SAN DIEGO — Although trivial, sport may offer an alternative form of social commitment. It may be a statement of our emotional and civic shallowness that sports teams express a sense of us-ness.
--Gordon Clanton, a San Diego State University sociologist, discussing homesickness
Theresa Bates got there half an hour before the doors opened, wearing a Dallas Cowboys jersey. Her husband, Bob, was standing beside her.
"Boy, I hope they show it," he said anxiously. "I really hope they show it."
They is Rocky's Balboa, a bar in Pacific Beach that opened in February. It was last Sunday's Dallas Cowboys-Philadelphia Eagles game, which couldn't be seen on a local television station anywhere in California.
Rocky's is subtitled "The Ultimate Sports Bar," meaning it has on its roof three satellite dishes with the ability to bring in as many as four sports events at once. It is also chock full of boxing gloves, bats, helmets and other sporting memorabilia.
Satellite dishes and big screens at bars and restaurants are hardly uncommon. Having so many is. Rocky's claims to be the only such bar in the county, but sports bars with "multiple satellite feeds" (a phrase from Rocky's owner Cos Cappellino) are cropping up throughout the country.
It's not just because people like sports, he said, but because of what the sociologist pointed out--sports teams, namely the collective television viewing of them, somehow express that sense of us-ness .
"It's amazing how people remain loyal to certain teams and certain cities," said Cappellino, who has lived in Rochester, N.Y.; Cleveland; Los Angeles, and Houston, and loves the Los Angeles Raiders, maybe the most hated team in San Diego. "It's great to see people cheering all these different teams. It's like a convention of delegates from other cities, but they're all from right here."
Rocky's clientele is made up almost entirely of San Diegans, but the hometowns of the Sunday conglomeration were as varied as Chevy Chase, Md.; Chester, N.Y.; Bismarck, N.D., and San Antonio, Tex. One fellow even hailed from Kingston, Jamaica. Rocky's is further proof that San Diego is largely a city made up of immigrants from other ports, American or foreign. Such migration--such high mobility--is giving rise, Cappellino said, to a booming trend in sports bars.
Rocky's is modeled, he said, after such video-equipped watering holes as Champions in Washington, the Sports Deli in Los Angeles, C.J. Brett's in Hermosa Beach, Legends in Long Beach, Ricky's Lounge in San Leandro, Calif., and several in Chicago, which he called the Mecca of such places.
Locally, Rocky's has emerged as the target of a cult following, especially on Sundays, when National Football League games are usually played. Thirteen are played every Sunday, every Monday night and the occasional Thursday night for 16 weeks a year, not counting pre- and postseason. Rocky's can't show them all and never will, Cappellino said, so some people walk out miffed.
But it does have the power to bring in four games not shown on local TV and two that are. Rocky's often has as many as five games going at once. Last Sunday, at various times, these matches made the menu: Chicago-Minnesota, Detroit-Los Angeles Rams, New York Giants-Seattle, St. Louis-Washington, San Diego-Kansas City, San Francisco-Atlanta and Dallas-Philadelphia.
The last one left Bob and Theresa Bates positively ecstatic.
The same held true for Javier Delatorre, a friendly 32-year-old mailman from Chula Vista--uh, make that San Antonio. Delatorre cares little about the San Diego Chargers, he said, unless they're playing (and beating) the Washington Redskins or New York Giants. He, too, is an "I bleed metallic blue" Dallas fan.
So is Jakie Bradley, 28, a truck driver from East San Diego by way of San Angelo, Tex. Bradley said Rocky's has the power to produce magic.
"Used to be when the Cowboys wasn't on local television," he said, "I just worried to death. But I haven't missed a Cowboys game this year."
Bradley said he also likes the social dimension of Rocky's. He likes the cheering, even the heckling of one group against another. He spent part of the fourth quarter of Dallas' game lining up companions to see the Cowboys in person Dec. 7 in Anaheim against the Rams.
Rocky's caters to more than just pro fans. A few weeks ago, the bar drew about 285 people--almost all from Michigan--to watch the Michigan-Michigan State game, which wasn't shown on local stations.
Dorinda Crespin, 32, Rocky's general manager, said calls from Michiganians were coming in "five days in advance, at least a dozen each day, making sure we'd have it." She estimated they turned away as many as 175 disgruntled Michiganians for whom there was simply no room.
Rocky's suffered a similar fate last spring, when the Houston Rockets were playing the Los Angeles Lakers in a playoff game. Those turned away were wiping moisture off the windows outside merely to catch a peek at the big screen.