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Join the Crowd : Sunday's game--boring as it may be--at least gives fans a chance to get away from earthquake cleanup.


Sunday's matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the Buffalo Bills may not be the Super Bowl everyone was hoping for. Same teams as last year. Probably the same result.

But the game will provide a few hours of diversion for a San Fernando Valley that needs a diversion in the aftermath of the earthquake. It will also give people a chance to get out of the house, to get away from the picking up and sweeping up and join the crowd at a local sports bar.

Understand that finding a decent sports bar is no simple task. The Valley, unfortunately, has never been fertile ground for such establishments. Local lounges that boast multiple televisions tend to fall into the chain-restaurant, pick-up joint category. Places where small talk and double-entendres intrude on serious game-watching. An example: one West Valley restaurant advertises itself as a sports hangout ("4 satellite TVs, never miss any game"), but when asked about the Super Bowl, the manager wondered what time the game would start. Informed that the festivities will begin at 3 p.m. and probably stretch into early evening, he mused:

"We might have to turn it off early. We have karaoke on Sunday nights."

Further complicating matters, the earthquake has left a couple of the Valley's better spots, including the venerable Telly's in Universal City, on the injured list for Super Sunday.

But there remain several places where fans can plop down in front of a big-screen television to see every play and replay. Places where people can can distract themselves with beer and bluster when the game turns one-sided which, if history proves reliable, should be midway through the second quarter.

Here are a few suggestions:

* Weber's Place, 19312 Vanowen St., Reseda

Size: Smallish bar with one big-screen and nine regular televisions.

Strengths: This place has all the viewing technology of a sports bar wrapped up in the ambience of a neighborhood joint. "Every time there's a big game, we're here," said Patrick Bradbury of Northridge, a regular at the bar. "It's a good place to be with friends and watch the game."

Weaknesses: For those who like a little elbow room, the cramped quarters can be annoying. But, overall, Weber's has no glaring shortcomings.

Tendencies: The crowd is likely to be raucous, throwing a football around the bar, drinking pitchers of beer and screaming for the home team.

Game Plan: Grab a chair in front of the big screen and order a cheeseburger with French fries. Or try the Buffalo wings. And stay on your toes. At the height of the action, the bartender is likely to call a three-minute, half-off drink special, precipitating a mad rush to the bar.

* The Funbar at Stuart Anderson's Black Angus, 235 S. First St., Burbank

Size: One big-screen, six monitors and four small monitors behind the bar. A full room of tables and booths.

Strengths: This place adequately covers the fundamentals football. Not blocking and tackling. We're talking about beer and beef. The Funbar has both Moosehead and Bass Ale on tap and the French dip sandwich will get you through four quarters and overtime, if necessary. The monitors behind the bar are perfect for those who prefer to belly up while they watch.

Weaknesses: No footballs autographed by Joe Montana, no sandwiches named after linebackers--this bar suffers from enough dark wood and mood lighting to qualify as the quintessential suburban disco and meat market (which is exactly what it is on Friday nights).

Tendencies: On a recent playoff weekend, the place was as quiet as a morgue. Management predicts a big comeback for the Big Game, with a full barbecue and special contests in the parking lot before the bowl.

Game Plan: Forget the endlessly boring pregame show on television, Stuart Anderson's has the Budweiser and Miller Lite girls in a kissing booth.

* Tickets, Warner Center Marriott, 21850 Oxnard St., Woodland Hills

Size: A wide room with a bar in the center, with two big-screen televisions and seven regular-sized screens. Plenty of seating.

Strengths: There's a screen in clear view from just about any seat in the house. The sound is loud enough, but not blaring. And two pool tables in the side room are in excellent condition and surrounded by televisions.

Weaknesses: This bar started out as a dance club and still plays disco on Friday and Saturday nights. Spotlights and a glitter ball hang from the ceiling. The menu includes such items as chicken almondine and a vegetable platter. John Madden would not approve.

Tendencies: Tickets is the new kid in town, having only recently converted to a sports bar on weekends. So the place is not attracting big crowds. Not yet.

Game Plan: If you're looking to avoid the rush and settle in for some serious watching with a $3 glass of Bass Ale, this is your place.

* Fish Broiler, 5530 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys.

Size: A small bar with a dozen or so booths and tables. One big screen and seven regular televisions.

Strengths: Good lineage. This is a sister to the Encino Fish Broiler, which was a favorite meeting spot for Valley fans before it lost its lease last summer. Neither as large nor as popular, the Van Nuys location nonetheless offers plenty of screens and an oyster bar.

Weaknesses: The place can be a tad too cozy. On a busy day, you may find yourself with nowhere to stand, much less sit. And the sight lines aren't so great.

Tendencies: For Super Bowl Sunday, the Fish Broiler will pull out all the stops, offering chili dogs for 35 cents and chili fries for a quarter. Now this is football food.

Game Plan: A rarity among sports hangouts, the Fish Broiler takes reservations for seats in the bar. So call ahead and make plans to arrive as close to the 11 a.m. opening time as possible. It'll give you time to load up on chili.

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