NYC: Still a Melting Pot
We all know NYC was once called a cultural "melting pot". Ellis Island was the place where immigrants from around the world would set foot and start their new lives in America. Men, women and children of all colors and religions were suddenly fellow countrymen - and it all happened in New York City. The term "melting pot" still holds true today, specifically when it comes to sports in NYC. Millions of men, women and children from across the United States have moved to one of the five boroughs for one reason or another, be it work or just a change of pace. With them came not just their luggage, but their sports affiliations and fanaticism. They essentially find each other on the internet, usually via team pages, fan sites and social networking groups. They research sports bars around the area and find the perfect spot to meet; perhaps a bar devoted to their favorite team. They arrive fully-clad in said team's apparel and approach one another like long-lost relatives. Complete strangers become instant best friends. Trash-talking, beer-drinking and food-consumption quickly commence. The game begins, taking this family of strangers on the emotional roller-coaster known as a sporting event. Their team? Certainly not one from New York. Their cause? To watch their non-NY team’s game amongst fellow fans and make a New York City bar sound and feel like one from home. I'll admit it...I used to be very close-minded about the NYC sports scene. I used to think that New York sports fans were the greatest, most insane and, at times, the most downright obnoxious people in the country. I used to think no other sports fans could be as passionate and die-hard. Over the past 5 or so years, I've come to understand how very narrow-minded and inaccurate my thoughts really were. Mind you, I always knew there were some groups of fans out there whose passion was comparable to New York sports fans, ie: the Cleveland Browns Dog Pound or the Boston Blowhards. I just never realized how many of those out-of-state fanatics there actually are...and how many of them are in New York City this very second. It all became clear to me one night a couple years ago. The Lakers and Celtics were in the NBA Finals. I went to a bar in Manhattan to meet up with my friend Keith, a Lakers fan, and watch the game. I was bewildered when I walked in and found a sea of Lakers and Celtics jerseys/hats, the bulk of which seemed to surprisingly favor Boston. I took it all in and marveled at the whole scene. Camaraderie, trash-talk, chants and cheers – it was a beautiful (and rather loud) thing to witness. I was in a New York City sports-bar, but it didn't feel, sound or look that way. Fast-forward almost 2 years and you find me this past Saturday night at Dempsey’s Pub in NYC, just having finished a comedy show. While enjoying a game of darts with some friends, a large group of people seated across the bar abruptly started cheering for the Philadelphia Eagles. No rhyme or reason...they just needed to cheer right then. Keep in mind the fact that the NFL season is still 4 over months away and there was absolutely nothing even remotely close to being Eagles-related on any of the TV’s…and that it wasn’t even Sunday! The darts pause for a second because my buddy Matt, who I suddenly learn is an Eagles fan, decides to go join his Eagles brethren in a series of chants and songs. He didn’t know these people at all. They took him in as if he were family. You would have thought the first game of the season was on, they were so loud. But I didn’t mind it. In fact, I got a huge kick out of it…so much so that I made Matt go over to them with me and ask his new friends if I could record them for my website. Without hesitation, they rambunctiously obliged. Here’s what I captured at Dempsey’s Pub…on a Saturday…in April…in NYC…:
Now, I’m well aware of the fact that Philly isn’t so far away from NYC. In fact, I see a lot of Philadelphia team attire all over Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn. That’s not the point. The point is that anyone transplanted into New York City can very easily cheer for their favorite team in a comfortable, familiar environment, all the while making new friends and transforming a foreign pub into their home bar. It’s pretty awesome to witness. It reminds me of why I love sports not just for the games, but as a culture outside the arena. And it’s just another reason why I love the melting pot that is NYC.