Sunday, November 04, 2007

Sports Bar Nation

Wrigleyville is much more than Cubs central. The gentrified neighborhood is a hub for the young adult domestic diasporas, who currently call Chicago home:

But on a recent day in October, all was quiet at the nation's second-oldest major league ballpark. The lockers had long been cleaned out following a season that began with a promise and ended with another near miss.

Suddenly, cheers erupt from Merkle's Bar & Grill on Clark Street, packed with University of Iowa grads who congregate there nearly every week to watch their Hawkeyes play football on a half-dozen big screen TVs.

Moments later another roar explodes a few doors up the street at the Houndstooth Saloon, the Chicago headquarters for University of Alabama fans decked out in their crimson red for a televised game against Tennessee.

It's College Football Saturday, and alumni living in Chicago have connected at their designated watering holes.

On Sundays, team colors change to blue and orange when more fans gather to watch their beloved Bears - except at the Dark Horse Tap & Grill, where a gold and black Steeler flag flies outdoors, and bartender "Pittsburgh" Dave pulls Fat Tire beer from the tap.

I've made much of the national Steelers fan community (the exception to the Chicago rule of adopting the Bears once you move there), but the Black and Gold faithful are part of the American geography of young professionals. There are Wrigleyvilles in a number of vibrant cities around the United States, where you can see a variety of subcultures on gameday. An allegiance to a certain college or professional team can help a newcomer develop a social network in a place full of transients.

College sports are important for maintaining a relationship between alumni and the university. The ability of a bar to inexpensively provide a broadcast of your favorite team has extended the university community to the locations where graduates find jobs. Furthermore, social media technologies make face-to-face interactions with fellow alumni less serendipitous. As Benedict Anderson might note, the above innovations help overcome geographic barriers and result in new identities, the birth of a Hawkeye Nation.

1 comment:

Frank said...

Wouldn't it be nice if alumni associations did a better job of linking people who've spread out across the country? Maybe they could even serve as a means of getting people to come back by connecting diasporites with people who're still in the city and doing good work.

The Blurgh