(As part of our mission here at Why Daddy Drinks to revel in the humorous lunacy that is fatherhood, and to promote the drinking of quality beverages, we bring you our very erratically scheduled segment highlighting something that should be in your glass. This is The Drink Of The Weekend.)
Sometimes, your kids amaze you in ways you never could have imagined. Like the time my daughter, Maddo, found the local Seattle Seahawks bar.
Now, finding such a watering hole where Seahawks swag and memorabilia is on the walls and all the TVs are tuned to Seahawks games, wouldn’t have been a surprise, nor would it make for much of a story, if Maddo had discovered this place in the Greater Seattle area. Or anywhere in the state of Washington. Or Oregon. Or Alaska. Or Idaho. Or even western Montana and parts of British Columbia. Seattle is the biggest city in the Pacific Northwest and because of that, and NFL TV contracts, the Seahawks have a pretty wide geographical reach. Finding a “Seahawks Bar” between Barrow, Alaska and Medford, Oregon is not that difficult.
But…We live in Oakland, which is as good seven-hour drive from Medford, Oregon and the southern reaches of the what might be called the Seahawks Empire. This town is home to the soon-to-be-departing-for-Las Vegas (and very horrible) Raiders. Silver and Black are Oakland’s unofficial city colors. And, as bad as they are, too, the San Francisco 49ers, who play their home games approximately a 17-hour-drive away in Santa Clara, also hold a great amount of sway over the local pro football fan base. For me, finding a Seahawks Bar in Oakland seemed less likely than finding a Millennial Facebook employee who would admit to voting for Donald Trump for president.
Yet, a little more than a year ago, as my wife, our young daughters, Maddo and Little Sis, and I were walking along Oakland’s College Avenue on our way to to dinner, we strolled past a bar that I had seen hundreds of times, yet had never entered: Bill McNally’s. If the name wasn’t a giveaway, the green paint and shamrock on the exterior let anyone around know that the joint was an Irish pub. And, as I would later learn, McNally’s also has the distinction of being the first bar in Oakland to legally serve alcohol after Prohibition was repealed in 1933.
But, thanks to Maddo, Bill McNally’s has become much more than a historical boozing spot for the area’s one-time Irish clans.
“Daddy?” Maddo said as we walked past McNally’s on the way to dinner. “Isn’t that a Seahawks sign?”
I stopped and got a look at what Maddo was talking about. Sure enough, through the open slats on McNally’s front window, one could see a SEATTLE SEAHAWKS banner on the wall above the cash register. But, that wasn’t all. I could also see an old-school, blue, No. 80 Steve Largent jersey in a glass display and a few other pieces of Seahawks memorabilia. I wanted to go right in and see what was up, but my wife probably wouldn’t have approved of me ordering up a Bushmill’s to talk about the Seahawks playoff chances with a couple of barflies while leaving her to loiter about outside with our very underaged daughters.
Instead, the next day I called the joint to make sure all the Seahawks stuff I had seen was real and not just something I had imagined. The bartender answered the phone in a short, almost curt way that all decent bartenders should use on the phone.
“BILL MCNALLY’S…” He didn’t offer, nor did he need to say anything else.
“Hi,” I replied. “Uh. I was walking by last night and saw your Seahawks stuff through the window. Do you have DirecTV and show the Seahawks games there?”
“Yep…This is a Seahawks bar,” he still wasn’t big on chatter.
I then asked the most-obvious question possible.
“So…Will you have the Seahawks game on this weekend?”
By this time, I was sure he had to think my name was “Bag O’Hammers”.
“We show every Seahawks game. You better get here early so you can get a seat.”
That was all the invitation I need.
Now, I am a long way from my college and pre-marriage and family days. My weekends often get filled with commitments and chores long before Saturday and Sunday roll around. Even if I am at home, it is a rare occasion when I can put on a game and watch more than 10 consecutive minutes of play before someone is asking for my help with something that has suddenly become the most-pressing thing in the world (Like my wife having to show me another set of deck chairs on Craigslist, or my daughters getting into a brawl over a Happy Meal toy that neither has thought about in at least six months.) So, the chances of me actually getting out of the house to watch a Seahawks game in a Seahawks Bar with a group of like-minded football fanatics were about as likely as I once thought it would be to find a Seahawks Bar in Oakland.
But, thanks to the generosity of my wife, I managed to escape my dad duties for last season’s last season game. I put on my Russell Wilson No. 3 jersey, donned one of my Seahawks hats, got to McNally’s about a half hour before kickoff, walked in and…
…I had found my people.
I had no idea who the other Seahawks fans in the bar were, and yet, I knew them immediately. The next three-plus hours were spent in blissful, fan-based delirium as we all hung on every play, cursed every opponent’s score, and cheered and screamed with crazed joy every time the Seahawks put some points on the board. We all shared that common thread that comes from few things in life like loyalty to a sports team. We were united.
And let’s just say we were all upset when the Seahawks lost that game, which eliminated them from any chance at the 2017 playoffs. But, we knew there would be another season. And this year, I made it to McNally’s for three games with the Seahawks faithful, including two with one of my old college buddies who is probably even more fanatical about the Seahawks than I.
There was something unique about each gathering this year. There was the Detroit game which, thanks to Seattle being on the road and the scheduling times of the National Football League, started at 10 a.m., Pacific. When it comes to watching football on TV, nothing beats waking up in Hawaii and finding your team ready to kick off at 7 a.m. But, the 10 a.m. start is no slouch, either, when you are on the West Coast, you are the first fan in the bar and an Irish Coffee is the perfect morning drink to start the game with. The Seahawks 28-14 victory made that Irish Coffee (and the beers that followed) taste even better.
A few weeks later, my friend came from his home and we and our Seahawks brethren rejoiced in glorious fashion as our team thrashed the Bay Area sons, the 49ers, 43-16. This was an all-beer drinking afternoon, as the game had a traditional 1:25 start. In addition to reveling in the Seahawks win, an doing the traditional catching up on old times and how we got to where we are today, we each also downed a traditional Washington state beer, a Rainier tall boy in a can. Anyone who knows Rainier knows that drinking one is both nothing to be proud of, yet also a exercise in Northwest pride and reliving more than a few late nights in college.
The final gathering this season ended up coinciding with the Seahawks final game of this season. After a wild card battle with Dallas, and the failure of Seattle to abandon what was a futile running game, the Seahawks fell to the Cowboys, 24-22, leaving the 50 or so Seattle fans inside McNally’s grumbling, disappointed and taking their time to finish their last pints of IPA before dragging themselves home. Few wanted to leave, and no one wanted the season to be over. With a lot of turnover from last season’s roster, the Seahawks weren’t even expected to make the playoffs this year. We wanted to console ourselves with the thought that because the Seahawks did make the post-season, this was a good year for them, and us.
But only one team wins the last game over every NFL season and this year, it wouldn’t be the Seahawks. And no matter how hard we tried to say, “They did better than they were supposed to…” we couldn’t help but feel down about the Seahawks quick playoff exit. At least we had our temporary Seahawks community to share our commonality in disappointment as much as our elation over those times when it appeared a Seahawks victory was in the works.
And because of that, what we drinking wasn’t nearly as important as who we were drinking with and the environment in which we were drinking. Irish Coffee. Cheap Rainier. Local craft IPAs. A shot of tequila. It didn’t matter what was in our glasses because we were all in the situation together. The kind of situation that only joint fandom of a specific sports team can create. The season was over, but we all knew where we could return next year, and where we all would, again, belong.
And none of it would be possible for me were it not for my daughter’s keen attention to Seahawks detail.