Cowboys Football at the Ships Lounge, Where the Game Only Matters Until it Doesn't

The Ships Lounge is a place of order, as much as any dive bar can be. Come to the Greenville bar for a Sunday football game and happy hour starts when the game does. Not during pre-game ceremonies, not the coin toss, not the first commercial break, not when the players take the field. Precisely at kickoff, when the the game clock starts its droning decent. That's when the bartender rings a bell and a handful of patrons at the ready put in their orders for cheap, domestic, bottled beer.

The jukebox box will play till kickoff, too -- soft country from a long-gone era at precisely the right volume, quiet enough to let customers talk but loud enough to fill the lingering voids when they run out of things to say. You should watch your tongue at Ships, even if they may not strictly enforce a rule that's as stale as the tiny booths that line the walls.

Jennifer's only been tending bar a year or so, which isn't long compared to other employees. Some have been here nearly as long as the vinyl furniture. She wears a weathered Johnny Cash t-shirt two sizes too big, cinched at the bottom with a rubber band, sleeves rolled, and baggy jeans. She's porcelain faced with winged eye-liner, smiles constantly, never lets your beer go empty and exudes Texas charm.

Mr. Brown comes to the bar just into the first quarter, his graying hair tucked under a derby cap. He orders red wine on ice. There's not a ton to choose from here. Ships is one of the last few of a dying breed: a bar which serves only beer and wine, though you can bring your own liquor if you like. Nobody brought booze this night, but a couple brought pizza from a shop around the corner. Minutes later half the bar has a slice.

Patrons share rounds too, and everyone wants to buy one for Mr. Brown. He's watching the game quietly from a table at the front of the bar. He hollers when a play goes his way and theatrically slaps the table when Romo rainbows the football into Darrelle Revis' hands, giving up the game but only temporarily taking the wind from Ships' sails.

One last round before everyone slips out the door, onto bicycles and mopeds, and into cars. This one's on the quiet fellow up front who's already over the loss. Cowboys fans have weathered defeat before, and this is just another excuse for a drink. The jukebox is back and Eartha Kitt sings C'est Si Bon. "This could go on for decades," announces the recipient of an ice cold Budwieser. It's unclear whether she's describing her immediate surroundings or the slow pace of a football game's end, but she's probably right either way.

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