Saturday, February 11, 2017

We Walk into the Neighborhood Bar to Watch Some Football

Applebees on Shaw, Fresno
I was heartened to see the bartender wearing the number 16 on his jersey. Superbowl LI was about to begin, and one of the big storylines leading up to the game was whether Tom Brady would lead the Patriots to a fifth victory, cementing the title of greatest quarterback of all time for himself. Jarred the bartender was wearing the jersey of the true greatest quarterback of all time.

Mindy and I recently moved back to Fresno after 27 years away. When we lived here before, we watched the 1990 Super Bowl when the San Francisco 49ers humiliated the Denver Broncos, with Joe Montana leading his team to an amazing victory. Our son was born a few days later, and we gave him the middle name Montana in honor of the greatest quarterback of all time. So I appreciated the bartender wearing Montana’s shirt. This was our second visit to Applebee’s this this month,* and we went to the Applebee’s on Shaw Avenue in Fresno.

We were concerned before we arrived about how crowded the place would be, what with the Superbowl and all. We wondered whether there would be room for us to sit at the bar. We were happy to find there were some people at the bar, but still plenty of seats. We sat next to Ben, who was wearing a Patriots jersey, who was cheering for the Patriots, and of course, had money on the game.

It was fun to listen to cheers and boos as the game went on. There seemed to be an equal  number of Patriots and Falcons fans, but none seemed too adamant. Even though the two teams are on the other side of country, everyone apparently felt the need to pick one for the day. The commercials occasionally got a bigger response. Frankly, I was surprised that there was any room in the world with so much enthusiasm for another Pirates of the Caribbean or Transformers sequel (about Transformers: The Last Knight someone said, “Man, that looks tight!”).

We ordered the same two drinks we ordered at Applebee’s last week: a Mudslide and a Long Island Ice Tea. We’d heard from more than one bartender that there is a remarkable consistency in the preparation of drinks at Applebee’s, but though both drinks were tasty, the Long Island Ice Tea looked a lot less dark than last time. We’d heard from people to watch out for both of our drink choices for the month. We’d been told they had with deceptively large amounts of alcohol. So far, we haven’t found this to be true of our drinks this month. These two Applebee’s don’t seem to use a heavy pour.

Since we planned on staying for the whole first half of the game, we ordered some food along with drinks, Boneless Buffalo Wings and Steak Quesadillas (from New York to south of the border, the continent was represented on the plates).

Ben next to us didn’t seem like the way the game was going during the first half. The Pats were losing by 25 points, and in Superbowl history no team had ever come back from more than a ten point deficit. He was willing to answer the two questions we always ask in bars, “What makes for a good bar?” and “What makes for a good church?”

Ben said a good bar depends on “the bartender and how attentive they are to their people. And good company.” When asked about what made for a good church, he gave a name, “Ed Ed Rea, write that down. He’s the pastor of Calvary Chapel. I’ve never known a man who knew better how to preach the Bible. The thing about churches is they shouldn’t be shoving the Bible down your throats but teaching the Bible verse by verse.”

Across the bar, I noticed a woman drinking a drink with technology. We were curious, so she told us she was drinking a Coronarita. It’s served in a huge margarita glass with a device for inserting a Corona bottle upside down. I asked if we could take a picture of her drink for our blog, and she agreed. We introduced ourselves and learned her name was April. She also agreed to let us ask her our questions.

I told her both questions in advance, and she quickly answered, “People and people.” People make for a good bar, and people make for a good church. But for a bar she also stressed the importance of atmosphere and ambience, and she does like this Applebee’s. She likes the staff at this Applebee’s, especially Jarred the bartender. She lives nearby, so this is her neighborhood bar.

She said that her church has three services, and she prefers to go to the one in the evening because there are fewer people that service, so everyone greets everyone who’s there. It’s a more casual and social time.

Half time was coming, and I can’t say we were excited about the Lady Gaga halftime show. With 25 points separating the teams, there obviously no more of a game left. We could leave knowing that crock of Tom Brady claiming to be the best quarterback of all time was dead.

Be prepared! We’ll walk into another Fresno area Applebee’s next week.

*Last year as we visited a bar in every state, we scoffed at the idea of walking into the national chain because, well, it’s a national chain. Last year we wanted to go to places that were unique to the state or the town we were visiting. Since the ‘Bee was the subject of such scorn last year, it seemed only fair to give them a month of visits this year. This was the second of four visits planned for this month.

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