Grain of Terror

Why do we drink beer while watching sports?

It's curious that disgruntled foreigners always dismiss Americans as weak-willed and comfortable types likely to fold when threatened.

Just why they confuse us with France, we'll probably never know.

Before characterizing Americans as soft and passive, terrorists and their ilk should first check out the brutal events dominating our culture: tough guys from Detroit and Cincinnati beating the holy bejesus out of the Cowboys on any given Sunday; Shaq throwing vicious elbows; race cars bouncing off walls at 200 mph--and that's not the brutal part.

You see, more than half of those who watch sports--college sports in this case--typically binge when drinking, according to a Harvard University study. More than two-thirds of all property damage and 64 percent of all violent behavior on American campuses occur as a result of rapid consumption. Win or lose, the big game generates wild melees and serious carnage.

Professional sports offer even more explicit ties to alcohol, from the Milwaukee Brewers to Rusty Wallace's promise to reward fans with free six-packs if he won the Daytona 500. The combination of beer and sports even turns San Franciscans from gentle, latte-sipping, Whole Foods-shopping wussies to demonic terrors who could level Baghdad faster than George W. could find it on a map.

"It's not about sports," says Chris Michael of Nikita, "it's about participation in a hysteria that makes the whole thing worth doing."

Hysteria and an ice-cold drink. These mini-MOABs result, oddly enough, from excessive consumption of the weakest alcoholic product this side of wine coolers. Beer generally contains a meager amount of alcohol, 5 percent and sometimes less. Vodka, scotch, bourbon, varnish, vanilla extract and other products pack 40 percent or more. Yet, as Will Morgan, bartender at Champps in Las Colinas points out, "at any sports event, it's beer, beer, beer, beer and more beer."

Why? Given the overwhelming popularity of vodka drinks, the influx of aged tequilas and rums, the availability of good scotch, why do we continue to drink beer while watching sports?

To better understand this issue, the Burning Question crew conducted a series of tests so daunting that trained researchers winced and turned away when we described our process, which must be a sign of respect in the scientific world. We sat through hours and hours of televised sports (along with a few pay-per-view...um...events, something we must mention if we hope to expense five hours of por... wholesome family entertainment), drank beer and set out to trash downtown Carrollton. We're a small group, after all.

Yet it's not that difficult to understand the relationship between beer and sports. Way back in the late 1800s, a man named Chris von der Ahe began selling suds at a ballpark in St. Louis. He owned the team and a brewery. When televisions entered mass production just after World War II, taverns accounted for half of all sets purchased in many cities, and fans crowded in to watch the World Series, boxing and other events. In fact, as far back as 1945, Narragansett beer sponsored Red Sox broadcasts. Two years later, Griesedieck beer--not a very marketable brand, when you think about it--supported sports broadcasts in St. Louis.

"When you drink beer, you feel one with the belly-painted crowd," Michael says, acknowledging the importance of tradition.

Convenience also plays a role. "Beer is easy to store," explains Kurt Mosley, Dallas sage of the consumption arts. "You just gotta keep it cold. With liquor, you gotta carry different alcohol, mixers and all the accoutrements."

More important is beer's low alcohol content. "Beer is something you can drink all day long," agrees Mitch (he wisely refused to give us his last name), sipping something brown and un-beerlike at Dragonfly. "You can't do that with scotch, Crown or vodka because you'll throw up." Suspecting the brown liquid in his glass was a mix of the three, we backed up a bit when he mentioned regurgitation. "With beer, you get bloated, you get tired, but you can drink for hours," he continues. "Also, it's cheap."

Ah, now there's the most accurate response to this week's Burning Question.

Despite inflated prices at The Ballpark and other venues, beer remains an inexpensive option, especially when buying for friends. "Most people don't want to spend the money," says Mike, settling in for happy hour at Champps, "so when they have the guys over to watch a game, they buy a case of beer." In other words, a few six-packs lends the appearance of generosity, without draining the bank account.

"Beer is cheap, and men are cheap," echoes Kim, also drinking at Champps and apparently bearing some sort of grudge.

So the points to remember are these: Beer is inexpensive, low in alcohol and convenient. Beer makes certain sports tolerable. It is, as Ron Davis, bartender at Cape Buffalo, points out, "America's other favorite pastime."

Oh, one more thing: Just to be safe, avoid women named Kim until whatever it is blows over.

 
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