I watched the Packers win the championship game at a bar not far from my building in Paris. The bar is Packers themed and shows important games from America in real time, but aside from the televisions and the jerseys bartenders wear, it looks just like any other French bar: small and somewhere between grungy and classy, with dark polished wood (there is one more important difference: if you order a pitcher of beer, you’ll drink it out of Solo cups). It was not at all hard to find. I thought, “Wow, Paris has everything.”
I’m from Wisconsin, born into my love for the Packers, and I had a feeling that they would go to the Super Bowl this year just because I would be out of the country, unable to follow them except when occasionally checking scores from Indian internet cafés. But both the Packers and I have been lucky so far. I got to see the two most important games thus far — the one where they got to the playoffs, and this game against the Chicago Bears.
The bartender was a big Irish guy and, with the fuss he made every time the Packers scored, could easily have been from Wisconsin were it not for his accent.
He must have misinterpreted my grunt when the Bears made a good play because he asked, “Do you like the Bears or are you just here for the alcohol?”
I’d been sitting at the bar for more than half the game and hadn’t ordered a single 6 Euro beer.
“I’m a Packers fan!”
“Why are you a Packers fan?” I asked him.
“I love cheese! And this is a Packers bar!”
I was actually surprised at the number of Europeans in the bar. There were French girls who didn’t understand the game but who must have thought that drinking in a bar crammed with excitable Americans was a good way to spend a Sunday night; there were also two young French men behind me, one who explained what was happening in the game to his friend by chattering nonstop throughout. He commentated on both the game and the people in the bar, mocking the way American girls cheered. For some reason, he wanted the Bears to win and said “Yes, they’re losing, but look at that pass! Superb, perfect.”
The other bartender was French. He said, “OK you guys, it’s getting late! Please be quiet for the neighbors.” Immediately afterward, the Irish bartender let out a loud bellow and the French one followed amicably with, “Go Packers!”
Near the end of the game I ordered a half pint of Kronenberg, afraid that we might go into overtime. I was on edge. The Packers had been ahead for the entire game, but now were only down by one touchdown. I thought that I might help the Packers karmically if I actually patronized the establishment where I was watching them play.
We won: the bartenders and most of the patrons were all smiles. It was great to be with other Wisconsinites in Paris, but I was also amazed to see how much Europeans cared about the game, especially the bartenders. Next week will be even better when we gather around those classy flat screens in our cheeseheads and watch the Packers kill the Steelers at the Super Bowl.