Posted On: 06/27/2004
While “fan” is short for “fanatic,” the latter more aptly describes my sports addiction. At the 1982 National League Championship Series (age 7), I understood the drunken man burning an Atlanta Braves pennant outside Busch Stadium. In 1983, I wore bumblebee soccer socks, Sambas and satin Umbro shorts – just like St. Louis Steamer Steve Pecher. During game seven of the 1985 World Series, still under Don Denkinger-induced shock, I began sobbing in inning five, coming to grips with the fact that the Redbirds would not win another title. In 1986, asleep to my parents, I reveled in Blues announcer Dan Kelly’s shock from Doug Wickenheiser’s miracle goal. In 1987, I enthusiastically booed incompetent Big Red owner Bill Bidwell, who went on to steal the Cardinals away to Phoenix and my dad’s bleacher seats to memory.
As an adult, little has changed except, when not at the game, I’m at a sports bar watching the game. I know sports and their bars inside and out. Obviously, Sauce readers do, too. This columnist wholeheartedly agrees with Ozzie’s Restaurant and Sports Bar being the readers’ 2004 Best Sports Bar champ. Why? Ozzie’s is based more on what sporting events are not, rather than what they are. For all my sports fanaticism, I admit that sporting events are mostly boring: 10 percent enthralling action and 90 percent mind-numbing inaction. Pitchers stepping off the mound, TV timeouts, halftime, etc. All sports bars telecast games; a great sports bar diverts television attention during the mind-numbing inaction. It’s the bar’s distractions that ultimately get you through the game. Ozzie’s properly distracts.
Distraction No. 1: 55 televisions – five big screens, 50 regulars
No seat is without a television view. Best of all, the televisions are properly ranked. For example, the NBA playoffs rightfully took big-screen precedence over the Cards game. If a major sporting event is being broadcast, it’s likely on at Ozzie’s. So, when you’re sick of Jimmy Edmonds adjusting his helmet/mascara for the 15th time this at bat, turn right to another television and watch Rip Hamilton dunk. When Marc Bulger calls another darn timeout, turn left to watch Terrell Owens throw a hissy fit.
Distraction No. 2: Smithsonian-worthy sports memorabilia
Hall of famer Ozzie Smith opened this bar in 1989, decorating with trophy cases, framed pictures and jerseys, magazine covers, posters, sports equipment, a large Cardinal-great mural and more. During a commercial, admire/laugh at the dozens of framed 8-by-14s: Ozzie with Bill Clinton; pre-coke Pedro Guerrero and into-coke Daryl Strawberry; Jerome Bettis with Sean Gilbert. While the referee reviews the play after another Mike Martz challenge, re-read the front-page Superbowl XXIV stories on the walls and bar-top collage. When Joe Buck starts singing or using words like “mélange,” admire The Wizard’s trophy-cased 13 gold gloves, and ask yourself, “Do they actually dip the entire glove in gold paint?”
Distraction No. 3: A huge food menu
Ozzie’s is part casual restaurant, part sports bar, so the menu is large. The portions are generous and prices above average. During the pregame, while Al Hrabosky drones on about Albert Pujols’ “gold-glove defense,” agonize over what to choose: appetizers (11), salads (eight), soups and combinations (six), steaks (four), entrées like ribs or catfish (nine), low-carb selections (six), pastas (four), Mexican dishes (four), wraps (four), sandwiches (10), burgers (five), pizzas (two sizes), sides (nine) and a four-page special-menu insert.
Distraction No. 4: Good help
The Ozzie’s servers – some dressed straight out of “A League of Their Own” – are friendly, fast and good-looking. If your game isn’t on, ask, and they’ll gladly hook you up. When Quin Snyder calls a timeout because he hasn’t a clue on how to motivate his players other than with free tracksuits, flirt with a waitress. When Cody McKay is batting, talk cars and politely order matches.
Distraction No. 5: Enthusiastic fellow fans
It’s nice to see people angrier than me after Matt Morris gives up another home run. I mutter f-bombs to myself, while the Ozzie’s regulars enunciate. As evidenced by pro-Piston/anti-Laker cheering, many patrons are passionate and know their games. So, when John Madden is yet again jawing about “turducken” rather than talking about Az Hakim’s touchdown, discuss the merits of the cover-two defense with the guy next to you.
Distraction No. 6: A mini-arcade
Ozzie’s has two 2005 Golden Tees, along with another solid five video games. So, between periods, play Terminator 2. When Joe Sakic puts the Avalanche up four on the Blues, killing your interest, virtually spear Eddie George and Steve McNair in NFL Blitz.
Lastly, when Tony LaRussa again threatens to “[mess] up” Dusty Baker, just watch. It’s really funny.
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