The best move to cool tensions during a closely contested ballgame is to repair to the locker room. There, amped-up players can regain calm and composure lest they throw a punch at the next opponent who talks smack on the field of play.
There are no locker rooms in bars.
The poor bartender can't call a technical foul when the gentle ribbing becomes fierce arguing. They can't throw a flag when punches are thrown.
Louisville is the rare city where fan loyalties are split between archrivals — archrivals who compete in major sports nine months per year. Louisville Cardinal fans and Kentucky Wildcat fans cheer on their football and hoops teams in the same bars, two separate clusters cheering (and weeping) at different times. When the teams play one another, the rhetoric can get testy.
Maybe it's best they don't watch games together. This is where Big Blue Country comes in. The bar opened last month at the height of March Madness, drawing Kentucky fans who were excited to have a space where they could cheer the Cats onto a national championship. It didn't work out that way, with Kentucky's upset loss in the Elite Eight, but Big Blue Country still manages to fill a void.
The building has a long history as a bar; it previously housed Blue Martini and The Brewery. This incarnation has the likenesses of Travis Ford, John Calipari and other heroes from Kentucky glory past and present hanging on just about every inch of the walls.
The long bar is more elegant than expected for a sports bar. Blue Moon and BBC Nut Brown Ale are served on tap, along with Budweiser and Pabst Blue Ribbon. I ordered a Nut Brown Ale for $3.50 during happy hour — most beers are in the $3-to-$5 range. The menu sticks with sports bar fare — burgers and sandwiches for about $7.99, wings, tenders and the inevitable Coach Calimari ($6.99).
The dining room is perfect for game day. It's a long space lined with UK memorabilia facing a large projection television. Big Blue Country also has a deck in the rear, plus a handful of quieter nooks and crannies where fans can quietly trade recruiting rumors.
There are no signs banning UofL fans, but one would be crazy to smack talk here. This is one bar where the name says it all.