If a Realtor were to write a description for the south side’s Thirsty Sportsman, he would throw out terminology like “pride of ownership.” The booths, tables, carpets, bathrooms — all are clean. Impeccably so. The bar also benefits from a touchscreen point of sale system, and the sound system for the stage provides the quality one would expect from a larger venue. This is not the dive we were expecting when we pulled up on a recent Friday night. But then, we hadn’t yet seen everything The Thirsty Sportsman had to offer.
8:46 p.m. We arrive and order a 16-ounce draw of Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy for $3 and a Captain and Coke served short for $3.50. We take seats at the bar next to a guy who could be a long-lost member of ZZ Top — he has a massive graying beard, a bandana tied around his head and is simultaneously drinking some sort of liquor on the rocks and an enormous mug of draft beer.
8:51 p.m. The music selection transitions from AC/DC to Ted Nugent. We look around and notice two guys playing bags in the back corner, where two full-size courts have been created on an artifical turf area. Bags are free here, though the bartender will secure an ID. In addition to bags, we notice a full-size shuffleboard table, foosball table, four pool tables and two dart machines. A stage meant for live music sits in the middle of the room.
9:03 p.m. We spot a guy wearing a camouflage T-shirt with a long-sleeved camouflage shirt underneath, just in case he wanders into a wooded area and needs to protect himself from dangerous critters.
9:04 p.m. My drinking partner heads outside for a cigarette and overhears two guys, including our Beardo neighbor at the bar, talking about dropping acid and cutting firewood, activities we hope they’re not mingling. A metal-looking dude with a “ponytail” at the nape of his neck is talking about black metal and the correct way to pronounce Sepultura. You know, the important stuff. The word ponytail is put in quotations, because it’s really as if he grabbed a circle of hair at the back of the head, leaving the front, back and sides down.
9:07 p.m. A guy approaches the bar wearing a neon green T-shirt, the kind one might see from a construction worker on a site. The bartender has spotted his green-shirted buddy outside and forewarns him that he can’t serve the friend due to some previous shenanigans. This causes a group of at least five to leave and find drinks elsewhere, but the bartender is willing to lose business to keep the riff-raff out.
9:12 p.m. A guitarist and bassist inhabit the stage and set off singing an Aaron Lewis song — not Staind, but instead a country tune. The guitarist is also the singer, and he looks like a strange amalgamation of Patton Oswalt and Chris Farley. It sounds scary, but he’s definitely a good singer and it’s clear his voice can easily be lent to various musical genres. It turns out his son is on bass.
9:18 p.m. I decide to check in on Foursquare. A wise and well-spoken person has left a tip: “drrrrriiinky.” Two have already done this. I make it three, unsure whether this beer I’m drinking captures the fervor of the tip but caring little.
9:29 p.m. A patron asks the singer if he’s wearing shoes. He is, but apparently this is an odd occurrence. It turns out the shoes were bought for him by another local musician who’d passed away three years ago to the day. He’s wearing the shoes in tribute. “My toes aren’t very happy,” he said. I can’t speak for everyone else, but I, for one, was thankful he was wearing them.
9:33 p.m. Someone in the crowd yells out, “Play some Dokken! Or Cinderella. Maybe Ratt?” Apparently these are the “Freebirds” of the south side.
9:47 p.m. A 40-plus woman arrives in a red pleather miniskirt and knee-high stiletto snakeskin boots. It’s somewhere between mid-life crisis and midnight caller. We catch a whiff of patchouli as she struts by. Oy.
10:05 p.m. Red Pleather disappears behind the back of the building, arm in arm with Beardo and Camo.
10:08 p.m. The singer breaks his G string. Literally, the G string on his guitar. “First time I didn’t break it with my teeth,” he says.
10:22 p.m. Red Pleather comes back into the building and heads straight to the bathroom.
10:30 p.m. In walks a 20-something guy with a beard. Or so I thought. Upon closer inspection, it turns out it’s a goatee that’s connected to his hair by a patterned tattoo that when far away looks like a beard.
11:15 p.m. We see an SUV back into a parking space. Its driver opens the back window, opens an insulated cooler, and pulls out individual portions of Mexican food wrapped in tin foil, kind of like a taco truck, but likely without the health inspection. We pass.
11:19 p.m. We watch a golf cart that’s been parked in the lot leave. We decide we’ve seen it all, or have at least seen enough, so we head out into the night, feeling entertained by this south-side spot.
Find it: 4808 S.W. Ninth St.
Hours: 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Monday through Friday; noon-2 a.m. Saturday