Ode to the Sports Bar

A long held dining model is disappearing in Canada’s largest city. The chaotic rush to revolutionize the food scene and become the next ‘It’ restaurant combined with the city’s untenable rent prices has created swathes of upscale pub fare establishments that pickle their own cabbage and buttermilk their own chicken.

Don’t get me wrong, these places are great! They’ve resulted in a thriving brunch scene, and have also created thousands of jobs that offer living wages throughout the city (whatever your stance on tipping is), but it is strangling out the restaurant type that was once the benchmark of a city’s culinary scene: the sports bar.

I won’t argue that these high-end gastro pubs have superior food to the grimey sportsbar of yore, but that was always kind of the point.  They were a casual place to grab a drink and maybe a small bite while gazing at a choice of television screens.

Things were simple.

True today we’re seeing less fine dining and black tie restaurants in major cities too, but it is because they are amorphously blending in with the lower price point eateries to create a slew of moderately high price point casual dining options.

Look, it’s not just about the money. I know these places need to pay their rent in a city who charges a premium for rents, and $5 pints and $10 wings just don’t cut it anymore. It’s also about the televisions. Somewhere along the way these more-expensive restaurants decided that it was no longer super valuable to have 80 flat screen televisions covering every square inch of their establishment, and so it’s often a toss up whether a restaurant or bar in Toronto will even have a game on. I’ve even walked into a place with several TVs and they were unable to pull up a single NFL game on a Sunday afternoon.

I’m on the older side of being a millennial: the ripe old age of 30. But like many millennials, I no longer have a cable package. What's the point? Every television show I care about can be acquired and watched online with TOTALLY LEGAL MEANS. Casting devices like Google Chromecast, make cable even more obsolete as they allow you to watch your favourite show on you large screen.

The missing factor? Sports.

Sure, each league offers their own streaming service, but those are much more than just a subscription to Netflix, they just don’t seem worth the value, especially if you’re only a casual fan of a given sport.

I know it’s super in vogue to be apathetic to sports right now. Everytime a major sporting event happens, my Facebook becomes clogged with uniformly clever people statuses along the lines of, “Yay sportsball,” I get it, it’s not for you, but there are still some of us out here, and we enjoy the escape of the polarizing political climate that’s seeped into every other piece of media. Sure, players knelt and that was political, but I didn’t think about that when Brady got sacked in the Super Bowl.

So do these establishments still have a place in the GTA? I sure hope so, because I’d still like to visit them from time to time. I don’t need a beer that’s been brewed with Unicorn tears or a burger made of its flesh. Sometimes all I’m looking for is a cold generic beer, hot wings, and sports on the TV.