean" comes on over the speakers and gets everyone shaking his ass and lip-synching. Sports, unnecessary drama, and peanuts all be damned. Maybe gay guys only like figure skating, but the Sidelines clientele knows a damned thing or two about shot-swigging and ass-shaking. And those are some skills I can respect.