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What's The Score On Spirited Sports Banter At Bars?

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The more I travel, the more I see sports bars. They've been around for years, usually in obvious places, like in college towns or near arenas.

But now they're everywhere, even in airports and hotels, places where you'd expect generic bars. Sports bars are becoming ubiquitous and ordinary — merely, as my wife calls them, public man caves.

All bars, of course, have forever been places where men talk about sports. Other prime saloon subjects include women, the traffic and the weather.

But what made sports so perfect for bars is that they encourage argument. Men are generally pretty much in agreement when it comes to the traffic and the weather, and about most things involving women.

But the next best thing to actually playing sports is arguing about sports. In both cases, we're talking about competition.

"You wanna 'nother one, buddy?"

"No, I'm still makin' my point."

Nowadays, unfortunately, there's not nearly so much good arguing in sports bars.

No. 1: Because there are now so many sports bars, inexpert visitors who are not know-it-all fans but merely thirsty wayfarers too often inhabit these establishments. Moreover, now at spring break time, sports bars attract college men who are mostly just trying to momentarily escape college women. You parents should know: It's not easy being a breaker.

And then, No. 2: All sports bars are awash in television sets, so rather than argue about sports in the time-honored bar-stool fashion, now sports bar communicants mostly just watch, mute. Sometimes, in fact, they don't even watch the same thing. You may be enjoying a basketball game from the Sunbelt Conference between two colleges you never heard of, while the silent gentleman next to you is enthralled by a tennis match from Dubai between two Eastern Europeans he never heard of. But both, catatonically, eyeball the overhead and listen intently to the numbing analysis.

So ends manly civilized discourse as we've known it. And not even with a whimper.

Probably, too, when barflies don't argue sports, they just drink more.

"You wanna 'nother one, buddy?"

"Yeah, sure, why not?"

Worst of all, if there's no big local game on that has an enthusiastic following, some sports bars turn off the sound to the multitudinous TV games. It then becomes the 10th circle of hell — visual Muzak. That is the saddest of all, sports all around overhead, but silence below.

People nowadays are always being informed about such-and-such a privacy policy, which means that your private information will be protected. I think we ought to have a privacy policy where you can be protected from television sets intruding upon you.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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