WASHINGTON — Crowded sports bars are rarely quiet and it’s even more rare for patrons to be shushed over drinks. But for one D.C. bar, the State of the Union address has come to rival the Super Bowl, at least for political junkies.
For the seventh straight year, Ventor Sports Café hosted a State of the Union watch party. The main attraction – other than the appeal of listening to the president’s address over a beer – is a drinking game. Each bar-goer chooses a buzz word and each time it’s spoken during the speech, those who chose it get a $1 Jell-O shot.
The mostly 20-something crowd used different strategies in an attempt to select a word that would maximize their discounted drinks.
“I chose ‘we,’ both because I have a tight budget so I was trying to maximize the amount of alcohol I could get out of it,” law student Ruchit Agrawal said. “But also because the president often tries to pull us together and I thought he would use that word a lot.”
Others used pre-speech analysis to predict the topics President Obama was most likely to cover.
“I picked fairness,” said David Barnes, a policy analyst. “I read previews of his speech that said President Obama is going to make a big pitch for tax fairness in his speech tonight …” But Barnes said he expected the word “fairness” would allow more shots than he was willing to drink.
The nation’s economic issues were also a significant factor in word selection. According to Emily Watson, a Ventor bartender, “jobs” was one of the most common choices. Loud outbursts of “Jobs!” punctuated the silence several times; President Obama used the word on 33 occasions.
“It’s a different crowd than we usually see,” said Watson. “They’re the kind of people that appreciate it so much, that it’s way more fun to have it as a party .”
Despite the cheap drinks, a sports bar may still seem like an odd venue for a political event. In Washington, however, it is slightly more appropriate.
“It’s the Super Bowl for political nerds,” said Ana Marie, an executive assistant attending the event for the first time. “I live near the Capitol and it has a sense of excitement. It is like the Super Bowl for us. It’s our livelihood so of course we’re going to care about it.”
Though the politically minded crowd stayed relatively quiet during the speech, the sports bar atmosphere came alive immediately after with noisy chants of “U.S.A.” and “four more years.”