Whitefish, MT: Just a few drinks short of home
I’m not a rabid Seahawks fan. I don’t paint my face blue, have never worn Seahawks apparel and am not the owner of that colorfully customized Seahawks house making the rounds on the Internet. In fact, I’m not even a moderate Seahawks fan. I generally don’t watch the games on TV, have only been to one game in Seattle and can only name one player who is currently on the team: Russell Wilson.
It’s not that I have anything against NFL games or the athletes who deposit big bucks into their bank accounts for battling it out on the turf. Nor do I hold any disdain for the fans who are loyal to their teams of choice. Professional football is just not my cuppa joy.
But when I realized I’d be in Whitefish, Mont. during Sunday’s NFL playoff game between Seattle and that other Washington with the initials D.C., I knew I had to throw in my support for the hometown team. Surely there would be Seahawks fans lurking around the mountain resort town of Whitefish – after all it’s only 530 miles from Seattle as the seagull flies. So I decided to search them out, with a game plan that included visiting four bars during the course of the Seahawks-Redskins game. One bar per quarter would surely be an entertaining way to watch the game, and hopefully I’d land amidst some friendly fans.
My watering hole tour started at the Bulldog Saloon, a sports bar housed in a 110-year-old building on Central Avenue. Named after the Whitefish High School mascot, the Bulldog is a family-friendly beer ‘n burger joint. With my game time about 45 minutes away, a small group of fans was watching the last quarter of the Baltimore-Indianapolis game. I pulled up a stool at the bar, ordered a $6 Bloody Mary that arrived with a green olive, and started searching for potential Seahawks fans. Although there was a bevy of blue in the saloon, I quickly realized it was Colts blue, not Seahawks blue.
With three minutes to go in the Ravens-Colts game, I sucked up the last of my Bloody Mary. The Bulldog wasn’t a perfect fit, so it was time for Bar #2, the Craggy Range Bar & Grill. The first table I spotted was in a separate room complete with a giant screen TV, surrounded by Seahawks fans. But not wanting to butt in on the six-pack of friendly fellas, I returned to the main bar. Ordering a Kokanee and fish ‘n chips, I settled in to watch the game at a table next to a group that sounded oh, so Canadian.
But something was amiss. The table of five was rooting for the Redskins, not Seattle, and they weren’t being nice about it. They went crazy after the first touchdown, and when the score quickly elevated to 14-0, I couldn’t take their gloating anymore. I polished off my second Kokanee and made a beeline for the door.
My commute to Bar #3 was another easy one. Located just across the street, The Great Northern Bar & Grill opened in 1919 after the Great Northern Railway arrived in Whitefish in 1904. It relocated to its current address on Central Avenue in the 1950s. When I walked through the door, I knew I’d found my spot.
The joint was jumpin’, packed with people standing and sitting, clinging to their beverages and gazing at the overhead TV screens. I decided to expand my beverage repertoire and ordered a Maker’s Mark and Ginger Ale on the rocks. Sandwiched between two male Seahawks fans in their 30s, at last I’d found a Seattle-friendly space from where I could watch the game.
Not only was the crowd cheering for the ‘Hawks, the bartenders were also on my side. When a customer ordered a dozen Fireballs for her group of friends, I asked, “What are those?” The bartender quickly replied by slamming down a shot glass in front of me, filled with the colorful booze. It turned out to be Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey (“Tastes like heaven, burns like hell”), which tasted more like liquid Red Hots or Hot Tamales.
At about the same time I took those first few sips of Fireball, the game started changing direction. The Seahawks charged back, and in the end, beat the Redskins 24-14. Best of all, it only took me three bars to victory, not the planned four, and I walked the two blocks to the Amtrak Whitefish Depot to take the 9:15 p.m. Empire Builder back to Seattle. And although I’ll never be worthy of being part of the official 12th Man, I’ll be at the game Sunday morning when Seattle takes on Atlanta at the Georgia Dome. This time on the 50-yard line, from my couch, with a Mimosa in hand.