It’s a Monday summer night at a sports bar that was recently recognized as the best of Boston. Listen to the chatter of the patrons, though, and you won’t hear any whining about the state of the Red Sox rotation or the injustice of Tom Brady’s suspension.
“I don’t think he’s right for her,” someone laments. “How is he not making out with her?!” another chides. They’re watching a different sort of competition, a millennial war of the roses: It’s Bachelorette Night at Somerville’s Parlor Sports.
Fans of the franchise gather here weekly to watch generically beautiful people compete for roses, affection, and attention. The event is the handiwork of bartender Jon Olszewski, who on one slow, fateful Monday night four seasons ago was convinced by a pair of regulars to turn the bar’s televisions to “The Bachelor,” so that they might make a night of mocking the reality show.
What started as a gag has since developed the kind of loyal following that made the bar a destination for NBA and soccer fans, through word-of-mouth.
But Olszewski has a warning for any local would-be bachelors hoping to find love on a Monday night in Inman Square: Do your research.
“These women are not there for a pick-up scene,” says Olszewski, who sends out a Bachelor or Bachelorette-themed newsletter replete with predictions, GIFs and wry observations to hundreds each Monday. “If you’re a guy and you want to come to meet women, you better be really well-educated on the show. You better know everybody’s name, and what happened last week.”
Now, the bar frequently fills to its 65-person capacity on nights when there’s no sports game of consequence, and even occasionally muscling them out when there is one.
Julie Kumor, of Watertown, was one of the regulars who asked for that very first “Bachelor” screening, and the avid soccer fan sees commonality between behavior of the bar’s patrons during a rose ceremony and a big Team USA or Revolution match.
“The octave is a little different, but I think the general mood in here is the same, because it’s cheering and yelling and jeering,” she says.
Lately, they’ve been cheering and jeering the exploits of JoJo Fletcher — this year’s Bachelorette. Loyal followers come to Parlor to watch the show, but they also compete on their own, filling out March Madness-style brackets, and even playing games of bingo that feature squares like “JoJo cries” or “Confused sports fan walks into bar.”
This week, as JoJo cast out her first exile — a 31 year-old DJ named Wells — a cry went out from the crowd.
“Bingo!” yelled Somerville resident Megan Casey, who then proceeded to ring the bar’s signature vintage boxing bell, usually reserved for go-ahead touchdowns and clinching threes.
Lauren Cole, a teacher and Somerville neighbor who made that first fateful channel-changing request, says her relationship with the show has come a long way since that night.
“It started as a way to kind of make fun of contestants, but I got really invested, like really invested, and now I can’t stop,” she admits. “I still think they’re ridiculous. I still call out a lot of gender normativity and heteronormativity that bothers me, but I can’t stop. I know I can’t stop. Now I care. And I hate that I care.”
And before she leaves, she laments the loss of poor, sweet Wells.