are u coming?

Who Let the Hogs Out?

Only March Madness could make grown men squeal like this.

It’s game time. Photo: Brock Colyar
It’s game time. Photo: Brock Colyar

On Saturday night, it was brought to my reluctant attention that we’re in the middle of the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament. You see, my parents are jocks. As a kid, they tried forcing me to play every sport on offer — baseball, football, basketball, soccer, cross-country, you name it — but despite the fact that they named me after the Miami Dolphins player Brock Marion and took my middle name from the Easton baseball-bat company, they eventually had to face the fact that I’m just not a sports person and generally don’t play that well with others.

Still, I grew up on Friday-night lights and went to a Big Ten school, so I’ll admit I do appreciate a good tailgate and ball play. When my friend, an Arkansas native, told me she’d be going to watch her team, the Razorbacks (a razorback, is, apparently, a wild hog, which is different from a Nasty Pig), square off against Duke University’s Blue Devils at Arkansas’s chosen alumni bar, the Hideaway — down by Fidi in Seaport, not the Happyfun kind — in an attempt to make it into the Final Four, I thought it might be a good opportunity to check out yet another of the city’s many boozy subcultures. Plus watching basketball is kind of a hot-girl activity, and there’s just something secretly intoxicating about a bunch of dudes getting together to ogle other, more strapping dudes, especially when it involves so much hog talk …

8:20 p.m. | When I walk in half an hour from tip-off (the beginning of the game, for my fellow newbs), there is only standing room left at the bar. The room smells of vape smoke, fried food, light beer, and various perfumes that I, personally, would never wear — the latter wafting off the surprising (to me) number of women on hand. Half of them are loud and buzzed — the hard-core fans — and the other half are sitting pretty, chatting among themselves while their boisterous boyfriends presumably pine for their days of doing keg stands. (One bedazzled woman with blonde highlights, sitting in the back with her two “born and raised Arkansas” girlfriends, tells me her husband actually found the bar on Facebook. “He’s really pumped. It’s like gossip for guys, basically. We girls get to eat, drink, talk, and watch.”) I perk up when I overhear a bro complimenting another bro on his sartorial panache: “Your sneakers are FIRE! I’d take them off your feet if I could.” He wasn’t talking to me: I’d tried to dress more butch but ended up looking like a soccer mom, in heeled boots and a sheerish black top. “Excuse me, bruh,” says a new arrival, pushing past me.

8:25 p.m. | “You missed the hog call,” my Arkansan tells me when I find her, though I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

8:30 p.m. | Everyone is drinking Budweiser unironically, unless you count the leggy blonde at the end of the bar sipping on a glass of white wine, probably also without irony. I decide to stay classy and order a Stella. While I’m waiting on the bartender, a nasally woman in a sequined minidress taps me on the shoulder. “I want you to know that your chipped nails are so vibes.” So I guess I’m not very effectively undercover after all. The woman tells me she’s here with her single girlfriends, not because they have an interest in basketball, or any kinfolk in the South, but because they thought it might be a nice place to meet single dudes. I’m not sure they’ll have any luck, with all of the beefy bruhs here preoccupied with fist-bumping and constantly leading one another by the hairy hand through the crowd to the bar for more brewskis. Nevertheless, judging by the number of other good-time girls here, these men are certainly someone’s type.

#HogVision Photo: Brock Colyar

8:37 p.m. | Here are some songs I find can usually get a whole bar, no matter who’s in it, singing along: “Dancing Queen,” “Mr. Brightside,” “Dancing on My Own,” and, unfortunately, “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Here at Hideaway, it’s not the hip-hop they’ve been blasting but the Arkansas fight song, which actually goes, “Give a cheer. Rah! Rah! Never fear. Rah! Rah!” Next to me, to make room in the bar, a bearded dude in a Barstool hoodie climbs on top of a table. “I’ll have everyone sit on my lap,” he says with a smirk. Rah, rah, indeed!

8:40 p.m. | Someone farted (I promise it wasn’t me), and the Barstool guy is being really dramatic about it — pulling his hoodie over his nose, like a toddler, for almost five minutes. “I wish my dog was still here. I would’ve blamed my dog,” he tells me.

8:50 p.m. | The bar continues to fill with more Arkansas merch than I could ever have thought possible. There are hoodies and ball caps and beanies and jerseys. There are puffer vests and leather pants and button-downs and button-ups. “We’re gonna send Coach K into retirement!” someone calls out, apparently in reference to Duke’s soon-to-retire head coach, followed by a round of “Hoorahs!,” and I start wondering about the generous use of the first-person plural.

8:52 p.m. | Finally, tip-off. For some reason, a big-armed guy in a golf top raises his flailing girlfriend into the air against her will, while everyone else in the bar turns their head to the screens like meerkats standing at attention for the three old-man commentators. At long last, it’s time for the “hog call” I’ve been warned about, which, as I discover 12 ear-shattering seconds later, involves lifting your arms up and down, clenching your fists, wiggling your fingers, and screaming “WOOOOOOOO PIG SOOOOOOIEEE!” three times. Look: I’m from the South. I live in New York City. I’ve seen a lot of crazy things, but never have I ever seen a room of grown-ass drunk adults scream and talk so much about hogs. (This tradition is technically termed “calling the hogs,” and can you believe it, even Harry Styles has participated.)

In the middle of a “pig sooie.” Photo: Brock Colyar

8:53 p.m. | Arkansas scored! Pig soooooieeeeee!

8:54 p.m. | Duke scored. Someone throws a bird at the TV.

