The host at the restaurant in Bodega Bay, California, confirmed what I thought: no televisions. He mentioned a place down the street, but "our food is better.”
Already heading out the door, I shot back, “Thanks, but we’re only out to watch the game.”
At the next spot the roar from the back bar said it all.
The Kansas City Chiefs had just scored in the National Football League's American Football Conference Championship game against the New England Patriots.
A middle-aged woman led a rabble of fans a few dozen deep, sitting at small tables littered with Irish Coffee glasses and chowder bowls, all cheering for the team from Missouri. None wore Chiefs gear, though a couple donned faded San Francisco Giants hats.
“I might have to run out of here if the Pats win,” I muttered to my friend as we sat down at the only free spots, two barstools in front of the group.
Yes, dear reader, I am a Patriots fan. Before you stop reading (too late?), let me explain.
A born and bred New Englander, I did not watch the franchise flounder for most of my early years, nor did I endure bitter cold at the old stadium- a decrepit joint that would shame many a high school team- to turn on the Pats when success made them the most hated team in the league.
In few places is the loathing more acute than the heart of Raider Nation where I live. Fans of the future Las Vegas Raiders have not forgiven the Patriots for the "Tuck Rule Game."
Near the end of a playoff game in 2002, New England quarterback Tom Brady appeared to fumble the ball. The Raiders recovered, securing victory. But the refs ruled Brady was trying to tuck the ball into his body, and called an incomplete pass. Given another chance, the Pats kicked a field goal to send the game into overtime and then another to win it.
The play was called correctly. The rule was bad. The league eventually changed it.
Easier to hate a team than a rule, and the Raiders' fans have, with unrelenting vigor, for 17 years and counting.
The same cannot be said for my level of interest. A mountain of evidence shows the devastating lifelong effects the violent game has on players. And that's without considering the cultural minefield that is Colin Kaepernick.
But I still tune in when the Pats are in the playoffs.
We had watched the first half from my camper at Doran Beach a few miles away. The Dish Anywhere app that lets me tune into my home satellite service from a laptop is a marvel, in theory, but I've used it enough to expect delays and the occasional crash, and we weren't about to risk missing a decisive moment.
The original plan had been to spend the game sipping Scrimshaw Pilsner at North Coast Brewing a hundred miles up the road in Fort Bragg before watching the super blood wolf moon eclipse, but – stop me if you’ve heard this before – foul weather had intercepted my travel itinerary.
King tides and days of rain forced the evacuation of our campground at Mackerricher State Park.
High water there was at Doran Campground too. And wind and rain. Without them I wouldn’t have been able to drive in and snag a spot on the Friday before a holiday weekend.
It is winter, but it’s also Dungeness crab season, and Bodega Bay is a go-to spot.
While a friend has in the past hauled in some delicious crustaceans, I come for the dog-friendly beach, the quiet and – during summer – the weather. Bodega Bay remains cool when a few miles inland temperatures reach into the high 80s and into the 100s in my little city an hour and a half away.