"Nobody wants to go to the school that went winless," said a customer at the bar. As he said this, there was a sense that he didn't particularly care if a winless UCF lost its supposed rivalry game with UConn.
A black flag with gold UCF lettering hanged on the wall, matching the crowd. It's near an Orlando City Lions flag and a United States soccer banner, and there's even an Orlando Magic banner above a table near the back.
The Civil Conflict trophy (a UConn-UCF rivalry entirely made up by the Huskies and mocked during the game by UCF's mascot) was on the line, but everybody at The Basement was worried about something else; once the game kicked off, beer was free for everybody. From kickoff to the final whistle, as long as UCF was playing, beer was free for the taking.
Of course, this deal only lasts until UCF wins a game.
The stools at the bar were already taken. The game that most people were there for wouldn't kick off for another 30 minutes. A TV above showed Texas finishing its upset of Oklahoma.
"Who's ready for some UCF football!?" the bartender yelled into a microphone five minutes before kickoff.
There was a dull cheer.
"Who's ready for free beer!?"
A much louder cheer echoed.
Almost all the TVs changed to the UCF game. One fan at my table wore a UCF polo, another a Nebraska polo, and the third happened to be a Gators fan. An interesting trio at a pro-UCF bar, but it's quite clear why they were there.
"Everybody's cheering for them to lose. Free beer is free beer."
I walked to a now-crowded bar to get my free beer, accepting that I would be bumping against many people I'd never met. All for the sake of free beer.
The beer the bar was giving away was Coors Light. A smart move. UCF isn't good at football, and going with something a little more expensive might drive them out of business.
Free beer! pic.twitter.com/u2LXgYUBVA— Chris Barnewall (@ChrisBarnewall) October 10, 2015
Miami and Florida State had a big game that night, and many of the people walking in wore their colors.
Perhaps this would be the week things would turn around for the hopeless Knights?
Okay, maybe not. The game started off a little rough, but the safety was the real turning point. Three people sarcastically yelled, "Go Huskies." A group at the table next to ours, which had been cheering the loudest to start, turned its attention to playing flip cup.
I guess when the beer is free flip cup gets involved pic.twitter.com/0EcrW8yiEN— Chris Barnewall (@ChrisBarnewall) October 10, 2015
As more people filled the bar, fewer cared about the game on TV. The Nebraska fan managed to somehow get his game on a TV next to us. Nobody complained, because they were drinking free beer.
UCF not winning has brought this on pic.twitter.com/z94Qo9phzR— Chris Barnewall (@ChrisBarnewall) October 10, 2015
UCF continued to get pounded on. This was becoming its most embarrassing loss of the season.
A good portion of the people at the bar were not UCF fans, but it was easy to tell when the bar gave up on the Knights. Quarterback Justin Holman, most likely still recovering from his broken index finger, threw an interception. Nobody groaned. Nobody cheered. Thus answering the question: if an interception is thrown in a crowded bar, but everybody is too drunk to notice it, did it really happen?
It's a little busy pic.twitter.com/bCIPIp5464— Chris Barnewall (@ChrisBarnewall) October 10, 2015
The flip cup table tried to start a ONE MORE WEEK chant. The bar had reached its max point an hour beforehand. The sun started to set, and the afternoon's games were coming to a close. UCF was losing, 40-3, in a fake rivalry game, but it felt like the game might as well have meant something.
The Basement had accepted that it would be giving away free beer again next week for the game against unbeaten Temple, and that UCF might lose that one, too.
Those at my table decided they wanted more free beer. They tired of this one-at-a-time stuff and wanted to bring back as many as they could. They succeeded.
It's alllllll free pic.twitter.com/WSO544xIVK— Chris Barnewall (@ChrisBarnewall) October 10, 2015
Why do this?
The Knights are horrible this year, and here's this bar, giving away free beer so UCF fans can partake in their proud tradition of drinking alcohol instead of actually attending games.
"Everybody was getting down about the season, so we wanted to do something to bring all the fans together and stay positive," one bar employee said.
UCF scored its only touchdown, but nobody noticed.
Our corner's attention had shifted to the Nebraska game, where the lone Huskers fan was in agony. Wisconsin was driving for a potential game-winning field goal. UConn was running out the clock. Wisconsin made a field goal that looked like it should have missed. UConn finished a 40-13 asskicking and won its own made-up trophy. Nebraska fumbled its kick return.
The Huskers fan chugged two free beers in 10 seconds and stormed out the door.
If the goal was to keep fans positive, the bar succeeded. UCF got its teeth kicked in by a supposedly inferior team and that team celebrated with a Gatorade bath like it was a real rivalry game, but The Basement partied on. It was hard not to find a sick sense of joy in the idea of doing it all again next week.