The Sports Bars
What happens when you unintentionally bring a whole load of sociological theory about men and masculinities with you on an impromptu pub-crawl? This is an account of such a scenario. Having recently begun the journey across the bridge to academic life, much of my time has been spent reading journal articles, seminal texts and weighty volumes. I decided some recreational downtime was deserved and arranged to catch up with two friends.
As my friends and I reacquainted, inadvertently my studies surfaced in conversation. I attempted to upsell my research idea and make it sound both legitimate and sensible. Discussing masculinity with other men is an interesting undertaking in itself and one that can be met with skepticism and anxiety. My friends held out, anxiety tempered and minimal skepticism. However, anyone familiar with Irish sociality will know that Irish pubs are prime locations for ‘slagging’ [jesting or teasing on an epic scale]. With my research interests in masculinity on the table, the floodgate of banter was opened and the slagging began. My little brown leather college bag was fodder for my friend’s cannons. My ‘man bag’ became a running comic theme throughout the night.
What unfolded from a simple catch up was an impromptu pub-crawl, very sensible mind you, but none-the-less a pub-crawl. In total we frequented six public houses on our crawl, all within a small geographic area of about nine square kilometers. Upon reflection each pub offered its own Petrie dish of masculinity. Our first watering hole was a sports bar, which I have dubbed the Sporty Flamingo. The Sporty Flamingo is a newly opened sports bar, aimed at sport crazed young men, of whom there were many in large groups. The young men in this bar were social, jovial and fluid. They mixed with other patrons and their youth brought energy to their movements. The Sporty Flamingo’s décor oozes maleness and two large cabinets of sporting trophies were situated pride of place. High bar stools were positioned in front of eleven giant plasma screens scattered throughout the bar, colored under lighting, leather upholstery, earthy color scheme and carbohydrate laden bar menu affirmed the Sporty Flamingo as being a male dominated space. This bar was just short of having ‘hegemonic masculinity draft served here’ printed on its bar mats. The Sporty Flamingo reinforces the hegemonic ideal of sporting prowess, physical accomplishment and hard drinking (as evident from posters messaging different alcohol promotions). This bar was hyper masculine and too rowdy for my friends and I, so we headed elsewhere.
As our conversation wandered so did we, my ‘man bag’ filled the conversational void from one place to the next and I rolled with the playful taunts and jibes. Being an Irish man requires being able to take taunts and jibes, the hegemonic Irish masculine ideal tells us so. Eventually, after a short taxi ride, we arrived at our next destination the Timid Lamb, another sports bar but a stark comparison to the Sporty Flamingo. The Timid Lamb, a long established pubic house provides an atmosphere of maturation and grit. Its walls are adorned with Irish republican imagery, male film icons such as Clint Eastwood and Al Pacino, and proudly displayed signed images of male boxing heroes. The Timid Lamb’s clientele were more distilled in years, hardened and tough in comparison to the young men from The Sporty Flamingo. The men in the Timid Lamb were lone wolves randomly scattered throughout, with the exception of two couples. The men appeared to be uninterested by each other, rather sharing silent reflection with their glass of choice and occasional glances at TV screens. Looking back in hindsight the Sport Flamingo and the Timid Lamb although both sports bars were very different in the types of interactions taking place and in the type of masculinities present. Sure the men in both bars were interested in sports and may have adhered to a particular notion of masculinity, however the chasm of age that separated these groups of men appeared to have produced differing social practices. My friends and I were out of place in the Timid Lamb; we played pool for a while, watched Gaelic football on TV, commented on the beautiful sea views and decided to take our thirst elsewhere.
To be continued …
Barich, B. (2009) A Pint of Plain – Tradition, Change, and the Fate of the Irish Pub, New York: Walker & Company.
Lemle, R. and Mishkind, M.E. (1989) ‘Alcohol and Masculinity’, Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, Vol. 2, pp.213-222.
Mullen, K., Watson, J., Swift, J. and Black, D. (2007) ‘Young Men, Masculinity and Alcohol’, Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp. 151-165.
O’Dwyer, P. (2001) ‘The Irish and substance abuse’, Ethnocultural factors in substance abuse treatment, pp. 199-215.
Share, P. (2003) ‘A genuine “Third Place”? Towards an understanding of the pub in contemporary Irish society’, 30th SAI Annual Conference, Cavan, Ireland (26 April 2003).
A version of this blog featured on www.irishsociologyblog.com on 10/22/2013.
Clay is a PhD candidate at University College Dublin, School of Sociology. His research interests are Masculinity and Drug Use, in particular, exploring the role of drug use in the construction, maintenance and displaying of young masculine identities. Clay’s other areas of research interest include health, Irish culture and art.