After flying fifteen hours non-stop from New York to Hong Kong, landing just in time to get lost in the endless crowds at the Lunar New Year Fair in Victoria Park, obviously my next priorities were to a) fight the jet lag and b) find a bar to watch the Super Bowl at 7:30am local time the following morning. Because what better way is there to celebrate the Year of the Monkey than by watching the Broncos and the Panthers in what wound up being one of the more boring Super Bowls in recent memory?
My desire was to find a bar that not only appealed to American expats – of which there are thousands in Hong Kong – but that also delightfully played up the American kitsch. Half of the fun of the Super Bowl is fully giving in to American stereotypes for one glorious day – way too much food, way too much booze and loudly cheering as two teams smash into each other. Fortunately for me, I found Eastside Tavern. Two bouncers stood guard at the door when I arrived, as if daring me to try and enter without a reservation, but thankfully the Eastside Tavern was basically half empty, so I had little trouble getting a seat.
By the time I finally cleared the bouncers and gained entry, I knew I had discovered the perfect spot to watch the game. The walls of the bar were covered with dead animal heads and western memorabilia. If this were Williamsburg those decorations would have been ironic, but this being Hong Kong, I could tell the bar was legitimately trying to be a recreation of some mythical bar people assume must exist in the American west. Wagon wheel chandeliers hung from the ceiling and American flags were draped on the walls. If I hadn’t known better, I might have expected Wild Bill Hickok to come walking through the door.
Since it was 7AM on Monday morning, the bar wasn’t serving the traditional Super Bowl fare of wings, seven layer dip and pizza, but for $400 HK (roughly $51 U.S.) I was able to get an ‘American’ breakfast and two drinks — not bad for Hong Kong. Additionally I had the option of going with the English Breakfast, which was bangers and mash, but that just seemed un-American. For my two drinks I opted for Brooklyn Lager — not exactly the quintessential Super Bowl beer I had envisioned, but Budweiser wasn’t available, so Brooklyn Lager it was.
Inside the bar there was actually a good mix of locals, expats and tourists, all people who for some reason or another felt compelled to experience the Super Bowl live with other people early in the morning. I could just as easily have watched the game at my hotel, but I guess I too was guilty of seeking an experience to make up for the FOMO of missing out back at home.
One thing I was glad I was missing, however, were traditional CBS commentators Jim Nantz and Phil Simms. Thanks to being in Hong Kong, I got to watch the game via the NFL’s international feed, which I must say has much better analysis but sadly does not show any of the commercials. Thank god for Twitter and the instant gratification of being able to watch them on my phone shortly after they aired.
Most people in attendance seemed to be paying attention to the game, but just like in America the crowd really got amped for the halftime show. There was a much stronger showing of love for Coldplay than I expected, the bar really got into their music, and it made me wonder: is this where all their CD sales are now coming from? Beyoncé was also a hit, but everybody loves Beyoncé.
The rest of the game was pretty much a blur; there were a few die-hard Panthers fans that started drinking heavily as it became apparent that their team wasn’t going to win, but all I started to care about was finding a good place that might be open for Dim Sum lunch. As it was the Lunar New Year, people also started looking forward to the night’s festivities, which includes the largest Chinese New Year’s parade in world. In a funny coincidence, the U.S. is being represented by the Indianapolis Colts Cheerleaders. If Jim Irsay is here with them, I bet his party beat the hell out of the one I was at.