By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editorfirstname.lastname@example.org
I know you may not believe it, judging by the amount of blue being sported around town. But Saturday's Class A State Championship game isn't the biggest football game in the state.
Nope, maybe you forgot about a little contest called the Bobcat-Grizzly football game - you know the "Brawl of the Wild" as corporate schmos at Northwestern Energy dubbed it. Regardless of what you think, no football game in the state of Montana can, or will ever, compare with the yearly spectacle.
Don't agree with me? Well, then you never experienced it first hand. The party the night before, the tailgates in the morning, the game and then the party afterward. It is indescribable. In a word? Intoxicating, intense, interesting and insane. OK, I had to use four words instead.
Unfortunately, I won't be there. Damn you MHSA and your 42-month seasons. Did we really need that extra round of the playoffs? It was a colossal waste of time and a joke at best. Seeing a team with a losing record making the playoffs is a total sham. What is this the NBA?
Since I won't be sitting in my favorite place, Red's Bar, on Friday and Saturday evening, I brought some of Red's back to Armchair Quarterbacks is my former college roommate and the guy who took over my bartending job at a real sports bar - Ryan Knudson.
Hey, I know I've had a few of my friends as guest lately, but it's my column and I'm in last place, so I can do whatever I feel like.
Yep, I've known Knudson (nobody calls him Ryan) since he was just a little kid in Havre, who would leave our baseball games crying after his older brother, Erik, would berate, torment and pummel him in between innings.
It was definitely interest seeing two child Cub fans fighting over who got to be Ryne Sandberg each inning.
Speaking of the Cubs, Knudson has just a slight painful and passionate obsession with Chicago's favorite pro team.
How painful? He did permanent damage to his elbow by replaying last year's NLCS Game 7 meltdown in his garage, angrily hurling a baseball against an old mattress. Can you spell psycho? Still, like all Cub fans he is impossibly hopeful.
"I think if the Cubs get rid of (Sammy) Sosa, sign Carlos Beltran and re-sign Nomar (Garciaparra), they can win it all next year," he said.
Yeah right. And if I can just get the right people to read this, I will be writing for "Sports Illustrated" next year
But I didn't have Knudson as our guest picker just to tease him about the Cubs miseries. I was going to have him when the Cubs made the playoffs, but that's right they dropped six of their last seven to not make it.
No, I had Knudson as the guest because of his job. A bartender? Yep, the working man's psychiatrist, the drink-slinger, the man with all the answers, or for Cat-Griz weekend - the gatekeeper to hell.
How about an answer to this: In a word, describe what it's like to tend bar on a Cat-Griz weekend.
Knudson: "Nuts. Well that's if the Griz win. If the Cats win, the best word would be sucks."
Not the biggest words in the dictionary, but they make their point.
I know because I had to work the same shifts. My words would be a little less off color.
"You can't believe what it's like," he said. "You barely get a second to breathe, and it really isn't much fun dealing with intoxicated people when you're not intoxicated. You miss out on some of the fun."
Yes, it is work. Your shifts usually start Friday evening and last til about 3 a.m. Saturday morning. Then you have to be back in the morning at 9 until game time and then back immediately after the game to work til about 3 a.m. again. But don't feel too bad for him. He will rake in around $500 in tips for this weekend and most likely a $100 bonus. That's some serious non-taxable coinage.
To give you an idea of the number of people in Missoula for the game. Two years ago, Red's sold out of over 150 cases of Bud Light and 100 cases of Miller Lite on the Saturday alone. Cash register ring-outs are over $10,000 dollars. There are times when I seriously consider giving up the lucrative world of writing to go back to slinging drinks.
Still, it's easy to get sick of people very fast. Knudson has three rules to getting along with your bartender. It may even lead to a free drink.
"First, you have to tip," he said. "That's how we remember you. Second, saying thank you doesn't hurt. And third, know what you want. Don't ask what is good. Know you want and order it all at once, bartenders hate getting strung out on drink orders."
Sounds simple enough. But he isn't complaining. A good bartending job in Missoula is almost impossible to get. Exactly how did he get his?
"Well, I knew some people that worked there," he admitted. "It may sound bad, but I kind of drank my way into the job. It's the bar where I hung out and I got to know a lot of the people that go there. It's the best job you can have when your going to college."
Ahh, college. Ryan is a year away from completing his degree in accounting from UM and he even has plans to own his own sports bar some day. That is if he doesn't become general manager of the Cubs. At this point, they couldn't do much worse.
As for his picks, Ryan went with the Ponies, Skyview and Fort Benton in an upset. He went with the Griz for obvious and selfish reasons.
"I need the money from a home playoff game," he admitted.
He also took his alma mater of a month, Dickinson State, over Montana Tech. It's a long story. But then again they always are with him.
If you look at the board, you'll notice that we asked each guest to pick the score of the Cat-Griz game. Obviously, besides getting the winner wrong, Jim and Harvey must have spent some time following Knudson's three rules of being a better bar patron for picking their scores.
Last week wasn't horrible since I didn't come in last. That honor went to our guest Lisa Wagner, who finished 12-10, while her sister, Julie, was 15-7. Improbably Harvey was first at 17-5, George and I were second at 16-6, while Wells was 15-7 and Jimmy 14-8.