Behind the bar at C&C Wings in Brownsville, almost out of reach above the beer taps, there are 32 ceramic shot glasses, each with the logo of a different team from the National Football League. They don’t stand out much to a casual visitor because the bar and grill is decked out from floor to ceiling with football apparel, but to Pete Elizondo, they represent a night when he, his wife and other C&C regulars bought each and every one of them three quarters at a time from the gumball-like machine in the restaurant’s foyer.
It ended up costing about $80 to get all the teams due to duplicates, but Elizondo looks back on that night with joy. It was a labor of love to decorate his home bar, where he watches almost every Dallas Cowboys game with his wife and friends.
“It’s not the same going somewhere else and seeing it,” he said.
It’s his “Cheers” bar, he says — where everybody knows his name — and his football-watching habits aren’t unique to him. Across the country today, NFL fans will head to sports bars to watch pivotal regular season finales that will have a large impact on the playoff picture.
Elizondo’s favorite team, the Dallas Cowboys, will host the Philadelphia Eagles tonight with the division title and a spot in the postseason on the line. In a similarly pressured match-up, the Green Bay Packers will take on the Chicago Bears with the winner earning a spot in the playoffs.
Although that NFC North clash will likely be an afterthought for fans throughout Texas, Jesse Gonzalez, who has bartended at C&C for two years, said Winter Texan regulars ensure that when the Packers are on, the bar feels like it could be in Wisconsin.
Along with Dallas and Houston Texans fans, C&C has become the winter home for Brownsville Cheeseheads, Gonzalez said.
And the clashes between the Cowboys and the Packers fill the house.
“There’s a lot of noise,” he said of his experiences bartending on football Sundays. “The crowd is real lively.”
And that’s what pushes people to watch games at sports bars, he said, noting that even on his days off he feels the urge to go out to watch big games among the crowd.
The outcomes of the game can have a direct impact on how much money he makes, too, he said, explaining that while football fans drink to celebrate wins and to forget losses, nothing beats a Cowboys victory when it comes to maximizing tips.
“Winning is always better for tips,” he said.
The mid-game celebrations can be moving, too, he said.
“When they score a touchdown it’s like you can feel it in your soul,” he said of Cowboys scores, which often elicit shouts from fans and requests for rounds of drinks.
Elizondo’s wife, Ninfa, Gonzalez said, often ends up getting $1 Jello shots for her table after a Dallas score.
Friday night, though, she was having a Miller Lite alongside her husband, who said the beer — in cans — is the only thing he drinks.
Signs across the establishment proclaim Miller Lite as “the only beer of the Cowboys and judging from his Dallas Cowboys coozie and preferences, it seems Elizondo feels it’s the only beer for him as well.
With the news that quarterback Tony Romo had back surgery still fresh on their minds, the two talk about the team’s chances with Kyle Orton, who they have confidence in.
No casual observers, the two speak definitively about the different coaches — and their philosophies — that led Romo to the starting spot.
Bill Parcells, Wade Phillips, and current head coach Jason Garrett all seem like family friends the way the Elizondos talk about the team.
His and her Cowboys watches tick away the time as they talk about the team’s Super Bowl drought, which dates back to their 1995 championship, but neither that nor the team’s lack of postseason play the past three seasons dampens their spirits.
“To me, we’re going to win,” Pete said, noting he sees no worth in doubting his team’s chances. “The end result may not be what we want, but we’re Cowboys fans.”
He talks of fans that come to C&C, see the Cowboys lose and then never return, but he said he and his wife aren’t superstitious enough to let a loss get in the way of watching games where they’re comfortable.
“You feel at home here,” Ninfa said.
She said she’s optimistic that they’ll be back at C&C next week to see the Cowboys in the playoffs, but the outcome isn’t going to change their loyalty.
“There’s always next year,” she said, before adding with a laugh, “like we’ve been saying.”