So many bars, so little time before last call. And yet, undaunted, SI's (Pabst) blue-ribbon panel set about the task of determining the best sports bars in America. First, we convened a nationwide nominating committee of some 100 staffers, correspondents and certifiably reliable bar aficionados to begin the process. � Some suggested places were eliminated early because they failed to meet our definition of sports bar: a place that first and foremost caters to sports fans. Other joints made the first cut by virtue of how often, and how passionately, they were nominated. Then the panel went to work. Where any doubt existed, a panelist was dispatched to check the place out and render a decision. � Given the nature of the subject, this list surely won't go unchallenged, and if a worthy watering hole has somehow been overlooked it is a certainty that you, the sporting barflies of America, will let us know. And if your case is convincing? Well, maybe we'll have another round.
KEY TO SYMBOLS [TV] Number of TV screens [[FB] Football [B] Basketball [H] Hockey [BB]�Baseball] Cable and satellite packages [DB] Number of draft beers [BT] Number of bottled beers
1 The Fours, Boston
THOUGH SOME swear by the Cask 'n Flagon, this is the choice of Boston insiders, from sportswriters to assistant coaches all the way up to team owners. By virtue of the Red Sox' miracle season in 2004 and the Patriots' second straight Super Bowl appearance, The Fours finds itself at the white-hot center of the sports universe. Tim Colton purchased the place in 1980, when it was little more than a 30-foot bar with stools, and it soon became a hockey hangout favored by Bruins legend Ray Bourque, who would come by with his teammates after games. (Back then members of the Canadiens and the Penguins would often come in for lunch since the bar was right across the street from the old Garden.) Today the bar has evolved into a two-story sports mecca, with more than 200 pieces of Boston sports paraphernalia on its walls. Center stage is a tribute to the holy trinity of the last great Celtics teams: game-worn jerseys of Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale. Parish's white singlet strikes a discordant note, though, with Bird's and McHale's green jerseys. "His original one got stolen," says Peter Colton, who joined his brother in the business in '89. "One night Parish's agent came in, and when we told him what happened, he had Robert sign a jersey and send it over, but he sent a white one."
[TV] 18 [FB][B][H][BB] �[DB] 22 [BT] 30
2 Ricky's San Leandro, Calif.
DURING THE Oakland Raiders' 13 years of exile in Los Angeles, from 1982 to '95, Ricky's was the Penelope of sports bars. "We kept the torches burning," says owner Ricky Ricardo Jr. "All those years we never missed one Raiders game. One time there was a game on Ku Band, and we couldn't get the frequency, so we rented a dish for $1,000 to pick it up." When Oakland beat Minnesota in Super Bowl XI in 1977, the bar recorded the game on three-quarter-inch tape and replayed it three times a day for several weeks; one afternoon a bunch of Raiders players even came in to watch.
[TV] 80 [FB][B][H][BB] �[DB] 10 [BT] 40
3 Nemo's Detroit
WHEN THIS Detroit standard-bearer opened in 1965, it was across the street from Tiger Stadium, near the Lions' offices and only minutes from Joe Louis Arena, where the Red Wings play. Only the Red Wings are still nearby, but the bar thrives. When the Tigers migrated to Comerica Park in 2000, Nemo's bridged the distance by buying some old school buses to ferry patrons to games and bring them back for a postgame quaff. The bar's loyalty to the Red Wings has also paid off: It was the first place owner Mike Ilitch brought the Stanley Cup when Detroit won in 1997.