Emma Tresemer
Sports bars: What a waste. Filled with television screens and hi-def satellite feeds, but focused on trivial entertainment--their potential to educate and enlighten the public is squandered on mindless sporting contests. If you want anything other than sports, it's hit-and-miss out there. Maybe your neighborhood joint shows The Simpsons or throws an Academy Awards party. But they could do so much more.

Give us the news! Knowledge is power, people. We live in a rapidly changing, interconnected, multimedia news landscape. How is it that the "media bar" has not yet been invented?

My ideal setup would be CNN, C-SPAN, Headline News, Bloomberg, CNBC, MSNBC, Fox News, and NWCN. Give me the Today Show over breakfast, Peter Jennings at six, Larry King at nine, and the Weather Channel deep into the night. Copies of the New York Times, LA Times, Washington Post, even USA Today--so I can keep track of what the lower classes are reading. NPR, BBC, talk radio, "The Rest of the Story." And wi-fi. There must be wi-fi.

With this concept in mind, we visited several of Portland's sports bars to evaluate their potential conversion into full-fledged media bars.

Back in November, I watched election results come in at dive bar Slabtown (1033 NW 16th), and though the results weren't what I was looking for, knowing that there would be no shortage of alcohol was a great comfort.

Despite being very busy on a more recent visit, Slabtown cheerfully put a TV on Headline News for our group. Drinks were poured, news was served. But will Slabtown be Portland's first media bar? Not unless they get wireless internet access and do something about the strangely snowy TV reception on their nine sets. It's cable TV, right? Why so much static?

Friendly, cozy, and static-free, Claudia's (3006 SE Hawthorne) offers tons of screens, wi-fi, and a gas fireplace. Semi-surreally, while I was there every set in the place was tuned to 95.5 FM's television version of The Playhouse. Who's the Director of Programming in this joint--a doped up teenager? After some channel hunting, the waitress managed to put CNN on a single set for us, but it's hard to enjoy the news when you're surrounded by the moronic antics of PK and the crew.

The new Pearl District sports haven, On Deck Sports Bar and Grill (910 NW 14th), has huge media bar potential. The visual impact of walking in and seeing 22 TVs and HDTVs could only be enhanced if they had actually been showing the news. There was an honest-to-god "important" sporting event going on during our visit, so we were too intimidated by the crazed yuppie fans to request a news station. But we did enjoy the free wi-fi and weird choose-your-own-adventure style menu (would you like wild mushroom demi glace, creamy horseradish, or white wine and gorgonzola sauce on your steak?). On Deck serves breakfast starting at 8 am on the weekend, so on a slow sports morning you'll find me rolling in with a Sunday New York Times under one arm, laptop computer under the other, and requesting a corner booth with a view of C-SPAN.