Karen Lodes is a bartender with a bartender's powers of observation. She likes working at the Pennant in South Mission Beach because it's "ultra-casual."
"You can wear swimsuits, flip-flops, shorts and T-shirts," she said. "Even in the winter."
Even on Super Bowl Sunday.
The crowd at the Pennant embodies the essence of the California cliche "laid-back." But when it comes to complaining about Super Bowl tickets--about not being able to buy Super Bowl tickets--laid-back just ceases to fit.
Ultra-casual, meet ultra-crazed.
The fans at this bar would mud-wrestle Spuds MacKenzie for a bench seat in the front row of the end zone.
What to Do
So what do you do, you desperate fans? You don't--and won't--have a ticket, unless you're willing to pony up a few months' beer money (say, $750?) and grab one from a scalper, at which point you may become ultra-broke.
You start scrambling for other alternatives.
You must see the game; television is your only hope (and, arguably, the best way to see a football game anyway). You could watch at home, but what fun is that? You are a party animal, right? You want to feel the crowd, taste the touchdowns, hear the screams.
Why not go to a bar with a really BIG screen? Better yet, why not a bar with a big screen and a din of hoopla and hype--something to make you feel you're at the game, even though you're not?
Well, the Pennant, for one. Lodes' bar has one big-screen TV and eight smaller ones. She expects a crowd of Pennant regulars to show up Sunday, including a covey of professional athletes instantly recognizable to any true fan. (Regulars include ex-Padre and ex-Yankee Graig Nettles, now a pinch-hitter for the Atlanta Braves.)
Taverns as diverse as the swank Whaling Bar at the La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla and the Archie Bunker-ish Sports San Diego on Adams Avenue in Normal Heights have Super Bowl extravaganzas primed and ready to roll.
Place to Be Seen
C.J. Rizzo, director of public relations at the La Valencia, describes its Whaling Bar as the "spot in town where people come to be seen." Such occasional visitors include actor Dustin Hoffman (whose mother lives in La Jolla) as well as TV comedian Johnny Carson.
The bar will have the game on TV, with "all kinds of stuff" available to eat and drink for whoever shows up.
"It'll be like when we have the Kentucky Derby on television," Rizzo said. "We always have a ton of people on hand. It's a happenin' place."
The San Diego Marriott Hotel & Marina--official headquarters for the National Football League during its Super Bowl stay--has activities slated during the game, though most of its guests will be watching at the stadium.
Harold Queisser, director of marketing for the hotel, said two big-screen TVs will show the game in the lobby. Two more big ones will be in the pool area, with hot dogs, hamburgers, beer and wine on hand for everyone.
"We'll have plenty going on even during the game," Queisser said.
The most outlandish spot may be Rocky's Balboa, "The Ultimate Sports Bar" in Pacific Beach. Owner Peter Weinberger expects a crowd of upwards of 500 people, "and we only hold 275," he said with a chuckle.
Rocky's plans drink specials, T-shirt giveaways, surprise messages on the in-house scoreboard ("Cindy R. Loves the Broncos!") and rock music for the "quiet" moments leading up to and after the game.
Weinberger said Rocky's has 15 television sets, including one big screen, all beaming pictures received by a trio of satellite dishes perched on the roof. During a "normal" Sunday of National Football League action, Rocky's shows seven games at once.
Game Is 'The Game'
Weinberger, like a lot of those interviewed, said that the game being played in San Diego has little to do with the falderal being pumped at bars and hotels.
"The Super Bowl is the Super Bowl," he said, "regardless of where it's held. Oh, sure, it's increased interest having the game in San Diego. But it's a big deal every year. We did this kind of stuff last year too."
Gil Ambrose, owner of the country & Western-flavored Longhorn Cafe on Mission Gorge Road, not far from the stadium, expects a gathering of about 275. Two months ago, the Longhorn sold its 1 millionth hamburger. Ambrose hopes Super Bowl XXII works up many a mean appetite craving Longhorn burgers. If the game gets boring, as Super Bowls are wont to do, you can check out the John Wayne room in the rear of the restaurant. It has enough pictures and memorabilia to make it a Duke museum.
The Blarney Stone Pub in Clairemont appears bent on proving that the Irish like football too. Cherie Riley, the bartender, said "a BIG party" is planned, featuring Irish folk music, hot dogs, Irish coffee, corned-beef sandwiches, Irish whiskey and, of course, American football.
The Coaster Saloon, near the roller coaster in Mission Beach, anticipates one of its biggest days ever. Duane, "the executive fry cook" who wouldn't give a surname, said Coaster fans will have available six televisions, including one "very big screen."
Duane plans a steak-and-egg special for $3.95, a rib dinner for $3.95 and enough $1 hamburgers to stagger the heartiest eaters.
Duane denied that the Coaster is a "biker" bar but added quickly that bikers love football too, especially the "physical" kind played by such teams as the Los Angeles Raiders and Chicago Bears.
"It's not the kind of bar where people feel uncomfortable coming in," Duane said. "We have guys in three-piece suits, as well as big guys in leather jackets. It's really a cool place."
Steve Wynn, general manager of Reuben's seafood restaurant at Grossmont Center in La Mesa, expects at least 75 people to crowd around two big-screen televisions, hoping they'll order a shark or two to complement the crunching of helmets.
Mark (Bubba) Rosenberg, owner of Lancers on Park Boulevard in University Heights, will offer "tons of free food" to go with the drinks that, alas, he must charge for.
"Not everything is a free ride in this world," Rosenberg said, insisting he be called Bubba.
Wrangler's Roost, a country & Western nightclub on Mission Gorge Road, expects 375 people for a party costing $10 a person. After the game, a C & W band will "rock on out," said a Wrangler's spokesman.
Ernie Mark, manager of Bully's East at the junction of Interstate 8 and Texas Street, said his bar is "doubling up" on meat during the game.
"We're gonna trot out some huge meals," Mark said, adding that the size of the steaks would be as large as 24 and 36 ounces per plate.
"A lot of people can't get tickets, and that's a shame," Mark said. "So, we want 'em to come, watch on the big TV, and hell, just get fat."