Monday, January 24, 2005

Buffalo Bills play Pittsburgh in the Wild Card show-downs

The Big Game. No, A Big Game.

"If we leave at 2 am, we might get home in time for the game Buffalo Bills vs Pittsburgh, but don't forget the time change," the Captain said, calculating wind speed and toll waits into the long apres-holiday journey home. A viscious ice storm kept us from departing at deer-killing time, but he would see the Buffalo Bills play Pittsburgh in the Wild Card show-downs, no matter what. He kept checking the clock and the map and had even the night before scoped out sports bars featured along the mapquested cities. Five hours into the journey (which involved two wrong turns and an upset stomach episode, I just wanted to hear, "Oh, the heck with it. We have a long way to go and a car full of kids. Let's just go home." I heard instead, "Yes. This could be the magic exit. Let's try this unknown city and find a place to watch the game." The kids sided with him. One of these kids had thrown up on me about 2 hours earlier. Apparently that was all over now.

"Here. The sports bar should be right here," he said triumphantly as he manuevered the van into the parking lot of the Lounge. The windows were placed high. The lot was full of beater cars. The building looked more like a worn down double-wide than a sports fan emporium. The sign on the door said, "No one under the age of 21 admitted."

"That cannot apply to us," he said. "Not during the day."

I had given up offering any opinion on this trip about four days earlier. I thought of what the inside of the Lounge must look like, smell like. I wondered wether the barkeep had anything on over his T-shirt. I thought of my four-year-old, snuggling up to the bar with the locals. "I am sure you are right," I said to him as he headed inside. I wondered if I would ever see him again.

Fifteen minutes of driving later, we were seated at an Applebees. They had promised we would be able to see a television. I ordered three wines while everyone else was into fried whatever. The Bills, as history prefers to have it, lost. Our waitress said she was sorry, and added, "Wasn't that the Steelers' second string they had in? How interesting. Some were even third stringers weren't they?" Her tip was getting close to 5%, when I noticed her dangling Pittsburgh Steeler earings. We were two and a half states away from Pennsylvania. Do I really need so much material? Can't anything in my life be so strange it must be made up?

So, despite thinking of the Steelers as a decent back-up team to route for when the Bills aren't around, at the end of their loss to New England yesterday, all I could see were those dangling earings and the waitress's mouth in slow motion forming the hollow words, "Sooooo sooorrrrrryyyyy."