By Jay Banks, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – It would be hard to miss the fact that the NBA (National Basketball Association) finals are underway living in the U.S., but here in Brazil it actually takes some effort to follow. With the semifinal match-ups of the Chicago Bulls vs. Miami Heat, and Dallas Mavericks vs. Oklahoma City Thunder, the final championship series is set to start on June 2nd. Displaced American basketball fans inundated with futebol (soccer) in Rio are now seeking out locations to follow the last weeks of the 2011 season.
Perhaps even harder to find in Rio is the NHL (National Hockey League) Stanley Cup, also now in the semifinals stretch, with Tampa Bay Lightning leading the Boston Bruins in the Eastern series 1-0, and San Jose Sharks trailing Vancouver Canucks 1-0 in the West.
Mike Smith, an American who has been living in Rio full-time for over two years explains: “It’s harder to keep up with American sports here of course because it’s not all over the TV and newspapers, but I still follow NFL and NBA when it gets to the playoffs. They actually will show some NBA playoff games here on TV, if you get those channels – but the commentary is in Portuguese, just not the same.”
Smith goes on to say: “I’ve been coming to Rio since 2002, and it used to be a lot harder to keep up, but now with the high-speed internet, it’s easier. For the clutch games though, or just the feel of watching with friends, nothing in Rio beats the big screen at Shenanigans.”
Shenanigan’s Irish Pub is a staple in Ipanema with live music every night, and American co-owner Mike Taylor explains: “We pride ourselves on being a sports bar as well as an Irish Pub. We can usually get any NBA, NHL or MLB game if someone requests it. Not a guarantee, but close, it’s usually best to send an email a couple of days in advance if there is a particular game someone wants to watch.”
Another great option for NBA and NHL games is the Blue Agave, an American owned Mexican restaurant and bar also located in Ipanema. An American hockey fan wishing to remain anonymous shares: “It’s an odd juxtaposition to watch ice hockey in the tropics only a few blocks from the beach, but as a gringo hockey fan, I’ll take it!”
The bar has two flat screen TVs and is run by an American sports enthusiast more than willing to help find whatever game you are trying to watch. When there are no games on, Blue Agave also shows MMA, surfing and other extreme sport videos to keep the ambiance festive.
Brazil has a sports-themed restaurant chain named Joe & Leo’s, with five restaurants in Rio de Janeiro alone. Anybody that has ever been to Joe & Leo’s knows that it showcases the trimmings of an American bar, broadcasting American sporting events and rumored to have one of the best burgers in town.
In Ipanema there is another great bar for watching sports, Lord Jim’s Pub, one of the oldest British pubs in Rio de Janeiro. The bar shows all NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB games, as they are transmitted in Brazil by the local sports networks. With seven large HD plasma screens, if your game is on the regular network, you’ll just need to ask them to change the channel from the soccer or rugby.