In search of a Christmas miracle
For a long time now, I have been looking for a spark to reignite my passion for the Browns. I have been disengaged from the team. I had watched every game this season, but only in a going through the motions kind of way.
On Christmas Eve, I found myself in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Rather than attend an afternoon worship service with my young nieces, I went in search of a sports bar.
I figured the setting was perfect for the rebirth of my passion. My Browns love had become spoiled and needed saving. As I told my sister, Christmas happens every year. How often do the Browns get to play playoff spoiler to the hated Steelers on Christmas Eve. A win was destined and I could become whole again. Plus there was another service on Christmas Day.
You may know Waukesha as home to the “Mr. 3000” strip mall which includes a sports bar with wall-to-wall televisions showing every game known to man. What a happy place. But that my friends is just movie magic, none of the fictional Stan Ross proprietor stores actually exist. But the town is a real suburb just west of Milwaukee and there had to be somewhere a Browns fan could watch a game. It would be easy right? In my neighborhood in the West End of Lakewood, there are multiple places with NFL ticket that I can walk to.
So shortly before the noon (Central time) kickoff, I called a watering hole around the corner and asked if the game would be shown.
“Stop on by and we will put on the game,” she said.
Something, however, didn’t smell right. So I left early and sure enough the bar had only one television. Not a prime candidate for having NFL ticket. When I asked the bartender if they did indeed have NFL ticket, she looked at me like I was from another planet. She had never heard of such of thing. I explained locally they were showing the Chargers and the Chiefs and I needed NFL ticket. She had no idea what I was talking about.
I did not panic. I just ventured down the street to a huge sports bar. Inside, they had at least 20 televisions. There was just one patron however and my sinking suspicions were confirmed when I was told they also did not have NFL ticket.
This bartender sent me to a bowling alley next to a new sports bar. This seems like a fine time to tell you that WTAM’s slogan of 38 states and half of Canada is a bunch of baloney. Maybe on a clear summer night around midnight, but the only states I ever travel in are Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Pennsylvania, and 90 percent of the time, I get jumbled static at best. A Chicago sports station informed me the Browns were already down 7-0, but I was not deterred.
Not only did the bowling alley and the new sports bar have not NFL ticket, neither were even open. The local police station told me to try a certain place. No dice. I found a phone book and called every establishment with the word sports in it. The reaction was either a quick no or the stunning “What is NFL ticket?”
How can you be a sports bar and not have NFL ticket? Isn’t that a requirement?
I made it the last place in the phone book when finally a man said, “Yes, we have NFL ticket.”
But before I could even ask for directions, he said, “But we are closed.”
SO WHY ARE YOU ANSWERING THE PHONE?
He went on to explain they were closed because the Packers didn’t play until Christmas Day so why be open.
What an awful place, this Waukesha?
I returned to my sisters where I found her husband was also skipping church, apparently, to watch poker. I got back in my car and headed to Milwaukee. I was frustrated and left behind the phone book.
Along I-94, I searched in vain for a BW3 or anything that looked like a place that had updated to the 21st century. There was nothing. I exited at Miller Park, the home of the Brewers. I knew that was baseball, but I figured there had to be a sports bar across the street. Nothing. Just parking lots. The game was nearing half-time and the Browns were down 20-0. But I figured a Charlie Frye touchdown pass, then a interception or kick-off return and the Browns shocking comeback would be even more painful to Pittspuke.
I headed to Water Street, which is Milwaukee’s bar district. Half the bars were closed and the other half did not have NFL ticket. Finally, WTAM flickered to life. I heard what sounded like Jimmy Donavan describing a long run. Between the static, I heard the words “Lee Bodden”, “all the way” and “touchdown” I pumped my fist thinking, here we go. Then I made out Jimmy saying “Willie Parker.”
The score was now 27-0 and I sludged back to my sisters to watch the end of World Series of Poker’s Tournament of Champions. And never saw a single play of the game. So maybe that was my Christmas miracle, not having to watch 41-0.