The first Saturday in November came like a visit from an antisocial uncle. No big announcement, no special plans, no fancy dinners to attend. Just a knock on the door, a brisk breeze through the foyer and endless football on the TV.
On this night I decided since I was heading out on one of the only night games of the Tennessee Volunteers football season, I would hit a sports bar.
I arrived at Naterz Sports Grill, just past Foothills Mall on the western outskirts of Maryville around 9 p.m. I drove through the parking lot of the Hardee’s next door to find a parking space in what seemed to be a quite busy parking lot. I walked up to the front door after snapping a few shots of the exterior and presented my ID to the gentleman sitting quietly on a stool near the door.
I made my way inside and immediately felt at ease. The room was pretty crowded but not crawling with people. It was bigger than I expected, even sizing it up from the outside. A large stage to the right had a roughly 14-foot projection screen with the Vols game on and at least 23 other TVs showing that game and the Florida State-Miami game primarily.
I took a seat at a vacant tall table near the stage and didn’t even get through my obligatory seat count before I was warmly greeted by a server.
His name was Chris Byler and he was a fellow long hair, which is nice to see in a service industry position outside the back of the house. I told him who I was so my order of just a water wouldn’t dampen his spirits. He seemed excited about our meeting and quickly made off to fetch my beverage. Within minutes he returned, this time picking up the menu on the table to preach the gospel of his favorite two items, The Italian Mini Beefs and the Buffalo Wrap. I sensed from the pace and tone in his voice that he indeed truly enjoyed the items he suggested.
The game wasn’t going well, as it all too frequently had not been going of late. By “of late” I mean ever since I moved to East Tennessee in 2009. But, it didn’t seem to be having a negative effect on this group of folks. Pitchers of beer and buckets of long necks dominated all the tables around me. The main room seats around 80, not including 20 or so seats at the bar. Past me and the stage was a back bar and some pool tables and dart boards. There were also a few pool tables and three dart boards on opposite walls along with the mandatory Golden Tee game and a punching bag.
As the game winded down, a DJ announced that even though the game wasn’t over they were going to be starting up the karaoke. He wore a very country outfit, cowboy hat and all. I caught him dancing excitedly to the country song he had put on as he set up the sound for the sing-a-thon. Then he launched into a song I nor my Shazam app on my phone recognized. He introduced the first singer named Bob and played a Beastie Boys song as Bob took the stage. He stood there playing it as cool as a guy clearly not a fan of rap music could be. Finally his song started up and Bob began very unintentionally making “Put Your Head on My Shoulder” nearly unrecognizable aside from the backing vocals on the chorus. In all fairness to Bob, he probably really enjoys doing karaoke, so GO BOB. After all, just like “American Idol,” a good part of the awesomeness of karaoke is the really, really bad ones. It is the train wreck we want to watch.
Naterz Sports Grill
Address: 510 S. Foothills Plaza Drive, Maryville
On the web: www.naterzsportsgrill.com/
Admits: ages 21 and up
Smoking indoors: yes
Serves: liquor and beer
© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!