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SPORTS BARS AND BRAS

A recent visit to Portland, Oregon, was imperfectly timed in that all the city’s sports teams were out of town when we were in town—to include the Portland Timber (Major League Soccer), the Portland Thorns FC (National Women’s Soccer League), and the Portland Hops (Minor League baseball). Even the Portland Winterhawks (minor league hockey) were elsewhere.

Yes, Portland does have the NBA’s Trail Blazers, but that team finished last in the Western Conference and all the players had dispersed before the ongoing playoffs.

So, Beth and I turned to our son-in-law Emmanuel for local sports guidance.

“Portland does have plenty of sports bars,” we were told.

Aha!

“I love sports bars,” I replied. “I’ve probably been to dozens over the years.”

“More like hundreds,” said Beth.

“Okay. Let’s just say scores of sports bars.”

Sports bars typically have their own themes. NASCAR. Baseball. College. It depends upon where the bar/pub/tavern is located.

Sports Illustrated once listed America’s top sports bars, with Boston’s The Fours being rated #1 in the country. Naturally I had to visit, and I dragged Beth along with me. The Fours thus became one of dozens (hundreds?) of sports bars I’d visited during my long sports career. That establishment was almost a museum, a veritable shrine to Boston sports history with priceless photos and memorabilia. And I loved the lobster-and-steak mac and cheese—as well as the brewskis. Sadly, the place closed in 2020 during the COVID thing.

One of my all-time favorite sports bars was a Boston sports bar located incongruously in Encinitas, California. Owned and supported by Boston expats, the place had great Beantown swag and offered discounted drink deals whenever it rained. I visited occasionally when stationed at the nearby Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base. It was a great place to watch a Celtics-Lakers hoop contest.

So, back to Portland.

Emmanuel identified some potential watering holes, to include a women’s sports bar called The Sports Bra. (Bar/Bra. Get it?)

As a former professor of sports sociology, I was intrigued.

In 2023 a Portland chef named Jenny Nguyen opened The Sports Bra, reportedly the country’s first-ever sports bar to show only female sports on its TVs. Obsessed with women’s sports, Nguyen wasn’t sure that it would work. But it did. Revenue approximated a million dollars after only eight months. That’s a lot of beer sales.

“We didn’t have any women’s sports bars in the North Country where I grew up,” I pointed out. “It’s about time we went to one.”

“It may not be what you’re probably imagining,” said Beth. “It won’t exactly be the Groveton American Legion.”

“Let’s go,” I said. “We need to support women’s sports!”

How could Beth argue with that?

Off we went.

We parked near the Sports Bra on Northeast Broadway and headed in. Upon entering, I quickly noticed that almost everyone was female. The clientele on the bar stools. Those sitting at tables. The bartenders. The waitresses. I don’t know if there was a bouncer, but if there was one, it wasn’t a guy. Some patrons stared at me.

“Keep your eyes open and your mouth shut,” Beth whispered. “Just follow me.”

My savvy spouse found a table in a corner and after a spell a waitress appeared. Beth ordered a diet soda and some roasted Brussels sprouts. I opted for an IPA and large French fries.

“Relax,” Beth said. “There’s a couple other dudes at the other corner table across the way.”

Beth seemed to enjoy seeing me a bit ill at ease in a sports bar, of all places. You’d think I was at one of the art shows she favors. Or at a west coast swing dancing event where she excels and I, er, ah, DON’T!

But I LOVED the autographed photos and the memorabilia that abounded—like at The Fours. And it was all about the distaff side. All women. All sports. All over. There was even a Caitlin Clark basketball jersey.

Viva Caitlin Clark!

And The Sports Bra had the requisite multiple big screen TVs showing sports action, to include women’s college volleyball, LPGA golf, professional women’s soccer, AND, sacre blue, mirabile dictu, professional women’s ice hockey from Canada, where PWHL Montreal was hosting PWHL Toronto. Hockey afternoon in Canada!

The other dudes left the Sports Bra and I was now the only guy in a sports bar full of women. Beth seemed happy, but I was still not entirely relaxed. I thought back to a 2002 golf column the great Rick Reilly once wrote for Sports Illustrated. Feminist activist Martha Burk had made it her personal mission to get Augusta National Golf Club (home of the Masters) to include women members. So, Reilly found a Country Club (the Ladies Golf Club of Toronto) that allowed only female members. As a big shot sports columnist (like me) he asked if he could be a club guest. He was then allowed on the premises but was made to feel very unwelcome. It was a memorable sports column. He obviously sought to make a golfing “tit for tat” so to speak—although that may be unfortunate phraseology.

An occasional male guest to the Ladies Club told Reilly that things had improved.

“Male golfers used to have to change in an old shack. No showers or lockers. We hung our clothes on a hook. We had to sneak in our own beer. And we weren’t allowed on the driving range.”

The horror!

(Note: Augusta National has had female members for two decades now. Not sure about the latest policy at the Ladies Golf Club of Toronto. But I digress.)

Truth be told, I was made to feel quite welcome at the Sports Bra. I even had a second IPA. (Beth was driving.) We ended up having a great time.

“That was fun,” I said to Beth as we walked back to the car. “Who knew? Maybe there are hundreds of women’s bars all over the country that we don’t know about.”

“More like dozens,” said Beth.

Viva Caitlin Clark!

Sports Quiz

What Hall of Fame athlete, who also was a co-owner of New York City’s Bachelors III sports bar, was forced to sell it by a sports commissioner? (Answer follows)

Born Today

That is to say, sports standouts born on May 9 include Canadian figure skater Barbara Ann Scott (1928) and women’s soccer legend Carla Overbeck (1969).

Sports Quote

“You’ve got to be confident when competing. You’ve got to be a beast!”

– American Gymnast Gabby Douglas

Sports Quiz Answer

New York Jet quarterback Joe Namath was forced to sell his share of Bachelors III by NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, who was concerned about all the mobsters, gamblers, and gangsters who hung out there.

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State Representative Mike Moffett was a Sports Management Professor for Plymouth State University and NHTI-Concord. He co-authored the award-winning “FAHIM SPEAKS: A Warrior-Actor’s Odyssey from Afghanistan to Hollywood and Back” which is available on Amazon.com. His e-mail address is mimoffett@comcast.net.

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