Bar Jester Chronicles 17: The Company of Men


Rock Island, IL

What the hell’s going on? No sooner do the Northworstern Wildcats (wearing, against all etiquette, dark jerseys at home) cheat their way to victory over God’s favorite college basketball team than … than what?

The Saints go marching out, the Giants send Green Bay packing, and Jesus fails to rally the troops against Pretty Boy up in Foxboro.

And I, buried beneath administrative fertilizer all weekend, can do aught but read about it in the papers.

What’s going on? I’ll tell you what’s going on. There’s a conspiracy. Cable and satellite TV, digital transmissions, converter boxes, BTN, ESPN, TiVo, deans, presidents, registrars, the Women’s Movement–all of them have been scheming for years now to ruin the lives of millions of good well-meaning men who ask nothing more of life than ready inexpensive access to sports and the occasional exclusive company of men.

Do you know there was a time when a loyal husband and loving father could put on a beat-up flannel shirt, step out into his garage of a cold winter’s afternoon or evening, light the propane heater, unlock the side door for whatever dog-house fugitives might wander over, draw a beautiful golden IPA off the keg, light up a cigar, burp, scratch, break wind, flip on a television six years older than Moses, adjust the rabbit ears, and see a game broadcast by a network station—right here in the land of the free and the home of the brave?

And now what? I think you know what. This same God-fearing man has been frozen out, black-balled from all of the above by powers and principalities trampling underfoot the inalienable and most fundamental rights of man.

Oh, I grant you the networks still have a small gloved hand in the ever-expanding pie of sports broadcasting—unless it’s baseball you want—but look what the whole vile trend adds up to: men forced back indoors and plopped down in comfortable chairs before the clear images emanating from flat screens mounted on mauve-colored walls.

What is that about? Bright-lace Government, is what it’s about. Surveillance by Lady Scrutiny. Which of these uxorious men is at liberty there on his overstuffed sofa (principal feature of the conspiracy: it might just as well be called a “divan”) to light up or let rip? To tell jokes not meant for delicate ears? To call down imprecations on basketball teams that wear purple at home? Purple!

Not a one. And those not at liberty are the ones most to be pitied: they don’t know they’re not at liberty. They don’t know what freedoms they’ve surrendered under the Petticoat Act of the Shaved-Leg Tyranny.

I’ll grant you there is little any of us can do about being left behind by the superpowers of subscription television—save refuse to subscribe, which I have always done, am doing now, and ever shall do—but there is something we all can do about the massive measures being taken to prevent men from keeping their own company: revolt.

Some might suggest that we revolt by retreating to and reconnoitering in sports bars, where someone else is picking up the tab for televised sports and where beer flows freely.

I’ve got news for you. No one is picking up the tab save the indiscriminate patrons of these vile, these undifferentiated, these soul-less, placeless, men-less establishments. And what flows in them isn’t beer, I assure you. It’s the rice wine bubbling out of St. Louis and bankrolling subscription television.

Then how about neighborhood bars?

God bless them, but they are few and far between and shrinking in number like Indian mascots. That neighborhood bars exist here and there I acknowledge, rejoicing in the knowledge thereof. But zoning laws are, for the most part, against them, and still there’s the matter of what flows therein (and in consequence therefrom). No. The neighborhood bar is no more a solution to the conspiracy against men than Lifestyle Conservatism is a solution to liberalism, fascism, Signorellyism, and Salyerism.

Well, surely you have buddies willing to foot the bill for those fancy TVs that receive with agility pricey transmissions, which they then faultlessly convert into crisp, clear images that in turn fill spacious rooms underwritten by berber carpet.

Indeed I do, and not a one of these buddies can light a cigar within ten miles of his high-definition god, much less let out a well-timed Bronx cheer when the surgically-altered visage of Jerry Jones attempts the simulacrum of disappointment at the perennial failures of “America’s Team” (long may it fail!)

No. Friendship is not improved by friends deeply implicated in The Conspiracy.

What to do then?

My brothers, the time is coming—may, indeed, be upon us—when we are going to have to opt out of televised sports altogether. On principle, I mean. The time is coming when we are going to have to return to talk—to good old-fashioned shoulder-to-shoulder talk, talk of the sort that preserves the potables and the Partagas alike but eschews the hyperboles of Pus Johnson and Burnt Musberger, the tripping idioms of Prime Crime and Dier Dandorf.

At least in such verbally rich environs as the garage or the front porch, or gathered round the fire-pit, gazing at the true rather than the blue flame, peering deep into the one focus that the divine science of etymology allows, we can do those things that by right of birth are ours to do, things that differentiate us from the women-folk and (as they themselves would have it) distance us from them as well.

I mean: behave not as creatures made for compassion and understanding and sympathy and all that noble claptrap but as creatures made for ribaldry and insult, argument and contest, for spontaneous limericks and raucous laughter, for brandy and cigars, for scratching, farting, and open-sky urination.

What unwoe may betide us when we have ceased to care that Little Brother has also (this very night—damn him!) cheated his way to victory over God’s favorite college basketball team will, I expect, feel like the weight of sin itself being lifted from our shoulders. It will look like a blank check, like a kitchen pass with no expiration date. It will inaugurate a new dispensation for those who, although they love women, prefer the company of men (and whose women are very glad they do).

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