Goldfish: The Rodney Dangerfields of the pet world. They get no respect. Often kept in less-than-stellar accommodations (the simple goldfish bowl is a bit of a misnomer, because as a goldfish home, it really sucks) only to be forgotten by their young owners, they often check out early to the great aquarium in the sky. Flushed in stealth, goldy often goes unmourned and unnamed, unless, that is, he was purchased to be eaten by something bigger.
Now it appears people are taking a second look at goldfish: bar owners. Goldfish racing, complete with light up tracks, squirt guns, and prize money, is earning popularity across the country as the next thing in bar entertainment. Participants choose a feeder goldfish, name it, and then compete against other patrons bracket-style, urging their underwater steed on to glory with water jets produced by squirt guns or straws.
The sport, which apparently originated in Portland, Oregon, at the Gyspy Bar and Velvet Lounge, may be growing in notoriety, but as with many barroom-born sports involving animals, a great deal of it takes place in secret, un-promoted. Not everyone loves the idea of using animals as entertainment for bar patrons; animal-rights organizations have been quick to condemn the practice. Some bars have shut their race nights down, while still others continue to offer them, citing popularity, and the fact that the fish involved are usually feeder fish that would otherwise have met a much quicker fate.
But what about the fish? It’s hard to say how they feel about competing in the races, seeing as fish are notoriously tight-lipped. That said, it is important to note that fish can become stressed, uncomfortable, or ill when put into less-than-ideal situations, and forced to live in poor conditions. While the fish being used in goldfish racing are often adopted out or put into ponds following their foray into the wide world of sports, that doesn’t mean they’re being cared for by competent owners. How many people, for example, are still keeping their betta fish in those tiny desk cubes? Or in heaterless, lidless bowls? To quote the gentlewoman and scholar, Disney’s Pocahontas, if you take a look at what caring for different fish species should actually entail, “you’ll learn things you never knew you never knew.”
If all of this seems like a lot of thought is being put into caring for what are commonly considered childhood “starter pets,” consider that contrary to popular belief, fish are actually capable of learning and being trained. You might have more fun with your pets — and cause them less stress — if you put real thought into their care.
With that in mind, here are some drinking-game alternatives to goldfish racing, should you be looking for other entertainment options:
A bar game where the only thing sullied is your innocence, Raunchy Bingo is exactly what it sounds like. Bingo, but dirty. The Burwood Tap in Chicago hosts its competition every Thursday, and honestly, it sounds like a great time. You arrive thirsty and maybe leave thirsty in a whole different way.
At Movieoke, the only thing you’re hurting are your chances at an Academy Award. A genius update of the time-honored drinking tradition of karaoke, movieoke encourages patrons to act out film scenes on stage as the movie plays behind them. Best of all, this means that you’ll never be stuck listening to that one person who definitely thinks they are good at singing, choose songs that are way too long and esoteric, over and over again.
NO ONE COMES TO HEAR THE GOOD PEOPLE, OKAY? We’re all here for the suck!
Heartbreakingly, Trail Dust Steak House is now closed, but they had a solid-as-hell-idea, which someone should take over. That is, they had an indoor two-story slide, and they were 100 percent cool with adults using it, provided they wore socks. It’s Chutes and Ladders for drunk people! Someone get on this, stat!
Why settle for one bar game when you can play them all? Pool, shuffleboard, skee-ball, darts, and ping-pong mean you’ll never be bored.
Spelling bees are weirdly entertaining in their own right, but have you ever thought, “This would be even more fun if I had a buzz on?” Of course you have! And that’s how the Drinking Spelling Bee came to bee. Be. Bee? No — bee. Wait. May I hear that in a sentence?
Pinball machines. Video games. Claw machines that offer free drinks as prizes. And if that’s not enough, you can probably show up in thrift clothes and pretend to be Macklemore, because he shot a music video here once. Sunday brunches are served with a side of drag.
If you’d like to help animals AND drink at the same time, there’s no better city to visit than Tacoma, Washington, where the Drinking for Conservation committee, headed up by zoo staff and volunteers, partners with local bars. On designated evenings at the partner-bar of choice, proceeds from beverages will go toward organizations that support endangered species and their habitats. Evening themes include Party for Polar Bears, Fermented for Ferrets, and Wet Your Whistle for Whales.
If you drink enough to feel terrible in the morning, at least you’ll feel good about yourself.