Barfly on the Wall

Not me.

The sports bar at the end of my street had the game on. They usually play a couple of the US noon games.  They start at 11 PM. They select a few and throw them on a couple of TVs. It’s not a bad set up. You can request a game.  If you’re a die-hard, they’ll even record it for you and you can watch it later. Anything, I guess, to sell you a drink.

I wandered in and found a seat the bar. They got me a Singha in a cozy and put the game up on one of the screens.  

When viewed side-by-side against, soccer, Formula One, cricket or rugby, the first thing one notices is the incredible amount of commercials during an American football game. It is really remarkable how much of the sport is actually shown.  I’ve been known to nod off during the lulls of a soccer match, rousing when the announcer’s voice rises with the crowd. I’ve watched my share of cricketers wander around in the field, but a televised American football match is all about beer and Ram Trucks, etc.

It does allow for lots of people watching.  On can be a barfly on the wall. 

Commercial after the kick-off… Bartender, polishing her English, exaggeratedly mouths I-Oh-Wa, Oh-Hi-Oh, I-Oh-Wa, Oh-Hi-Oh. She has chubby cheeks and straight teeth that flash strobe-like. Hi-beams come on when she catches me watching. 

My team misses field goal.  Change of possession… The bar is open to the street. Awnings extend to shield the sun and the rain. A slender ladyboy sits alone at a table, lost in her Line account. An entire litre of beer sweating in front of her. Is she waiting? Is this alone time? 

Defense holds to a three-and-out… The heavens open up with the second rain of the day. On cue, the massage shop across the street opens the door wide and a group of 5 dash across the street and inside.  Holding up a hand and asking for spots in 5 of the chairs. Umbrellas are shaken out and shoes tumble off. 

Quarterback draw up the lane on the right side. We’re on the board… the food cart just outside, has fired up the wok and thrown in a handful of chillies. The acrid smoke blows in. In unison, we all cough and, then sneeze in sequence. A large german man erupts in 3 large german sneezes that shake the bar. The bartender hands him a napkin. He offers a wai and blows his nose. The bartender wipes her face with a damp cloth. Tears are flowing. 

We hold them to a punt. Fair catch. Let’s take a quick time out… the large german moves over to a table as some friends arrive.  A Thai woman arrives, in jeans and a t-shirt. “Noi!”, he hugs her, “You’re so skinny! Where have your tits gone? Sit, sit, sit!” She squats down on the ground as if a dog and laughs. He gets up and slides over offering her his chair. This could be a group to watch.

We score a quick strike on a post route… A motorcycle taxi driver roams in. His phone is low on juice.  He reaches behind the bar and plugs in and heads back out. He says something funny to the waitress. She yells after him and giggles.

The opposition is on the board with a field goal… the food stall owner wipes down a table for a hungry couple. Another round of chilli gas issues forth. We all sneeze. The bartender wipes her face and turns the ceiling fans on high for a bit. A plate of noodles is placed before the couple before the start of the next play. They tuck in. 

The quarters change. Teams swap ends… the ladyboy is listing to the left a bit, still thumbing her feed. 

Another score, power-I behind the left tackle…it’s approaching midnight. The crowd starts to trickle out. The german is gone with his friends. Two Brits slide up to the bar to watch the Norwich/Manchester City game.  One of them flirts overtly with the waitress who smiles brightly, but moves away, looking busy. They order two beers and fall into the glow of their phones. Orange embers dangling out of their mouths. 

A safety and change of possession… the 5 massage clients file out and find their shoes. A tuk tuk wheels up and they pile in on top of each other, laughing. They growl off into the night. An Indian peanut seller walks in off the street. Spooning samples to the crowd. Trying to make a go of it.

The points are coming quick now. Another score makes an even 30. A waitress plops down on the chair next to me in front of an empty ashtray. “What is your team?”

I point to the boys in white. “Ah!”, she says, “I work here eight years and I still don’t understand that game. I just know that the day after New Years, I gotta get up at 5 AM for some big game on TV.  Must be big deal!”  

A trick play scores the team in red a quick 7 points….A cricket vender pulls up.  A motorbike with a display box welded on. LED lit tubs of bugs. The bar staff all file out to pick up a snack for later. As does the noodle eating couple from next door. The massage staff across the street file out and sit in a tight circle around a bowl of noodles. The noise of traffic is dying down. They can be heard laughing and talking. 

And that is the end of the first half where the score is 30-10. Looks like a comfortable lead. I settle my bill and head home. The food vendors are having their meals or tearing down for the night. It’s a good place to be. Your team on top at the half and life thrumming by around you.

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