Monday, April 16, 2007

Where Everybody Knows Your Game

It's impossible for yours truly, and I suspect many other folks, to witness another Boston Marathon without recalling the late, lamented Eliot Lounge, one of the truly great sports saloons of history. Many of the most celebrated road racers of the 20th century did things there they'd pay a lot of money to have forgotten.

The Eliot was a real sports bar. That term has been criminally misappropriated by hustlers who've made it a synonym for "bar with many television sets." It's true meaning isn't "bar for people who watch sports." It's "bar for people IN sports."

Example: Mary Ann's in Cleveland Circle is a sports bar. It's where generations of Boston College jocks have gone to pound a few and reflect on the vagaries of college athletics. Same goes for the Dugout on Comm. Ave. It's where BU hockey players drink. Daisy Buchanan's on Newbury St. is where visiting major league ballplayers go to see if they can get laid of an evening. And so on.

The most specialized sports bar I ever encountered is also sadly defunct. The original Runyon's in Manhattan of 50th St. just to the east of 2nd. Ave. It was a sportswriters' bar. Not only that, it was a baseball writer's bar. Taking the subset further, Runyon's was a bar for baseball writers who covered the American League. During the 1986 World Series, when as you as you might expect most New York gin mills were very crowded, no one ever saw a reporter from Philadelphia, Atlanta, St. Louis, or other National League ports of call inside the place.

Strike that. The MOST specialized sports bar I ever knew had a clientele of one. The bar at the old Newbury Steak House on Mass. Ave. is where Billy Martin drank after a ballgame. Since the bar was directly under the offices of the Phoenix, we graced its premises from time to time-mainly when we owed the Eliot money.

Know how in Western movies the saloon goes dead when the bad guy walks in? Same deal. There could be people lined up three deep around the Newbury. Within seconds of Billy's arrival, it'd be deserted. Nobody wanted to be the next marshmallow salesman.

True sports bars are part of the joy of sports. Whoever wins the Boston Marathon today, they're missing part of its real reward-the ovation they'd receive inside the Eliot.


At 4:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael --
How can you cite the Newbury without mentioning the critical role it played when the Eliot was struck by the Great Remodeling Disaster Of '82.


Post a Comment

<< Home