Our brand of market-ruled american hedonism requires us to be like sharks, always moving. Unaware of it’s own friction and immune to it’s own speed, as Travis Morrison would say, we are a people that turns its nose up at regulations and boundaries. To stand in the path of another’s progress is inhumane, our market prescribes. Especially in unzoned cities like Houston, we can open a refinery next to a single family house, or an outdoor millennial music venue next to a working class apartment building, there are few things we can’t do, and fewer places we can’t go, our free markets impede taboo and common sense.
Still, you just can’t go to a single-intended use bar before noon on a weekday. Sure, the post-hopeless crowd can get away with it, and of course you can go a combination coffee shop / wine bar that has been coneptually-forced out of rising rent prices that require us all to no longer be just one thing, but the american bar comes to life at 5pm, with few exceptions.
The public house occupies a high importance in the built environment, it’s role in the fabric of society is to be a third place, essentially a shared neighborhood living room. The sports bar could be thought of America’s unique pylon of contribution to the vast history of public houses throughout time, grounds upon which our light tribalism can play out, eased by the flow of beer. Boston would inevitably be home to the first sports bar, providing the perfect breeding grounds of fanaticism and a culture that encourages heavy drinking. 3rd Base Saloon, located blocks away form Fenway Park, opened in 1894 is likely the first sports bar in the world. As was the trend with the first wave of sports bars, they served as meeting places for fan groups, and makeshift museums for memorabilia for a past-time that in its nascent stages. As our living rooms reoriented our attention from each other to the tv screen throughout the 20th century, american bars followed; and as sports became endemic to our social fabric as well the american sports bar that focused on gathering to watch sporting events merged with the traditional mercian bar focused on television events until we all met at bars to watch sports regardless of wall decorations.
We may look back at 3rd Base Saloon as patient zero, the host that introduced Sports into our social fabric, where it continues to weave its viral helix strands into everything it touches, leaving behind an us vs. them narrative and a discourse that is about events rather than the forces shaping them.
Though the changes began long ago, perhaps with Reagan’s tectonic rhetorical shift to begin talking about political opposition as the enemy, the day the symptoms fully manifested its infection of politics is 07.22.2013, the day ESPN acquired Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight. We could see the shifts in retrospect, notably the application of countdowns and tickers during election night coverage (the 2010 midterms was a disastrous season for the Democrats, ever the underdogs), but now it became obvious that the same tools and the same language used to add conversation points and content to sports were the same that Silver brought into the political process in his stint as the NYTimes.
Perhaps inevitable for a generation that grew up with posters of Michael Jordan dunking on his lesser competition, we have begun seeing a cult of personality surrounding political figures, both elected and non-elected tangential figures. Whether left or right, more and more americans will have favored supreme court justices, and an all-star card of representatives. Of course, each side has its favored announcers, Hannity and Maddow are perennial favorites.
Post-2016, the other with the spectrum of american politics is more clearly delineated than any time within the past 50 years, and the groundwork has been set for our tribalism to play out within the frame work of a yankees vs. red sox style rivalry, and the physical home for our sport-politic future is showing itself to be within the american bar.
A gushing of fandoms have erupted on the left around anyone in the cross-hairs of the Trump administration, from Sally Yates after she dunked on Ted Cruz to James Comey whose recent Congressional testimony brought out countless young professionals to bars across america at 8:30am on a work day morning to cheer on the resistance’s star player. Of course, those who followed politics before January 20th knew this was a meaningless event that wouldn’t generate anything of lasting importance, the gleeful fandom was unaware and uninterested, the day was about seeing their man stick it to the other team, those lousy republicans would lose in a blowout.
The morning crowds at these bars was a national nightly newsworthy event for two reasons. This was politics as sports’ true reveal, as we saw the emergence of a new sporting league that could draw big ratings and sell beers. All the while, we saw the activation of a formerly societally prohibited space, the bar at daytime where the rage of Republicans V. Democrats will play out season after season.