It's tough being an NFL fan living deep in enemy territory, spending Sundays and sometimes Mondays/Thursdays tearfully alone even in victory. But it doesn't have to be that way: here are a few hotbeds of alternative fanaticism, where the Saints can march, New Englanders can wax Patriotic, and Cheeseheads can just...be:
Where those Saints Go Marching: Shoal Creek Saloon 909 N Lamar; Downtown; 512.474.0805 A Clarksville mainstay for nearly 20 years, Shoal's Who Dat legions were so passionate about their Saints they inspired the owner to hire a Cajun chef to pump out gumbo, boudin, crawfish etoufee, and a Sunday special of red beans and rice, as well as sling bottled Abita Amber, Satsuma, and Root Beer -- because no matter what team you like, you can always cheer for beer. Yay! Catfish! Color TV! What else could you possibly want?
Where the Packers Get Cheesy: Billy's on Burnet 2105 Hancock Drive; North Central; 512.407.9305 Owned by a man whose love affair with GB stems from his first football card of Vince Lombardi, Billy's is a 28-tap haven for ex-Wisconsinites that opens early for Packers games, grills up game-day special brats with sauerkraut on a hoagie, and also serves the faithful $2 Lone Star pints -- because as Mark Chmura would say, cheating on Texas with Leinenkugel isn't "something a married man should do". Their website is as no-nonsense as Ryan Grant's running style
Where the Patriots Salute: BD Riley's Irish Pub 204 E 6th St; Downtown; 512.494.1335 A Pats enclave for 5 years running, BD's offers $3.75 game-day pints of Smithwick's Irish Red, while their 65inch "Screenzilla" really captures the fullness of Tom Brady's new hair; they also maintain an active e-mail list reminding fans of kickoff times, and claim to've never been as packed as during the legendary almost-undefeated season (so despite the frigidity, Boston must have some fair weather). If you also love Reche Caldwell, you'll want to visit BD's homepage
Where the Vikings Pillage: Warehouse Saloon and Billiards 509 E Ben White; South Austin; 512.443.8799 For over 10 years, the brutalized Minnesota fan base has had the run of Warehouse's sweet A/V set-up, including 23 flat-screens, twin 10ft projectors, and hard-to-obtain commercial-free stadium feeds boasting actual field-sound -- nothing pumps you up for the playoffs like Brad Childress asking "How many times can Visanthe forget there's a camera in the locker room?" This could be the year. And even if it's not, you know you can't take your eyes off the Shiancoe.
Where the Steelers Work Really Really Hard: Bikini's Bar & Grill Various Locations The Bikini's mini-empire is endorsed by the Steel City Mafia and the Pittsburgh "Meet Up" Group as the undisputed North-Sider hangout, with Steelers music before/during/after, tons of Iron-City decor, and specialty menu items like the Pitts-Burger (topped with fries, cole slaw, tomatoes, cheddar, 1000 Island) and the Steel City Bratwurst, clearly dressed with Terry Brad-slaw. And Mean Joe Greenes. And...Jack Ham. Are the waitresses hot? You Jerome Bet they is.