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A couple weeks ago I ducked into Mother Hubbard's, just around the corner from the Reader's office, to catch some of the Sweet Sixteen games of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Nestled between a 7-Eleven and flashy, crowded establishments like Rockit down the street, the old bar doesn't look like much from the outside. I was eager to settle into a seat in the back, in front of one of their larger screens, and get to work on my usual--chili and fries.
I may as well have walked into Duffy's on a Sunday afternoon during fantasy football season. "We don't have any seats open," the door guy told me, sandwiched himself between spectators, "but feel free to stand." Several three-pointers later, I finally nabbed a chair between covered pool tables that doubled as my coaster and table. By the end of the night my neck was sore from looking practically straight up.
Last night, with Memphis and Kansas set to square off in the championship game, I remembered Brew & View at the Vic. The last time I went to the Vic, which holds 1,000, I saw Frank Caliendo, last February, and it was standing-room only. But I've never done Brew & View, which usually screens second-run movies for a $5 cover and access to a bar, so I had no idea what the crowd would be like.
A friend and I showed up about ten minutes past tip-off, and as we entered I noted that it seemed strange not to see anyone outside. With the sounds of the broadcast bellowing into the lobby, we followed a roped area to a counter on the right, where one girl checked our IDs and another wristbanded us. Admission was free.
We scrambled inside, eager to find a good seat. We shouldn't have been worried: we were the only people there.
OK, so two dudes were hanging out by one of the bars, but they seemed oblivious to the game. (Perhaps they had come for the $2 drafts of MGD or Miller Light.) We were the only people in the seating area of the auditorium. That seats a thousand. For the entire first half, we had the pinnacle of March Madness all to ourselves on a 20-foot screen. And for the second half and overtime, we had the pinnacle of March Madness all to ourselves and three others. No screaming Tigers or Jayhawks fans, no drunk guys pushing into us, nobody between us and the screen.
When the game ended, the Jayhawks sealing one of the most dramatic comebacks in tournament history, the lights came on. But they kept the broadcast going, all the way through the One Shining Moment montage some fifteen minutes later.