DirecTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket allows fans to watch nearly 12 hours of football from the comfort of their couch. MLB.TV enables baseball loyalists to follow 162 games of their favorite team from their phone, laptop and Roku app. And for cable traditionalists, a number of in-home packages deliver regular hockey, basketball or boxing into bedrooms and basements, seven days a week.
Team any one of these options with a cooler of beers and a bucket of wings and it may beg the following question: Why would you go to a sports bar?
Rickety bar stools. Overpriced drinks. An overserved fanboy unloading dialogue meant to be unleashed on sports talk radio. It can be an arduous ordeal best avoided by not leaving the indentation in your recliner.
But watching games in solitude eliminates one of the best parts of being a fan: shared interest with friends, family and strangers. And in Buffalo, our greatest sports bars have thrived on providing the type of comfort where this common passion can flourish.
Yes, there are the requisite televisions in every corner of the barroom. There are the pennants and flags. There’s the history. There’s the mounted Gilbert Perreault jersey or original 1960 Bills helmet sidling the liquor shelves. There’s the autographed Jim Kelly photo, the framed Bob McAdoo Sports Illustrated cover or the idle orange-section seat from the Aud. But these necessary artifacts are merely interior decorating to surround those who need to watch the game and need to feel part of something while doing it.
Fathers and sons don’t go to the Big Tree to simply watch Bills games mere steps away from New Era Field. They do it to cheer with regulars — and maybe hear a story or two about past and present players who drink there.
Sabres fans don’t pile into the Swannie House before games just to crush rounds of Blue. They do it to talk hockey before the walk to the arena. Graduates from local colleges don’t pack joints like Santora’s, The Steer or Thirsty Buffalo to catch NCAA football or basketball. They do it to bond with students and alums over the school allegiance they’ll carry for the rest of their lives.
And when our teams actually find the playoffs (however rare this has been over the past decade), we don’t load into sports bars because the games aren’t on at home. We do it for the possibility to go delirious with our neighbors. We shout at televisions, exchange rounds and stuff ourselves between bar stools for the mere possibility that, if we catch a win, we can celebrate. Together.
So turn off your satellite dish. Put away your laptop and phone. Get to a sports bar near you and, if you don’t have a favorite locale, good news: This is Buffalo — you’ve got plenty of choices. We’ve even compiled a list of 40 to get you started which you can find in this gallery. Plus, Gusto will focus a story each week on one sports bar starting with Buffalo Brew Pub.
Perhaps your favorite is here or maybe you’ll find a new spot to check out. (If you have a suggestion, let us know.) One thing is certain: You won’t run out of bars where you can watch your favorite team.