Ah, November. The weather is turning cold, Turducken Day is almost here and the NFL season is heating up. College ball, too. Regardless of the NBA mess, it’s an awesome time for sports fans, TV repairmen and grocery/convenience stores – not to mention companies advertising male-targeted products like beer, deodorant and trucks. I mean, think of the programming environment those ads were mainly created for: Are you ready for some football??
This year, the male advertising universe is centered in Wisconsin, thanks to a very good Wisconsin Badger team and a great Green Bay Packers squad. Fittingly, both teams boast some of the most crazy-fun stadiums in the country – but both are sold out well into the next millennium. So where’s the next-best-place to catch the action? With all apologies to you man-cave aficionados, I prefer being above ground when drinking in a dark room. So yes, I think Wisconsin’s sports bars are temporarily the nexus of the sports and advertising worlds. From Madison Ave. to Milwaukee, marketers are cooking up concepts to be viewed in them. And that’s pretty cool. Here’s my take on the best of the bunch:
Any discussion of Brew City watering holes begins with Major Goolsby’s. Located near both the US Cellular Arena and the Bradley Center, Goolsby’s is more than just a convenient pre-game cheeseburger stop. It is frequently visited by college and pro athletes, as well as entrepreneurs selling tickets to basketball games, hockey games and concerts. Just across the river, the Water Street district bustles with sports-centric night spots like Bar Louie, many of which also draw pro and college players. The East Side/North Avenue area features Replay and Hooligan’s, among others, while Fanatics (in the Third Ward) has been voted “Milwaukee’s Best Sports Bar” two years running in the onmilwaukee.com reader poll. It has 42 high-def screens, a “stadium section” with 180-inch video wall and a luxury box. (Seriously.)
Few campuses in America celebrate college football Saturdays like Madison. When 100,000+ fans and students descend upon Camp Randall Stadium, the nearby Regent Street bar district turns into a Midwestern Mardi Gras. Among the most popular watering holes are the Big Ten Pub, Regent Street Retreat and Stadium Bar. Further from the stadium, the State Street bars draw hundreds of fans, while the Great Dane Brew Pub offers game-day shuttle bus service along with seasonal stouts, ales and an IPA to die for. After the game, fans can hang out with Badger players at the Kollege Club, whose post-game reputation has scored it ink in Sports Illustrated and Playboy. Order a cold one for Coach Bielema.
The tailgating at Lambeau Field is legendary, but for ticket-less fans the game action is at several local establishments. Located just west of the stadium, Kroll’s is my favorite. Be sure to get there early, so you can join in “welcoming” the opposing team’s buses as they pull into the Lambeau parking lot. (Remember Randy Moss mooning the crowd? He was getting even with the gang at Kroll’s.) On the other side of the stadium, The Bar on Holmgren Way is a great place to buy or sell tickets. Other Green Bay sports bars worth noting include the aptly named Stadium View Bar and the Titletown Brewing Company (where the gloriously kitschy Don Hutson statue now resides.)
So, there you have it. For a brief shining moment, male Wisconsin sports fans and the bars they patronize are arguably cool, trendy and nationally significant. But that will pass. Soon enough, we’ll be back to coaching Little League, doing yard work and patiently sitting through American Idol. Enjoy this “Ground Zero” experience while you can.