Like many New Orleans Saints fans, my Sunday ritual is dictated by whether or not the Saints are playing at home or away. Then of course the ritual breaks down even further so that the following questions must be answered:
Am I going to the game?
Am I watching at home or a buddy’s house?
(Or the ever available and seemingly cliché:) Am I watching at one of the many overcrowded sports bars in town?
Sure, back in the day when I was that jersey-wearing, face-painting, screaming-at-the-top-of-my-lungs guy, the sports bar was fun, and I fit right in. But with age and my ever receding hairline came the decreasing desire to spend my Sundays with a bunch of fantasy football fanatics that tend to take up the majority of the seating space in most sports bars.
There’s nothing wrong with any of that; it’s just not for everyone.
So, if I wasn’t going to the game, my tush was parked squarely on the couch, where the picture was in HD, the announcers were easy to hear, the beer was paid for already, and there was rarely a line to use the clean bathroom. A home field advantage that can’t be beat.
Then I became romantically involved with a rare species here in NOLA … the non-football fan.
What was I to do? Would my Sundays be forever changed?
Well yes, but in a very interesting way. I’ve found a blissful balance: my lady’s not bored to tears tapping her fingers waiting for a game break … and I get to watch the Saints in a whole new way.
Purely by accident one fateful Sunday, we happened into a cool little place –one we’d been to before, but never on the Lord’s Day, and especially not during Saints season — The Spotted Cat. Yes, the one down in the Marigny on Frenchmen Street. (For the uninitiated, Frenchmen Street is a big area for live music in New Orleans, and The Spotted Cat regularly plays host to jazz performers.)
We wandered in to grab a drink in that popular NOLA style — the go-cup, of course — and for me to check the score. The game was midway through the second quarter and the band playing in the club, The New Orleans Swinging Gypsies, was in full swing, a four piece jazz group that belted out the classics from a small stage as easily as Drew Brees changes the play at the line of scrimmage. And there it was, the perfect mix (including the drink … pun intended). The one HD TV hanging perfectly above the beer fridge was aglow with the black and gold, the drinks mixed to perfection … we couldn’t hear the game announcers, but who cared? The smoky voice of the band’s lead singer filled the void much better than Joe Buck or even our beloved Jim Henderson ever could.
Of the two dozen patrons that wandered in and wandered out throughout the afternoon, some watched the game and some watched the band, but all were happy. Not once did I see anyone checking their fantasy team’s stats. I did see a lot of toe tapping and high fives as the Saints managed to secure the victory. The music was great, and the blend of people was wonderful: sports fans and music fans alike. Going in, we might have been seeking different types of entertainment, but we all struck pay dirt in a small out-of-the-way place with one TV and music that set the soundtrack of the day. Our lead vocalist sang “Blue Skies,” and I felt the Football Gods smiling at me.
Never again will I seek the comfort of countless televisions displaying every football game imaginable, chicken wings as far as the eye can see and an ocean of micro-brewed beers. My sights are set on something much smaller, but something that provides a much larger sense of community and team spirit. So I challenge you, dear reader: Seek out your own, out-of-the-way place, perhaps a place where football and wonderful music come together to form the perfect football experience.
And that’s no fantasy.
Blaine Strawn is a Marketing Director at Fox8 New Orleans and a regular Who Dat … with a taste for live music.