by Cody S. Decker
I just so happened to find myself in Greeneville, South Carolina, on a night that the Kentucky football team played South Carolina. Naturally, I decided to venture out on the town and find the rowdiest local sports pub that I could find.
Now normally, if I were planning on venturing into the heart of enemy territory, I would deck myself out is so much Kentucky blue and white that even the most hardcore of fans would throw up a little. But tonight, I decided to take a different approach.
I strolled into Jimmy’s Sports Bar & Restaurant wearing the most neutral outfit I had stuffed into my suitcase: khaki shorts with a grey shirt and brown hat. A lot of eyes found their way towards me when I walked in, but I’m used to it. I’m 6’8, people tend to stare. Through all of the glaring eyes, thankfully none of them sniffed out that I was a UK fan. I picked a stool next to the drunkest looking man at the bar wearing some sort of South Carolina gear and sat down. When the bartender asked me what I needed to drink, I ordered two beers. I downed the first one as soon as it was sat in front of me, just to show the fellas around me that I meant business and started sipping on the other while the game played out.
It had already started and South Carolina was already up a touchdown on us. Perfect opportunity. I leaned over to the guy next to me, gave him a nudge and grunted, “Hmmmph, Kentucky…. This game was over before it started.”
He woozily wheeled his attention towards me and said, “Shit, ain’t that the truth. Them Kentucky boys ain’t never been worth their weight in piss. This’ll be easy. GO COCKS!”
I was taken back by his last statement for a moment. Who in the hell hollers “GO COCKS” to a man he’s just met? Then I remembered who he was rooting for, the South Carolina Gamecocks. He said “’cocks”, so apparently he’s just too lazy to care what he’s saying out loud to strangers or his mind is too busy trying to balance his wobbly body atop that tiny seat on the stool.
I got my shit together and said, “Yeah! I hope we kill ‘em! I’ve gotta work early in the morning and would like this game to be over by halftime so I could go home.”
We clinked our beer glasses together and both swilled pretty hard at our brews. This was what I needed. Now that I had established some sort of comradery, I knew I was in.
We spent the next few minutes of the game bashing Kentucky footbal,l and as much as it may have hurt me, it wasn’t that hard to do. Let’s be honest, we haven’t been anything that anyone would want to write home about for quite some time now. I finished my beer about the time UK scored their first touchdown.
All tied up 7-7.
It was hard to hold back a smile, I’m not gonna lie. But I held character and slammed my empty beer glass down on the bar and yelled, “Shit!”
“Son of a bitch!” My new friend hollered at the overly large screen six feet away from his face. He downed his beer and ordered another. He looked at my glass.
“Yeah, man. Rent check came out this paycheck. I wasn’t planning on spending a lot of money on beer tonight.”
“Bullshit! Hey barlady! He’ll have another…on me!”
“You sure, man?”
“Don’t you worry about it. We’ve got a game on our hands here.”
“Thanks……? I still haven’t gotten your name, brother.”
“Nice to meet ya, Rick. I’m Jerret.”
We clinked our glasses again and threw back a healthy swig.
Rick and I kept talking for a while, like two barflies will do, and watching the game out of the corner of our eyes. Occasionally cursing the refs for making a bad call against SC but still cementing the foundations of a new friendship between first and fourth downs. I looked up just in time to see UK score with a little under two minutes left in the first quarter. Boom. 14-7.
We both threw a couple of curse words towards the screen that would have made a sailor blush and took a swig of our beers. He was legitimately pissed. I thought he was going to suck the bottom out of his glass.
“Two more!” He yelled at the pretty bartender.
“Rick, you don’t have to do that.”
“I don’t wanna hear it. We’re losing to Kentucky. KENTUCKY!!!”
“That’s true……” I said. And accepted the beer with a smirk that he never noticed.
The second quarter was underway and ol’ Rick wasn’t near as chatty as he was during the first. He was engulfed, embarrassed, and in a state of disbelief with what was happening in this game.
Kentucky kicks a field goal. It’s good. 17-7.
Rick is livid. Words are spewing out of his mouth that could not be transcribed into words. He orders two more beers before I could even finish the one I was working on. Of course I accept, I’m loving every minute of it. I nurse my two beers ‘til the second quarter starts to come to a close. I’m dry-glassed during Kentucky’s final drive of the half. I really didn’t expect us to score again but I wanted to be good and ready in case they did.
And I’ll be damned. With a few seconds left before halftime, we scored. 24-7.
The first half of football was over and Rick’s team was losing. Badly. And he was out of beer as well. He scrambled to get the bartender’s attention and ordered two more for us. To the best of my knowledge, he assumed that we were going to spend the duration of halftime bitching and moaning about the game.
You know what they same about assuming.
I gulped about half of the beer down and let out a big, “WOOOO!”
Rick seem puzzled, “What the hell are you excited about?”
“That, my good man, is how you play football!”
Through his drunken gaze, I could still see a touch of bewilderment in his eyes.
I finished the beer he bought and smiled as I sat it down.
He finally said, “I don’t get it. Kentucky is kicking our ass 24 to 7 at halftime. That ain’t nothing to be happy about. That ain’t good football.”
“I know. UK just kicked some “’cock” all up and down that field!”
“Ain’t you rootin’ for us?”
“But…you mean to tell me?”
“Yep. I’m from Kentucky, bud. Where we raise ‘maters, ‘taters and hell! How’s that first half ass kickin’ feel?”
Needless to say, Rick was not a happy camper after that last statement. It took three or four big ol’ boys to hold him back and a lot of sweet talking from the bartender.
We’ll just say that I was politely asked by management to leave.
I thought about making an even bigger scene of it all and duking it out with my new drinking buddy but Rick had already drawn an already upset crowd to my attention. I may have pride but I’m not stupid. I was the only Kentucky feller in the place. So I got out of there and decided to call it a night. Three free beers isn’t too shabby at all.
Now I’m back at the Baymont Inn, watching the game through updates on my ESPN app and typing this up on the computer in the lobby. I think I’ve made a few folks uncomfortable with my open fifth of bourbon and empty beer cans cluttering this communal computer desk. It’s probably about time to call it a night and watch the rest of this game in peace.