Thursday, July 06, 2006


My latest column in 'Our Town/Downtown'

Last week Our Town/Downtown executive editor sent me to the Riviera Cafe in Greenwich Village to cover the opening game of the Mets-Red Sox series. What's so unusual about that? Well, the Riviera is a Bosox bar and I, of course, am a Met fan. Here's the column that appears in Issue No. 7 (July 3, 2006):

Beantown in the Village

At the Riviera, Red Sox fans can enjoy a game in peace.

I’d have to say it’s no fun going to a rival team’s sports bar and watch your team lose. That happened to me last Tuesday night when the Red Sox manhandled the Mets in the opening game of the teams’ three-game series at Fenway Park.

It turns out there’s a Red Sox sports bar smack in the middle of the West Village. Who knew? Guess you have to be a Red Sox fan or from Boston to know about the Riviera Cafe on the corner of 7th Ave. and W. 4 St. It’s housed in that odd-shaped triangular building that’s been there forever. I remember going to a head shop on the second floor back in the ’70s.

Walk into the Riviera and it looks like any other high-ceilinged drinking establishment, with cool jazz piped in. But steer to your right and go downstairs a mini-flight and you’re suddenly in sport heaven. A total of 26 TV screens decorate the room like an electronic mosaic. But then there’s the rub: Red Sox fans in red jerseys, t-shirts and hats everywhere. Sam Adams is on draft. People are talking with funny New England accents. Surprisingly, few Red Sox heroes can be found pictured on the wall.

But all it takes is one good hit or catch and the place erupts into a shameless chorus of “Manny, Manny!” I came to check out the scene and hopefully watch the Mets pulverize the Sox. No such luck. First I ordered a beer (Anchor Steam), a bowl of gazpacho and a side of fries (I don’t eat meat). I asked the wait staff to introduce me to the manager, who came over forthrightly.

It was George Ruiz, the man responsible for the stapled-together pages of Red Sox press notes on each table. The 10-page missive reminded me that the Bosox were on a 9-game winning streak – not good news for the Mets. It informed that the Sox were 11-1 so far vs. National League teams this season, and that the Mets last played them in 2001. In a very subdued graph, the notes reveal:

“Teams also met in the 1986 World Series with New York winning 2 of 3 games in Fenway Park en route to taking the championship in 7 games.”

Nice of that to be noted, since it was simultaneously one of the greatest and worst things to ever happen to both franchises. Only the Red Sox’s World Series victory in 2004 – the team’s first since 1918 – wiped the slate clean. Right?
George Ruiz manages the Riviera. He says Sox fans began gravitating to the place about five years ago when they started showing Red Sox games on a regular basis. God knows, transplanted Beantowners needed a refuge from their most hated rivals – Yankee fans – and they found one at the Riv.

His only advice to Yankees fans is not to wear their hats when they come to the bar. However, he says, Mets fans are welcome because “we can root against the Yankees together.”

Not on this night. Cuban defector Alay Soler wasn’t sharp for the Mets. He allowed eight runs in five innings. Met rookie outfielder Lastings Milledge muffed a ball in front of the Great Wall of Fenway (a.k.a. the Green Monster); must’ve been vertigo. “Manny, Manny!” Ramirez threw Met speedster and N.L. Player of the Week Jose Reyes out at the plate. It wasn’t the Mets’ night. They lost 9-4.

Like any self-respecting sports fan, I left early. You learn to cut your losses. But in my mind the Red Sox had better watch out because the next two nights the Mets best pitchers, Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine, would be on the mound. And I just might be back chanting, “Pedro, Pedro!"


There are a couple other Red Sox bars in the East Village. There's one on 7th St. between 2nd & 3rd Aves. and one obnoxious yuppie bar on St. Marks Place.

The one on St. Marks pisses me off. A couple years ago, I was going there with a bunch of people to watch the Yankees-Red Sox playoffs (the one who organized the trip was from Boston). When me & my friend showed up, the bouncer told us the bar was too crowded. About 10 people came out, they let a couple new people in, but they still told us it was too crowded.

I suspect we were too old and too scruffy for their yuppie clientele. And my friend's Indian and has a beard, so they probably thought he was Osama bin Laden (who's actually a fan of the London soccer team Arsenal).
WTF? A Red Sox bar in Manhattan?? Surely there are zoning regulations to cover an obvious aberration like that.
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