Football fans ready to go bowling

By Jeffery Armstrong

On a normal afternoon at Jonesboro's Sports Caf?, one will see people quietly watching sports on television and eating food, usually hot wings.

During the college football bowl season, the atmosphere and the mood of the Caf?'s patrons is much different.

College football fans, like 45-year-old attorney Bill Woods, will be at the Caf? today flanked by a roomful of others cheering, yelling and rooting for their favorite teams to win their bowl games.

"I love watching college football – I'm not much of an NFL fan," Woods said. "There are so many bowl games nowadays I'm in heaven. I'll come here and I'll watch as many bowl games as I can."

Woods said during this time of the year, he will come to the Caf? about 2 p.m. and not leave until 8 p.m. He said he enjoys hanging out with the bar's patrons.

"It's good to see the regulars that come in here and watch them root for each other's teams," said Woods, who has "adopted" LSU as a team this year. "I enjoy how we all interact with each other."

Woods was dining at Sports Caf? with his friend Bob Ryan and Ryan's daughter Taylor. Ryan, an assistant football coach at Mt. Zion, is also another big fan of college football, saying the players compete for the love of the game and they follow the team concept more than the NFL players.

While he loves going to Sports Caf?, Ryan, 49, has one tradition he always sticks to on New Year's Day – he calls it "Bowl Day."

"Every New Year's Day, I sit at home with my televisions and watch all the bowl games that day and my family does not bother me," Ryan said, as daughter Taylor nodded in agreement. "I watch these games while eating my health food items – Peanut M&M's, pizza, chips and Diet Coke."

While Woods is glad there are extra bowl games, Ryan, who likes Florida State University, isn't a fan of the new college bowl system, saying there are actually too many games to follow. He said there used to be only four major bowl games, but now they're spread out during the first week of the year.

"I tried to ask for four Bowl Days, but my wife wasn't hearing that," Ryan said.

Jonesboro High School head softball coach and University of Georgia alumnus Jeanine Conkle is a Sports Caf? regular. A 1982 graduate and member of the UGA Redcoat Band, Conkle looks forward to watching bowl games every year.

"The college football bowl season is a great way to wrap up the year. Of course, I watch Georgia's bowl games, but I try to watch them all," said Conkle. "Sports Caf? has all the games on and I love the fact that it has four TV screens in a row so you have your choice of games to watch. That's nice because most people don't have four TVs."

Katie Harris, a Jonesboro High and UGA graduate, plans to attend today's Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla. pitting Georgia against Purdue. Harris, 27, and her boyfriend are huge college football fans, often going with a group of friends to bars, tailgating at games or even throwing football parties.

Harris dined at the bar with several of her co-workers from Southern Regional Medical Center, including Erin Horne, who is a bigger NFL fan.

"I don't know much about college football, but I will attend events centered around it," said Horne, 32. "I love the NFL, however. I like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and I'm a Bucs fan club member."

Pam Harrell, 44, isn't too big on college football, calling herself a "social watcher." She said she and her boyfriend will attend football parties, however.

Sonya Clayton, 41, absolutely isn't thrilled with college football due to her husband Ricky's obsession with that and other sports. Clayton is the essence of a "football widow."

"My husband actually loves all sports. We have a 62-inch television and he will watch games and flip between the games and his PlayStation video games," said Clayton, who actually liked sports when she ran track as a youth. "He will watch sports and play video games for at least 10 hours a day. It's crazy."

Clayton said her husband is in business for himself, so once 3 p.m. comes, it's no problem for him to watch the college football games on the big-screen and the other TVs surrounding it.

"He even talked about getting another big-screen for Christmas," Clayton said. "What he really needs is to spend more time with me."

Sports Caf? employees also get into the bowl spirit. Jung Pak, who runs the sound booth in the bar's private room, is a big college football fan, especially the Southeastern Conference teams.

"It's a lot of fun around here. The crowds get into it and we let them have their fun as long as they aren't rude or bother others," Pak said. "I'll join in as well, especially when Georgia's playing. Everyone loves the competition and the excitement of going to a sports bar."

Pak said the Sports Caf? shows all the games and makes for a great day of football watching.

"I mean, you could get a six-pack and stay home, but where's the excitement in that? Seeing people in a sports bar get excited about college football is what it's all about."