Just got back from a bar, I’m slightly tired, slightly buzzed, and slightly wanting to see what my writing looks like when I’m in a mindset like this. I also just had to sprint past my landlord’s cat (petrified of the thing) and a skunk (goes without saying). This blog is supposed to be about more than sports. Yes, we love SportsNation as much as any sports fan, but we think about more than just that too. So I’m going to start this post organically, as jaredshalek would say, and see where it goes. Tonight I was with five friends of mine at a bar and the topic of this blog came up. I was told that I should think about writing about how problematic it is that so many people, both young and old, took pleasure in watching video of now-deceased Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi beaten to death. How ironic, I actually was thinking about a possible blog topic as I was standing there, only I didn’t recognize it at the time. I’d rather leave that up to those who follow politics more closely, understand the Libyan independence movement more thoroughly, and who can dedicate an hour at 12:30AM to writing about such a topic. Me…I just can’t. Instead, I was thinking about the scene at the bar we were at. Eli’s, usually busy but never too busy, was absolutely popping off. People everywhere, shoulder-to-shoulder crowding, music bumping, drinks flowing and bar food being crushed, and then the five of us, trying to have a good time with our friends and enjoy to scene. It got me to thinking about what it is that makes this environment enjoyable to me.

First, a disclaimer – I am not a bar person. I’m just not. 10 times out of 10, I’d much rather stay in than go out to a crowded bar with crowded spaces, marked up prices, and the feeling of not knowing at what pace to drink. Let’s start there, the pace. I come from UConn, which from the time you’re a freshman, you’re encouraged to drink a lot, drink quickly, and drink between the hours of 9-12. My rude awakening to the real world came in my first year at law school, when I went out with a group of peers for the first time. Within 10 minutes, I was done with my margarita and looked around ready to get another. Nobody else was ready to go. They were halfway done. Maybe. And it was at that point I learned how to nurse a drink. At the bar, nursing the drink is an art. Don’t drink too fast, or you’ll end up looking like you’re either (a) wanting to get drunk or (b) like alcohol far too much. You’ll also drop more cash than you want to. Don’t drink too slowly, though, or you’ll look like you’re not enjoying yourself, keep your party from drinking at the pace it wants, and simply come off as odd with what you’re doing. The pace is key to the bar scene. At your own place, you drink as many and as quickly as you want, because it’s your place. At your friend’s place you do the same, because you’re in a judgment-free zone simply relaxing and having a good time.

Next on my mind as I thought about “why am I here” is the crowd scene. Anytime I go to a bar for a night out, the hope is that we find one with just the right amount of people. Not too crowded to the point I’m constantly bumping into others and can’t move, but not so empty that there are enough people to look at, it makes it a worthwhile experience for having gone out. Tonight, there were simply too many people. You legitimately couldn’t move, and our group of five was lucky to find a spot where we were constantly bumped into, brushed up against as people passed, and often times made to feel as if we’re in the way. Yet – certainly more than pace – being at the bar with others is one of the biggest reasons people our age head out. They figure (usually) that it’s the weekend, and you’re supposed to go out. If you’re 21, you’re supposed to go to the bar. It’s where you meet people like you, who after a hard week’s work, want to unwind with friends and peers in a comfortable environment; but is it comfortable? My argument for why it’s not comfortable – take any girl in the bar you haven’t met before. You go up to her and…say what? “Can I buy you a drink”? “Hi, I’m ________”? “So, do you ladies come here often”? To use the reasoning of jaredshalek which is perfect in this context, there’s nothing organic about it. Organic is getting together at a private location, having friends bring friends, and letting to conversation flow from there. Every now and then I might get lucky and have a girl who I’m with at the bar bring her friend(s) along, giving me a similar opportunity to converse, if possible (see below), in a like setting. Most of the time, though, a guy approaching an unknown girl means one thing – he wants to hook up (even if he doesn’t). So as for the scene of the bar, I’ll pass and prefer the private setting.

Along with the scene is the music, but I think it deserves separate consideration on its own. The music is absolutely key to a good night. Get good songs/beats and have a background to move, dance, and have a good time to for the evening. Get a bad track list or a DJ without the feel of the venue, and you’re going to be in music-hell for the next few hours. It’s not only song selection, it’s volume. Too loud and you can’t talk, sometimes can’t hear, and (when that’s the case) certainly can’t hear. Play it too soft and you wonder why it’s there in the first place, and it makes it exceptionally difficult to dance. Tonight, the music was very well done. Loud enough but not too loud. Good songs – not perfect – to allow the mixed demographic (21-45) to enjoy the scene. And, always a plus, music that allowed me to both mouth lyrics and get a little dance going. In the private setting, the music is much more selective, allowing you to set the mood as you wish. Two big issues arise, depending on the type of night. Usually – save for a few situations – there is no dance party due to music in the private setting. The second issue is a less-obvious one, but nonetheless important. The private setting takes the excitement and surprise out of the song coming next. For example, as the five of us walked in the bar tonight, Jay-Z’s “Can I Get A…” came on. I was thrilled, as it was that single that got me into Jay-Z and triggered me to purchase Hard Knock Life, Vol. 2 – my first rap/hip-hop album. The next song was a Katy Perry/Maroon 5 mash-up. Did I enjoy that? Absolutely not. Still, I didn’t expect it, I didn’t know it was coming, and seeing that some people did enjoy it (no idea why/how) allowed me to recognize the diverse group of people I was among that night.

So late in the morning, a bar review has rested on drinking pace, crowd, and music. According to my scoring, “going to the bar” leads 2-1. While this is not the most scientific study that could be done on the pros and cons of bar-going, I feel and hope that the right result has been reached. Going out with friends is something that’s done for a variety of reasons, some more important than others. Tonight, I’m happy I went out, had a fun time, and enjoyed myself with friends. In a perfect world, the crowd would have been a little thinner, the music a little softer, and the songs a little more…hip hop. But it’s not a perfect world, and not everybody that goes out to these venues is like me. It’s diverse, it’s different, and it’s a new experience each time.

And maybe therein lies the allure of heading out to the bar.