9:20 p.m. | For a while, I get transfixed watching the boys on the court — notably Jaylin Williams (the husky guy next to me dreamily tells his friend, “This guy’s the man. I grew up 45 minutes from him”) and the daddy head coach. Also: Who has cable anymore? I spend just as much time lost in the commercials for consumer goods like iPads (“Your next computer is not a computer”), Nissans, Arby’s, manscaping, another Harry Potter movie — Don’t talk about J.K. Rowling, don’t talk about J.K. Rowling, don’t talk about trans athletes — and, conveniently timed for the week New York dropped vaccine mandates for pro athletes, shots of Pfizer.

9:24 p.m. | When the game comes back on, I get newly distracted listening to the commentators and their clearly gay patter: “He’s not afraid of that big shot”; “That’s a lot of contact down there”; “A hand in the face is making it a little more difficult”; “No. 15 is an extraordinary man — his ability to contest at the rim.” Then I watch a guy in a baseball cap stick his whole hand into a plate of beef nachos and lick all of the cheese and sour cream off each of his fingers, one by one … Okay, that killed the mood.

9:35 p.m. | I try to get into it. The men around me are attentively watching the screen, waving their hands in the air, and screaming things like “FUCK COACH K!” and “WOAHHHH, C’MON!” I surprise myself when I start cheering and jeering with them (is this mob mentality?). I surprise myself even more when my friends and I order a bucket of beer. “We need all the emotional support we can get, so thanks for being here,” a woman with a nose ring tells me.

The drink of choice. Photo: Brock Colyar

9:43 p.m. | Half-time. 45–33, Duke. I’m surprised to find out there are not four quarters in this game.

9:48 p.m. | Outside, I listen to groups of smokers, most, for obvious reasons, University of Arkansas alumni, reminiscing about the good ol’ days in Fayetteville. They talk about getting the “Little Rock Squad” back together and tell stories about their favorite bars back home, places where there “weren’t enough pool tables” but at least they could smoke inside. One guy gets a girl’s number with this pickup line: “I’m really into numbers. I don’t know why.” It feels like Cheers, if Cheers were in the Seaport and decorated with hog flags and an Etsy-whimsical chalkboard that reads “Happy Hour Is the Best Hour.” I decide to chat with two very tall, very wide, self-described “forever fans” and native Arkansans who declare confidently, “We’re gonna win” (again with that “We”). When I ask them about their home state — I mean, everything I know about it concerns Hillary Clinton — my voice involuntarily getting very deep, the larger man responds, “Arkansas is not what people expect. People expect it to be super-redneck. But in the big city, it’s, like, poppin’.”

9:51 p.m. | I realize that there is another gay at the sports bar. He introduces himself to me as a dancer and then unzips his jacket, coming out as a … Duke fan. He tells me he came to the neighborhood — a place he usually doesn’t frequent except to board the Jacob Riis ferry — with his straight friend from Arkansas even though he’s a Duke alum. “I’ve been having a very straight week. I’ve been doing very straight things,” he tells me, though he doesn’t explain himself further.

10:15 p.m. | The second half begins. Duke starts to pull ahead, and the crowd begins to lose focus. I watch a puzzling number of women FaceTime their friends, somehow communicating over the noise of the TVs and the male screaming, and even more men and women log onto social apps I didn’t know people used anymore, notably Snapchat and Facebook. Everyone takes a selfie. When a basketball gets stuck on top of one of the backboards on the TV, a player lifts a tiny cheerleader into the air to retrieve it, and the bar erupts in cheers. Gender is wild!

10:26 p.m. | The game is close, and the bar does a round of “WOOO PIG SOOOOIEEEE!” and another call-and-response (“Arkansas!” “Razorbacks!” “Arkansas!” “Razorbacks!”) to try to stay positive. When a player makes a basket at the same time as their unified fangirling, I reconsider that royal “We.” The main hype guy at the bar, a 50-something with a long white beard, retrieves a hat shaped like a hog and places it on an excited woman’s head. I ask the loudest fan in the bar what he’ll do if Arkansas wins tonight. “I will streak around this building. I really will. I’ve never streaked anywhere before,” he says. Blushing, I accidentally blurt out, “Let the hog out!”

One brave Duke fan. Photo: Brock Colyar

10:30 p.m. | “They’re flustered, they’re flustered,” someone mutters to himself when the team starts to really lose, and I begin hearing sounds I’ve never heard grown men make: “Oooooooohhhs” and “Ahhhhhhs” and “Oh-oh-oh-oh ah-ah-ah ohhhh ahhhhs.” A friend who has joined us whispers to me, “The last time I heard a guy make that sound, I was pegging him.”

10:50 p.m. | Well, Arkansas is definitely going to lose, and the mood in the bar is pretty bleak. No one’s drinking anymore, though some have resorted to flirting. The devoted fans stare morosely at the TVs, folding their hands under their chins like they’re praying, biting their lips, pinching the bridges of their noses, and squinting their eyes. “I think I saw a guy outside crying,” someone says. I ask the almost-streaker what he’s going to do now, but he struggles to voice his thoughts: “I don’t know, man. I’m sad. I’m gonna take the L.” To Brooklyn.

10:59 p.m. | Final score: 78-69, Duke. Slowly, everyone starts to clear out of the bar. Some misty-eyed older men hug each other and then everyone participates in one last half-hearted “sooooooo-ieeee.” I ask one of the few women left what she’ll do for the rest of the evening, and all she says is “Drink.” The last thing I see on my way out is the woman in the hog hat, keeled over and vomiting into a flower bed. We’re all taking an L tonight.

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