A marathon session with our company’s annual report last week has the “YES, we’ve seen progress, BUT the following needs to happen” attitude oozing from my pores. In that vein, here’s part one in a three-part “yes, but” series on Beijing (check back here tomorrow for part 2: “Yes, but I don’t feel like corn-fed songbirds today”.)
YES, sports bars such as The Pavillion, Frank’s Place and The Pomegranate have been nice additions to the scene over the past 18 months. They provide even more places in which to view rugby, cricket and that mesmerizing pursuit known as Formula 1 (zoom! zoooooooom! zoom! zoom!). BUT why is there nary a bar for North America league sports? I’m talking National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Hockey League (NHL), Major League Baseball (MLB) and National Football League (NFL).
Really, Beijing doesn’t have enough Americans, Canadians or people in general who like these sports to keep a bar, especially one that makes a decent burger, in business? Not enough people to turn the NCAA basketball tournament into a cash cow that brings in three months of revenue in a few weeks? Really, a place couldn’t survive by sponsoring the local ice and grid dogs, and being a hangout for beer, pub grub and replays of classic games?
Take Saturday tonight: I desperately wanted to see the opening game of the Toronto Raptors-New Jersey Nets series, as: 1) it’s Toronto’s first playoff game in years; 2) New Jersey’s star player used to be Toronto’s star player until, many fans believe, he stopped trying and forced a trade, after which he returned to his winning ways (the fiend!); 3) it pits a group of upstarts against a team with three stars; and 4) I generally cheer for any team with a player named Bosh, especially if he looks a bit like the mascot (in this case, a dinosaur). Thus, I loaded my wallet for three hours of massive food and beverage intake, but where to go?
First, I called 5:19. Owner Dave had a group just finishing with a Premier League game and they were interested in more soccer. Fair enough.
Then, I called Goose and Duck. “Are you showing the NBA tonight?” I asked. “We can put it on,” came the answer. I arrived just after midnight and three minutes before tipoff only to discover they couldn’t get the game. The staff was friendly and did their best, but even better had they checked the schedule before I took the 20-minute cab ride there.
With the clock ticking, I went to The Pavillion. Every TV featured cricket: that’s what was advertised, said a guy behind the bar. I noted a TV, next to the door, that NO ONE was watching. “How about basketball on that one?” I asked. Nope, he said, if he switches the channel on that TV it also switches the channel on another one at the bar. NO ONE was watching that other TV either, I further noted. Nope, he said, Pavillion advertised cricket and – I guess – even if NO ONE was watching it, that’s what The Pavillion would play.
So, I gave up. I went to my office and watched the game online. Instead of Beijing’s sports bars, I guess my NBA playoffs budget will be split between re-heated Pizza Buona (the best delivered pizza in town, IMHO) and 7-ELEVEN.
I wonder how many other Toronto Raptors as well as Boston Red Sox, Seattle Seahawks, Edmonton Oilers, LA Lakers, Houston Astros, Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Penguins and myriad other NBA, NHL, NFL and MLB fans have has this experience. Really, with four leagues comprising more 100 total teams with seasons that overlap, thus meaning there is virtually a game every day, a sports bar couldn’t make money out of this? Until then, the number for Pizza Buona, on Gongti West Road, is 6551-3518.