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Red Blooded Fans

Win or lose, the mood is always congenial in U of H watering hole The Den.

The fact that you're unable to name, without Google's help, one single football player of consequence who has ever come from the University of Central Florida seems like it would bode well for the University of Houston's chances against them.

Not to bog you down with sports analysis or anything, but that should mean that UCF is usually pretty terrible.

Especially since U of H has been lights-out this season, beating Big 12 bad boys Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. For the first time in a million years, the Coogs are ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 (currently, No. 13). Quarterback Case Keenum has been playing like Peyton Manning lately, only without the weird-shaped head.

For sure, he's Tom Brady-handsome, but that probably helps him more off the field, unless U of H is playing the Aggies. (Booyah!) And trying to run against the front line of the defense has been like trying to name WNBA's redeemable qualities: Tough, basically.

Which is why the collective feeling right now inside The Den (4835 Calhoun, suite A1), a fully stocked pub on the U of H campus, could be characterized by one big curse word: Fuck...

At the moment, there are three minutes left in the game and the Coogs are down 17 points to those UCF Knights. Per usual, the bar is mostly filled with students and alumni and various enthusiasts of the school. It's like The Max from Saved by the Bell, except with alcohol and more minorities.

It seems like here we should liken the crowd to "a sea of red" or something, but only about half of the patrons are wearing that color. A "lake of red" might be more appropriate.

Anyway, for pretty much the entire fourth quarter, people have been shouting various forms of "fuck" at the televisions inside the bar.

"Nah, we can't hear 'em," laughs former cornerback Alfred Young (1993-94), when asked if players can actually hear fans screaming at them through the TV. "It's a good thing, too."

Most of the comments are typical ­football-day interjections, like "Gimme a fucking break" and "Get the fuck outta here." For good measure, one optimistic fellow standing near the middle of the mass lofts out a few "fucks" when things go right for the team. It's kind of confusing.

But here's the weird part: In no way at all does the fiery rhetoric take away from the general feeling of cheer and community within the bar. In fact, it might serve to enhance it.

At a typical sports bar — The Den isn't explicitly a sports bar, but it might as well be whenever the Coogs are playing — any number of games are being played by any number of teams. Shout out something inflammatory about the Philadelphia Eagles at Buffalo Wild Wings and you run the risk of being hit in the jaw, or at least sternly stared at, by someone who happens to be from Harrisburg.

But at The Den, it's all love. When something good happens to the boys in red, the place erupts in cheers. A cougar growl even gets played over the house speakers. When something goes awry, there's a thunderstorm of boos and yelling. Fans are frustrated to see their team drop a game to a school that could fall off the earth tomorrow and only about 400 people would notice, but ultimately, they're just glad to be in the company of like-minded individuals. The commiserating is cathartic.

"We are of the Cougars, by the Cougars, for the Cougars," says Jason Kendall, one-quarter of the bar's ownership. "This place was erected specifically to promote the University of Houston and its athletic program."

It's a point that's crystallized when, as soon as the game is over and the Cougars have officially lost, Geoff Neal, another member of the bar's ownership, emerges on the balcony and announces, "Hey, we win together, we lose together. So beer is on the house."

The language in the bar changes slightly, but the mood changes completely: Fuck yeah!

LAST CALL

There aren't a lot of places we dislike more than Dallas. And you know what? We probably don't even have a really good reason why. We've only been there four or five times, with most of those visits being somehow business-related. All of them were uneventful. We went to school with a guy from Oak Cliff who everybody called "Feo," which is Spanish for "ugly." That might have something to do with it. Pop-rapper Dorrough is from Dallas, and he makes Paul Wall look like Rakim. That might have something to do with it. Or maybe we're just as ignorant as the people we regularly make fun of for being ignorant. But even if that's the case, we're aware of it, and that makes us purposefully ironic, or postmodern, or something. At any rate, Dallas's version of Thee Armada, Forever The Sickest Kids, are in town this Saturday at Meridian (1503 Chartres). Check out the show, and then shoot us an e-mail ripping them. It'll make you feel important.

 
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