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Rough Draught

Best bars to catch - or avoid - March Madness

For some, March is a month of spring renewal. For others it’s about birthdays (ahem, take note, generous gift givers). And for many it’s all about the madness of the brackets. Fans of the annual March Madness college basketball competition are as obsessed with every detail of the game as the NCAA’s lawyers are with protecting the shoot-out’s copyrighted name. Thus it follows that spectators flood local sport bars to root for their teams and meticulously analyze results with fellow patrons – activities that apparently require a shitload of shouting. That kind of ambience doesn’t suit everyone’s taste, so let’s examine your options for March Psychopathy across the spectrum, from “Fuck yeah, sports!” to “Eh, who gives a shit.”

Fuck Yeah, Sports!

If you’re lacking a home base, it’s a safe bet that any of the Friendly Confines locations (435 N. Alafaya Trail; 3088 Aloma Ave., Winter Park; 7025 County Road 46A, Lake Mary; myfriendlyconfines.com) will suit your needs. The Confines cater to all sports enthusiasts, particularly those ravenous for hot wings. TVs on every flat surface mean you can’t not look at a game, and the close seating allows fan enthusiasm to bubble over to raucousness. Over on the more sedate Disney BoardWalk, ESPN Club (2101 N. Epcot Resorts Blvd., Lake Buena Vista; disneyworld.disney.go.com) gets packed for big games as patrons clamor to get the best view of the more than 100 screens. At CityWalk at Universal, the focus at NBA City (6068 Universal Blvd.; nba.com/nbacity) isn’t so much on watching the competition as it is on selling you on the magic of basketball. The booths come with mini-TVs so you can privately mourn your losing bracket picks while bigger games play on the huge projection screens. It’ll be damn near impossible to avoid the games in any of the bars near UCF, but peak enthusiasm can be sought at the Moat Sports Grille(4250 Alafaya Trail, Oviedo; themoatsportsgrille.com). Boasting 25 taps, a full liquor bar and 46 TVs, it’s got the specs for a boisterous good time (if not the legacy, seeing as it’s just a year and a half old).

I’m Only Here For My Bracket

Keeping on top of the standings doesn’t mean you have to wade into a sea of hooting mouth-breathers in backwards baseball caps. A little more neighborly appreciation of the basketball tourney can be found downtown at FinnHenry’s (39 N. Orange Ave.; finnhenrys.com), where a halo of TVs displaying an array of sporting events rings the central bar. The pub is a throwback to old public houses of yore, sporting cozy high-top tables and tons of bar seating. Across Lake Eola in Thornton Park, Graffiti Junktion (900 E. Washington St.; graffiti junktion.com) often sees the atmosphere tip into rowdy territory, but the outdoor seating offers a place to escape from the din and still has a decent view of the TVs inside. If you’re looking for something to distract you while you wait for the final scores, Firkin and Kegler in Waterford Lakes (12850 Waterford Lakes Parkway; fkorlando.com) has bowling, pool and arcade games to help you forget your stupid, stupid picks. Sports are projected onto screens above the alleys, so you can stay up to date. But it gets crowded quickly, so keep a friend posted within arm’s reach of the bar.

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