Friday, November 1, 2013

Sometimes You'd Better Not Go Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Cheers was the sitcom of the 1980s. Combining relatable and lovable characters with witty punch lines, the Boston bar–based show reached the top ten in ratings for eight of its eleven seasons and remains one of the most beloved comedies in the annals of television.

Perhaps just as remembered as the characters themselves is Cheers’ opening credits, with its ultra-catchy “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” theme song and colorized archival photos of barflies who strongly resembled their onscreen counterparts.

Many viewers wondered about what the newspaper headline WE WIN! bragged. (The elderly bartender proudly holding up the paper is not intended to represent George Wendt’s character, Norm, whose counterpart is shown seconds before this; Wendt’s name merely remains onscreen as this implicit nod to the deceased Ernie “Coach” Pantusso concludes the opening credits.)

Looking closer at the contents of this newspaper, we can see that below the primary headline, on the right, it reads “As Cards Lose to Bu...”

This indicates that this famous local photo dates from the Boston Braves clinching the 1948 National League pennant. As the second-place St. Louis Cardinals lost, 2-1, to the Pittsburgh Pirates (the “Bu...cs”) on September 29, Boston simultaneously defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers, 4-3, concluding a torrid 18-6 September for the Braves and putting Boston up by 6 games. With only 5 games remaining for the Cardinals, the Braves had claimed their first pennant since 1914.

What doesn’t ring true in the context of the sitcom is that, by the time Cheers premiered in 1982, the Boston Braves were but a dim memory in Bostonian minds, having abandoned Beantown for Milwaukee after the 1952 season. Thus, the Braves hadn’t been part of Boston culture for three decades. Add to that the fact that Boston was, even during the Braves’ few glory years, undeniably a Red Sox town—with ex–Red Sox reliever Sam Malone giving the bar added Sox cachet—and the use of this photo seems deceptive.

Sure, Bostonians were rightfully proud of their Braves heading to the World Series—but those folks were dead or infirmed by the time Cheers was “open for business.”

Let’s be frank about that proud and pugilistically inclined city: Had a patron come into Cheers and openly rooted for the Atlanta Braves because he or she had remained a diehard Braves supporter from their days in Boston, those Cheers regulars would have beaten that fan with a ferocity that would have made The Depahhted look like The Sound of Music.

Not to single out Bostonians, though—had an Oakland A’s supporter showed his true colors in Paddy’s Pub, you can be sure that Sweet Dee and the rest of the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia crew would have gone Smokin’ Joe Frazier on his traitorous ass.

(Images of Cheers credits copyright NBC.)

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