Seahawks, Broncos Fans Mingle In D.C. Watering Hole

All season long, it's been a convivial scene at Washington's Penn Quarter sports bar, where fans of the Denver Broncos cheered their team alongside fans of the Seattle Seahawks. The question is, what will happen there on Super Bowl Sunday, when the two teams face off?

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In living rooms and sports bars across the country later today, football fans -and yes, just those of us who want to watch the budget commercial and dig into nachos - will sit down to watch the Super Bowl. In Denver and Seattle living rooms, there will be less casual viewing, of course, and that goes for anywhere else that fans of the Broncos and Seahawks gather.

NPR's White House correspondent Scott Horsley has been spending time in one of such watering hole here in Washington, D.C. It's a home away from home for supporters of both teams.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: I grew up in Denver rooting for the Broncos and now I live in Washington, D.C. I don't have cable or a satellite dish. So most weekends, if I want to watch my team play, I go to a bar that's kind of a hangout for Broncos fans. Ron Campbell discovered this place about eight years ago, after moving from Colorado to attend medical school.

RON CAMPBELL: I remember the first day, it was about four of us, it was a Monday night game, and at the end we won big against the Raiders - our hated rivals. And Mike brought us out free shots and was very excited that we came.

HORSLEY: Mike is Mike Brand, the owner of the Penn Quarter Bar. He's been pouring drinks in this transient city for 10 years now. And he's gotten used to customers looking for a little taste of home.

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MIKE BRAND: Everybody here seems to be a transplant from a different place. So this kind of makes sense.

HORSLEY: Some people find out about the Broncos bar through social media. Others, like me, tag along with friends. Little by little, we've taken over the entire ground floor until every TV is tuned to the Denver game, and the place is packed with people in orange jerseys.

BRAND: A lot of people from Denver will come and they really feel like it's like being back in Mile High - if you've ever been to one of those games. We do almost all the cheers that you can be able to do in Mile High.

HORSLEY: For example, each time the Broncos get a first down...

CAMPBELL: We clap three times.

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CAMPBELL: Whoosh.

HORSLEY: Ron and the other veterans usually lead those cheers. But newcomers are always welcome. The very first moment I stepped into the bar, it felt like family.

CAMPBELL: It's one of those things when, you're a Broncos fan, you remember exactly where you were when we won our first Super Bowl in '97 against the Green Bay - who we were nine and a half point underdogs. You know, you remember that stuff. It's a storied history that we all try to be a part of.

HORSLEY: Ron insists Broncos fans are the only ones who understand that feeling. But just upstairs, in this same bar, there's another group of Western transplants rooting for their own favorite team.

CORBIN SMALL: So the second floor, we like to refer to it as the Hawk's Nest.

HORSLEY: That's Hawks as in Seahawks. Corbin Small is a devoted Seattle fan. He and his friends started coming to this bar about two years after Ron's group did.

SMALL: We started to be able to get our own little TV. Then we started getting sound. We started to encroach on the Denver area and it's just grown from there.

HORSLEY: The second floor is like an alternate universe. The jerseys are green and blue instead of orange. But somehow it feels familiar. The Seattle fans even have their own first-down cheer.

SMALL: We do the...

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SMALL: ...boom, and for every first down.

HORSLEY: OK, they kind of stole that one from us.

But for years now, these two groups have co-existed, upstairs and downstairs in relative harmony. It helps that our two teams rarely play one another, except for that meaningless preseason game this year which, ahem, Seattle won, 40-to-10.

The Seahawks fans do have a kind of home-field advantage in the bar, since the restrooms are upstairs on their turf. Luckily for our side, they've never tried to mount a bowl-line stand.

Playing host to not one but two passionate fan clubs has been a bonanza for the bar. Mike's beer glass runneth over. But it's tough on the waitresses. Watching Erica Pallerino pick her way through the standing-room crowd is like watching Knowshon Moreno muscle through a defensive line. Pallerino has never once fumbled a plate of wings.

ERICA PALLERINO: It's awesome, yeah. You have like 200 screaming people packed into a space. It's got to be fun, right? Everyone has a good time, you know, unless they're not the winning team. Sometimes then it's sad to see them go.

HORSLEY: And that's the harsh reality of this winner-take-all contest. As much fun as we've both had all season long, one group of fans is going home disappointed tonight. We both know that's possible. But for one afternoon, in this most divided of American cities, two opposing tribes will gather under one roof for 60 glorious minutes as football fans.

And bar owner Mike Brand? He's hoping for overtime.

Scott Horsley, NPR News in this little outpost of Denver and Seattle called Washington.

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