A lot of fans can’t watch the game at home, even if they wanted to. The only way Rock River Valley fans can watch the game — 7 p.m. Thursday — is on the NFL Network package, which covers eight games during six weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Local sports bars are gearing up for big crowds Thursday, as droves of Packers fans are expected to come out for the showdown between Green Bay and Dallas.
“We’re expecting a big crowd,” said Matt Pendergrass, bar manager at the Sports Page, 3907 Broadway. “It’s two teams that are 10 and 1, and it’s a big game. It could decide the home field advantage throughout the playoffs.”
A lot of fans can’t watch the game at home, even if they wanted to.
The only way Rock River Valley fans can watch the game — 7 p.m. Thursday — is on the NFL Network package, which covers 10 games during six weeks between Thanksgiving and the year's end.
The game cannot be purchased individually or watched on network television. The NFL Network is included in Dish Network’s first-tier “America’s Top 100” package and Direct TV’s “Choice” package. It’s also part of the digital sports package at Insight Communications, a separate tier not included in basic service.
In Rockton and Roscoe, cable subscribers can’t watch the game; they are served by Charter Communications which currently does not carry the NFL Network. It’s all dependent on contracts the NFL has with satellite and cable TV providers.
What that means to sports bars is bigger crowds, especially with the Packers doing so well this year.
“We’re expecting big things because of the calls we’ve gotten — eight to 10 in the last week to reserve tables. On Thursday nights, we usually have just one or two tables reserved,” said Tim Denk, assistant manager, Backyard Grill & Bar, 6473 N. 2nd St., Loves Park. The sports bar has 10 tables in the bar area and about 30 more in the dining area, he said, “and wherever you sit there’ll be a TV you can see.”
Most customers come to watch the NFL Network and NFL Sunday Ticket games at the bar because they don’t have the additional cable packages, Denk said. He declined to estimate the increased business Thursday’s game would bring.
On a regular Thursday, said Pendergrass, the Sports page normally gets about 350 customers. He expects at least double that number Thursday.
Rockford resident Julie Lincoln may be a local oddity: She’s been a Cowboys fan since about the age of 10. Lincoln, who doesn’t have cable television at home, plans to take in the game at Cousin’s Bar & Grill, 510 S. Perryville Road, Rockford.
“I have a very good friend who lives in Kirkland who is a Green Bay fan,” she said. “I may call him and see if we can watch the game together; we have a friendly rivalry.”
Does Lincoln root publicly for her team despite consistently being outnumbered? “I cheer loudly! Nobody gives me trouble because I’m a girl,” she quipped.
But Packers fan Glenda Sockwell — co-owner of Rockford Transport Inc., 303 Blackhawk Park Ave., Rockford — plans to watch Thursday’s game at home with her family. “We do have the NFL Network,” she said. “We’re big cable fans.”
Her daughter, in the eighth grade, is an even bigger fan. “Every time the Packers win, her algebra teacher exempts them from homework the next day,” Sockwell said.
“That’s making her a Packers fan now, even though she used to be a Bears fan.”
Reporter Deborah Austin may be reached at 815-987-1341 or at email@example.com.