Field House, Fresno, California
All right, let’s get the ugliness out of the way. This month, we decided this to devote our bar visits to the NBA finals, rooting the Warriors on to victory. We went to the Field House to watch Game Four, and the Warriors lost, rather ignominiously. The Cleveland Cavaliers set a Finals record in the first quarter by scoring 49 points, following that by setting the record for most points in a half (86), and most three pointers in a Finals game with 24. Golden State never managed to get a lead.
Field House was a busy, crowded place that night, and most people were obviously there to watch the game. At the previous three bars we visited this month, we arrived after the game began -- but not this night. We found two seats at the bar. The national anthem started, so I stood. No one else did.
Eighteen screens were playing the game. There were cars with Warriors paraphernalia in the parking lot, and people wearing Warriors gear inside, but the fans never had much of a chance to get excited. At one point when Kevin Durant dunked and cut the Cavaliers lead to seven, someone called “Here we go!” That was about it.
We each ordered The Classic Mustard Dog; Mindy ordered fries, and I got the onion rings. After we ate, I ordered an Angry Orchard for cheapness’ sake, and Mindy ordered a coffee/vodka drink, Snow Cap. (It was a busy night. I got my drink right away, but Mindy’s was a long time coming. The bartender forgot about it, which happens -- especially when the drink requires a fresh pot o decaf. The bartender kindly comped it when she realized she’d forgotten it, so all is swell.)
It was a good night to ask our two questions of people, “What makes for a good bar?” and “What makes for a good church?” It was a good night to ask, because Warriors fans wanted to talk about anything but the game.
Mindy talked to Gisele to her right. Gisele used many of the same words we often hear, “atmosphere,” “friendliness,” and “ambience” to describe a good bar. And “obviously, customer service, too,” she added. As for what make for a good church, she said, “I’ve been to many churches. Acceptance of parishioners coming in, not being judgemental. Seeing different points of view.” She gave another great quote about what can go wrong in churches: “A lot of people follow the cloth and not the Scriptures.”
I talked to the couple to my left, Alan and Muriel. They are originally from England, and married there in a beautiful Church of England church. But they’ve lived in the States for the last twenty-five years. Alan works in the wheelchair business. He mentioned that his company has made donations to a Christian organization that works with special needs, Joni and Friends.
I asked Alan about bars, and he said what he appreciates is “atmosphere.” I asked him to be more specific, and he said, “It’s the ambience of the bar, not too bright, bartenders that notice you. Not too much noise, though a night like this is different.” (We would have liked a lot of noise from cheering Warriors fans, but there wasn’t so much.) “I like to be able to get to know people.”
When I first asked what makes for a good church, Alan shrugged. “I like singing. I’m not so much into the sermon. I like old style churches.”
Muriel interrupted, “Come on, tell him you’re an atheist.” Alan seemed to want to deny that, “I believe in the Golden Rule.”
Muriel became a Christian when she was 21, back in England in a Pentecostal Church, and she still values the Pentecostal worship experience. When she came to the States, she was very excited to hear Billy Graham speak.
We left Field House with a quarter still to go before the game ended. We thought, of course, that if the Warriors made a really amazing, historic come from behind win and took the championship that night, we’d feel pretty stupid. Sadly, we didn’t feel stupid that night. At least not for that.
Postscript: We watched Game Five, the game when the Warriors won the Finals, at our son’s apartment because he has cable. My brother Dale came over as well. Our dad had taken us both to see the Warriors back in the Seventies, the last decade they were World Champs. Sometimes it’s nice to experience Big Events with Big Crowds. Sometimes it’s nice to just be with family.