Chicago Disturbs Me a Great Deal
Dare I be so egocentric as to think a personal experience matters as much as the intrigue of what happened on the court tonight? I would like to think the anecdote I am about to relay is important as it speaks to the fundamental issues and principles that FD stands for and against...
My best friend was DJing tonight at a spot in Chicago called the Burlington at 3425 W. Kimball between Bernard and Kimball. It's your standard fare dank, PBR-serving spot. A really attractive reviewer reviewer on Yelp describes it as "Where the hipster/art school/music snob/bike messenger kids hang out in Logan Square." I've had some good times there and some boring times there, and at this point find it fit to return only when my friend DJs there (another good friend works the door there on occasion).
Knowing that I would be attending this bar on this evening, and knowing that it's a million miles north of where I lived, I arranged to get a car through my I-Go car sharing membership at 930, watch the first half of the game in my apartment, take off around halftime and catch the rest of the game at the bar. I should mention that last time we hit up the Burlington to see my friend DJ they kindly switched whatever TV movie was showing on their flatscreen to the NBA on TNT to let us watch some playoff game. Frustratingly, the person using the car before me was late, so I missed the whole third quarter and was fairly steamed. I zipped up to the North side around ten, listening to the game on ESPN radio. It was so intense I had to turn it off, but by the time I got to the bar (10:30), i knew it was a 1-point game with about three minutes left. I rushed in and saw my friends, saw that the TV (a gigantic flatscreen behind the bar) was off.
When I told my crew the circumstances of the game, my friend Kachel, the best haggler of my friends politely requested to the bartender to turn the game on. She asked the acting manager and he came over with a rejection. At this point, I got into it and was as vocally angry as I've ever been. I essentially told him in not so many words that it was ludicrous for him not to turn the game on and that we would only be watching (with the sound off mind you) for about 7 minutes. He gave a reasonable rationale that he didn't want to pay his DJs to play good music while people were distracted by watching the game. When I explained that the DJ was my best friend since 7th grade, the manager didn't care. Amongst the things that came next from him included:
--"it's not a Cubs game, so the policy is to have the TV off"
--"We're not a sportsbar!" (emphatically, repeatedly)
--"Isn't it the Lakers vs. the Celtics? Then why do you even want to watch it?!" (i.e. it's not a Chicago team, so why would you care)
-- "who still cares about the NBA?"
--"most of those guys [in the NBA] are jerks"
--"the NBA is all fixed"
--the requisite, "You can go somewhere else."
--"If you can find two other people in the bar who you DON'T KNOW who want to watch the game, I'll turn it on." (Unfortunately, we knew most of the other people in the bar).
As he again remarked that "this isn't a sportsbar" and as two girls caught in the midst of this complained that they didn't want the glare from the TV, since they had been "working all day," I admittedly (and embarrassingly in retrospect) uttered, "You know, there doesn't have to be such a disconnect between sports and indie culture." (ha). At the moment of ostensible defeat, guy turned on the game with about a minute and a half left and proceeded to give us the finger a few times and state, "I'm not leaving it on if the game goes to overtime."
I'm not sure if it was because he saw a decent amount of people (including those we didn't know) pay attention to the game when it came on, but for whatever reason, the guy started to ease up...a bit. He asked who I was cheering for and I said that "I don't really know, I care more about players...like Lamar Odom." This incensed him, as he couldn't believe that I wanted the game on so badly and didn't even have a vested interest in a single team.
Moments later as the game ended,, the guy apologized for yelling at us. He even gave us some shots, which he deemed his "fuck you shots" from him to us. I was still kind of shaking about the whole thing. The whole scenario illustrated a few key things:
--I know we talk about it a lot, but this is living proof that there is a wacked perception of the NBA out there, with some definitive classist undertones. This exchange was all too akin of when an employee at a very similar bar in Chicago, The Continental, told me that the DJs aren't allowed to play rap music. The NBA is seen as antithetical to culture and civilization.
--Liberated fandom is a hard concept to digest. There is some primitive notion of humans as fundamentally coalitional, and drawn to associate only with a greater collective rather than an individual. Or maybe this is just a perception of sportsfans as cro-magnons who necessarily band together rather than think for themselves.
--Remarks of "We're not a sportsbar," translating essentially to, "I will lose indie cred by turning this game on" are just at the root of what Chicago has always been blamed for: Insanely segregated diversity. Like, what kind of high schoolian notion is it that 'the jocks sit at this table, the geeks sit at this table, the preppy kids sit at this table.' This hipster/meathead false dichotomy has been rearing itself quite a bit of late, with the obscene irony of mostly white Midwesterners who move into formerly immigrant neighborhoods complaining of this neighborhood now being overrun with "Wrigleyville douchebags." [For the record, I would live on the North Side were it not for the proximity of my apartment to work/school].
Or maybe the Burlington guy and the West Town elitists are right. A few popped collars have soiled the reputation of anyone who wants to Watch The Game once in a while. Certainly the clip below is not a complete anomaly in this fine city (warning: extremely unsettling, but reasonably safe for work)
At any rate, I like to hope that what we do here at FD is provide some middle ground for people who are simply intrigued by the pro hoops game. And who have friends and girlfriends. And who like stuff besides basketball as well.