A contemplative mood settled over McGlinchey’s Bar during the Eagles game Sunday night.
A modest crowd of regulars gathered at the smokey watering hole at 15th Street south of Locust Street. They huddled over their beers. They ate hot dogs. They worked their cell phones.
The jukebox was silent, displaying only a digital sign: “Music has been paused.”
Several booths were empty early on, although they gradually filled as the game ripened in the early evening, and by the time the Chicago Bears missed what would have probably been a winning field goal with only seconds to go, cell phones were put down for a moment and cheers rose.
“Oh, yeah!" said a happy bar back, Al Davis. “The Eagle has landed!”
He nodded his head and clapped. “Oh, yeah! Ice the kicker!"
Butch Dwight, 66, a regular at the bar who never misses a game, expressed relief and satisfaction.
“One play at a time, like I told you,” he said. “One play at a time. And at New Orleans we’re gonna do the same thing — one play at a time — and we’re gonna win.”
For most of the game, the Eagles served more as backdrop for bar patrons than focal point. Last year, excitement over the Eagles defined McGlinchey’s. Last weekend, bartender Marie Peterson said, “every seat in the house was filled.”
This week, not so much.
Peterson said: “This is shocking.” But she allowed that “people trickle in and once they get here, they end up staying.”
Angela Rouse, 24, a waitress, said it was unusual to have such a small and quiet crowd.
“I worked the playoff against the Vikings last year,” she said. “And the Super Bowl. And the parade, too."
As she spoke, Rouse crocheted a sweater.
“The Vikings game was really intense,” she said “There was something in the air. The Super Bowl, we had to turn people away at the door, it was so crowded inside. One group I had, they had a standing order of 10 hot dogs an hour. Every hour, I’d bring them 10 hot dogs.”
Ali Mohsen, 34, and Lily Chang, 26, listened to Rouse talk about her 10 hot dog crew. They laughed and fell into conversation -- about audio books.
As the Eagles and Bears pushed each other around on four TV screens, Rouse chatted about The Fellowship of the Ring, which she listens to on the way to work.
In the background, the Eagles disrupted a Bears pass. A few patrons looked up and clapped. Rouse said, “I hope they win. I think Philly fans can be fair-weather fans, but I think there are enough fans in this town who believe.”
She returned to books, recommending James Baldwin’s works to Mohsen. Then she moved on to audio books of George R.R. Martin.
“The only thing that’s made me uncomfortable has been Game of Thrones,” she said, referring to Martin’s wildly popular opus. Mohsen and Chang listened carefully.
“There’s an old English gentleman reading these scenes of rape and incest,” Rouse said. “That was a little uncomfortable.”
Mohsen and Change both laughed.
Mohsen allowed that he has been reading a lot of science fiction recently. Who does he like? The Polish author, Stanislaw Lem, whose science fiction is “mind-blowing," he said.
A woman with very long nails on the other side of Rouse did not look up from her cell phone for the entire game. She seemed riveted, even as the Bears missed a field goal, at the end, to allow the Eagles to win. And even when Stanislaw Lem entered the conversation.
Nothing was more important than her cell phone.
Davis, the bar’s jack of all trades, was more than a little satisfied at the conclusion of the game.
“We got a bend-not-break defense,” he said, as the bar hooted and hollered when the last Bears chance hit the goalpost and bounced harmlessly away.
“A great battle,” he said.
Bar co-owner Ron Sokol said the thin subdued crowd was not what the bar is usually like on big Eagles game days.
“I was gonna put more beer in the cellar,” he said.
Rouse said, “We win and it will be insane again.”