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On the list of man's highest accomplishments, the sports bar comes right after the creation of fireworks, dark beer and frozen cookie dough.
But let's face it: All great inventions begin with guys who have nothing better to do than figure out new ways to amuse themselves or make their already simple lives simpler. Would a woman have been flying a kite in a thunderstorm? No, she would have been inside cleaning up all the disasters left behind after old Ben Franklin tried to invent the world's first plasma TV. While George Washington was off defeating the Redcoats after suffering through years of increasing cable rates imposed by the ruling House of Comcast, Martha was home picking up the wooden teeth that George had stuffed in her underwear drawer.
Guys love to blow stuff up, eat foods so high in sugar that a diabetic would be struck dead just by looking at them, and drink until we throw up. Damn near all of these things can be done in a sports bar. And the king of all sports bars -- at least in the overpriced, over-commercialized sense -- is ESPN Zone. ESPN also happens to be one of the top-ranking inventions of all time, and the Zone trasforms it from a nebulous force that somehow incites domestic violence when it is beamed into our homes into a tangible entity that prevents domestic violence by keeping a guy away from his house until his wife finds solace in another man's arms.
I was in Baltimore recently for professional training, and after the mandatory visit to a skin club (no professional training is complete until you've checked out the local dance customs), we stopped at that city's ESPN Zone to watch a couple of games and knock back a few. This was only the second Zone I'd been to, and it seemed pretty much a clone of the one at the Tabor Center here in Denver. The centerpiece at both is the "TV room" -- an understatement on par with saying that a thermonuclear device makes a loud explosion. There are so many pixels flashing in this room that cataclysmic seizures have been induced in otherwise healthy guys. In the middle is a movie-screen-size monitor displaying the showcase game in high definition (obviously, another guy invention). Surrounding that are another twelve TVs, each with a different game in progress. And for purists like me, who think the sports-watching experience is incomplete without the accompanying audio call, many of the tables also have individual speakers that can be tuned to the game of choice. (Some of you might think there can't possibly be that many games on at one time -- and if you do, you are probably, no offense, a woman.)
To pass the time during commercial breaks when there aren't enough scantily clad females bouncing across the screen or some new breakthrough in guy programming like pasty-clad bosoms, all Zones offer the same substandard food and decent beer selection. The food doesn't matter, though, because when guys are watching an important game (read: any game they've settled the remote on for more than twelve seconds), they don't care about what's going on around them. You could set off an M-80 in their shorts, and they would wait to howl in pain until after the last replay of that critical down. You could place a platter of urinal cakes on the table, and they'd mindlessly shovel them in. Guys get so engrossed that they'll drink anything you put in front of them, including Budweiser and Coors Light.
For those guys who have florid attention deficit disorder, ESPN Zone also has a game room where they can play video games or putt or shoot free throws as socially acceptable alternatives to dropping trou and getting out the tape measure to see who is the manliest guy there. Even better for a family man, this room serves as an outlet for the wife and kids, so she can wait until they get home to kill him.
I know I've made some sweeping generalizations about gender roles here that may anger every woman ever born, but as is often the case when I make sweeping generalizations, I don't care. But since several of the highly successful women I work with took issue with my recent statement that women are not genetically capable of enjoying football, I decided to find scientific support for this stance in Baltimore.
Staying at our hotel were 1,500 rabid housewives attending a Creative Memories seminar. For the uninitiated, Creative Memories is a monumental waste of time involving scrapbooking and making family heirlooms with saccharine-sweet decorations and captions. I had never heard of this stuff, so when I returned home, I asked those successful women I work with if they had. The answer was yes. And in the same conversation, while trying to defend the position that they really do love football, they revealed that the reason was because "Tom Brady is hot in those pants."
I rest my case. Anyone who watches a game out of prurient interest (other than in cheerleaders), has to ask at crucial junctures, "Why didn't he just make a touchdown?" and recognizes the very existence of Creative Memories is incapable of truly loving football or any other non-leotard-intensive sport.
ESPN Zone is not for them. It's a guy thing.