Any sports bar can buy the Sunday Ticket, but your Lord's Day shouldn't be spent in just any bar. Here's what the great ones do right.
Staff who'll kick other people off your table because it's your table
It's always a joy to see a waitress teach squatters the meaning of the word "reserved" instead of just saying, "I'm sure they'll leave by the time your game starts."
A bartender who knows how to use the remote
Anything could happen during the interminable amount of time it takes an incompetent remote-handler to fumble between truTV and OWN as they try to find your Dolphins game. Thank God for the barkeep who gets you there in time to see that 2002 Ricky Williams decided to suit up and give you a running game!
At least four TVs directly in your line of site, no matter where you’re sitting
The ideal’s a Vegas-like, 12-screen wall, making your overwhelmed mind the only thing stopping you from absorbing all the NFL action, plus maybe a soccer match or something. Four games at once is pretty solid, though; three’s the most exciting matchups you can reasonably expect at any given time, and then you’ll need the fourth TV for your team, who, statistically speaking, is probably bleh.
Bars that throw their weight behind a team are full of passion, or, as the Spanish call it, passion. Bars that don't seem to care about any team in particular always come across as caring about your wallet a bit too particularly.
If a prime TV’s tuned to the Panthers and it's not a Panthers bar, and no Panther fans show up because there’s no such thing as Panther fans, a great establishment will listen to the pleadings of whatever fan base did show up, change the good TV to their game, and put the Panthers on that awful TV you can only see if you’re ass-to-ass against some guy’s barstool as you stare at the opposite wall and everybody looks at you like you’re a Panthers fan or something.
The Intimidator Challenge. You don't even want to know what's on it.
A disgustingly large freakburger
Even if only one brave colonquistador a season orders it, it’s still totally worth it just so guys can spend commercial breaks daring each other to eat it.
Wings & quesadillas
Meaty wings are essential -- that kinda goes without saying. As for quesadillas, they’re the goddamn best: the perfect sized personal order when you’re not even considering eating a disgustingly large burger but would rather kill yourself than pick something off the Specialty Wraps menu.
No velvet rope or bottle service-only tables during games
After games is fine -- gotta make that rent. But during games, why would a sports bar ever pretend it was Studio 54? Unless it was owned by Brian Urlacher, in which case that’d be an awesome name.
Just because NFL announcers are horrible doesn’t mean we'd rather listen to Bruno Mars. Playing music during commercials is fine, as long as it's not so loud that patrons can’t hear themselves talk about what a jerk Collinsworth is -- and the tunes are kiboshed when Papa John exits the screen and that jerk Collinsworth comes back on.
Thanks for paying me to drink here!
Spending tons of money on Sunday drinking is the worst, especially if your team loses and you feel like you handed over extortionary bar-rent for nothing. Great drink specials make you feel like the bar's giving you money.
A properly staffed bar
Pro establishments have several crisp veterans back there keeping the drinks flowing. Amateur joints have one guy trying to figure out how electronic cash registers work while patrons go thirsty.
Impossibly cold domestic beer
It's amazing how many places serve not-impossibly-cold domestic beer. It's like they haven't seen the commercials with the glaciers and the parkas.
A goodly sized men's room
Serving dudes any-temperature beer then forcing them to wait in line for one urinal and a toilet that sits way too close to that urinal ought to be a crime. It might actually be a crime. Is it a crime?
A goodly sized men's room that doesn't come with a men's room attendant
Good sports bars don't make you awkwardly scrounge for a dollar to pay some guy just for guilting you into washing your hands -- then scrounge for another dollar because you feel cheap only giving $1 to someone who's dressed nicer than you.
Smart Buck Hunter placement
There’s simply no reason to play Buck Hunter when there’s good football on, but since not having a reason never stopped anybody, a considerate bar will avoid positioning its machine in the middle of a watching zone, where it’s certain to cause four jackwads to impolitely ask you to abandon your hard-earned standing room.
Actually cool old stuff is the best -- it makes customers feel like they're a part of a deep and storied tradition. But having no memorabilia is better than buying a brand new Favre jersey, framing it like it's decades old, and hanging it all alone instead of surrounding it with Dorsey Levens and “Mark Chmura’s Babysitter”. As a customer, it just makes you feel kind of fraudulent.
Toot toot, hey, beep beep. Plaid girls...
Oh my God, that’s so sexist! Yeah, it kind of is, but the fact is that 68% of being a sports fan is misery -- over tough losses, inevitable losses, and players getting suspended for doing something you also did last night. At the same time, if you can stay miserable when you've got this situation going on, you care way too much about sports.
Editor's Note: As one female reader who's more astute about sports than any of us pointed out, hot-waitress bars should also have ravishingly good-looking dude bartenders, because "ladies love sports (and bars and hot people) too". She's right, and she also got her revenge -- we just googled "hot dude bartenders" and forgot to put on safe-search.