New York City’s football fanatics didn’t own the sports scene entirely on Sunday night, even if it was Super Bowl Sunday.
On Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn Heights, a little more than seven hours before kickoff, fans at ChipShop, a British-themed outpost, had their eyes glued to another football matchup: Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace, a face off between two English soccer teams. At the opposite end of the pub, others watched Ireland take on Scotland in a yearly rugby tournament.
Even though many in the pub prefer goals and scrums to touchdowns, the bar, one of two in Brooklyn, held its first-ever Super Bowl party Sunday night. After more than two decades in the United States, Chris Sell, the pub’s managing director, was finally ready to participate in the festivities.
“I’ve been here 24 years and I figured it’s about time I did something,” he said Sunday morning, while noting he would personally watch the game elsewhere.
Two days before the Big Game, the other ChipShop in nearby Park Slope posted an item on its Facebook page, advertising the location as an anti-Super Bowl venue.
“Pick up your fried chicken and sides but if you want some peace and quiet away from the game this is the place to be,” the post proclaimed. “No screens!”
But before the game on Sunday morning, ChipShop was anything but quiet, as Sell and his staff catered to a group of hungry and thirsty soccer and rugby fans ready to watch their favorite teams from overseas.
Around 10 a.m., Sell put on some coffee and asked four patrons who had come for the rugby game what they were drinking. Two women ordered Newcastle, a brown ale from Great Britain. A third said water. Tiernan Walsh, a Dubliner who has lived in New York for the past 18 years, ordered Grolsch, a light lager. Surrounded by British paraphernalia including framed Beatles posters and Union Jack replicas, and amid a faint smell of fried fish, the four settled in to watch the game.
Sell had already been at work for hours by that point. To get ready for the evening’s Super Bowl party, he had arrived at 5:00 a.m. to begin frying four-dozen chickens.
By late morning, almost every table at the Atlantic Avenue ChipShop was filled. In the back of the bar, patrons watched the Arsenal-Crystal Palace match on two flat-screen TVs. Rugby had been relegated to one screen in the front, but it still held the attention of a group of viewers. Sell said he prefers the game, himself.
“Rugby is a thug’s game played by gentlemen. And soccer is a gentleman’s game played by thugs,” he said.
Six hours after Ireland defeated Scotland 28-6, the Super Bowl pregame show had taken over all four screens.
Joseph Whittaker, a 33-year-old fashion publicist originally from England, was sitting at the bar eating beans on toast. “English comfort food,” he said. Near the back of the restaurant, Johanna and Paul Bonewitz had ordered the fried chicken and were watching the pregame coverage. They were considering doing a little bar-hopping later.
Shortly after 6:00 p.m., Nick Turner, the bartender, turned up the sound on one of the TVs at the front of the bar. Former Dallas Cowboy Troy Aikman was talking with sportscaster Joe Buck.
By the time the game kicked off, and as other bars undoubtedly were in the middle of a long night of raucous fandom, only 13 people were sitting inside ChipShop.
Budweiser, Miller and Coors were not on the menu.