Imagine a world in which you walk down a fairly busy street; you feel perfectly fine; you carry no existential worries as you inhale and exhale without a second thought; you inherently respect everybody you pass, regardless of what they look like or where they come from; they inherently respect you; you take it as a given that everybody’s rights are valued and protected; maybe you have a few extra bucks in your pocket; you’re headed somewhere to say “hey” to those you know, those you’re happy to get to know, those you will greet by touch as well as by word; you’re gonna sit down with them; you’re gonna dig into good food and drink with them; and you’re gonna watch the game with them, whatever the game is. The game is likely secondary, but it’s on, as is the light in this place you’re so glad you know about.
Imagine there’s a Foley’s. It’s easy if you try. For sixteen very recent years, it required no imagination. It was right there on 33rd Street in Manhattan, a few doors west of Fifth Avenue. I knew it from personal experience for about a decade in the middle of its glorious run. You couldn’t have drawn up a better model of or reason for human interaction.
The world in which Foley’s operated is on pause, therefore Foley’s has ceased to be a part of it. That hurts to know. A lot hurts to know these days, but in the context in which we’ve been fortunate to conduct ourselves on our better days — sports; sociability; soda or perhaps something stronger — word that Shaun Clancy is closing Foley’s  stings more than a little. It doesn’t take away from understanding larger problems to acknowledge that this, too, leaves our heart aching.
Foley’s advertised itself as an Irish bar with a baseball attitude. I’d add it contained a Yiddish underpinning. It was, as my mother liked to say by way of her highest praise for anything, haimish. As Lou Monte might have translated for you nice ladies and gentlemen out there who don’t understand the Jewish language, that means it was warm, cozy, homey. You know…haimish.
The only problem with the above description is the use of the past tense where Foley’s is now concerned. “Was” doesn’t suit an establishment where you so look forward to returning as soon as the next opportunity arises. Sadly, opportunities have gone on hiatus for bars, restaurants and any place folks get together to do all the things Foley’s was expert at enabling.
Every time I’ve published a book, Foley’s has been there one way or another to support it. Every time almost anybody in New York has published a book or pursued a worthwhile cause, Foley’s has been there to support it. Lunch was splendid, dinner superb, the beer as accessible as you wanted it to be. The warmth was built into its walls in 2004 and radiated with enveloping coziness until COVID-19 did its number on the business. In announcing that this vital baseball shrine — proudly bearing the name of a revered sportswriter  in these hysterically press-hostile times — was out for the inning, owner Clancy allowed the game itself hasn’t necessarily been irrevocably called . Hopefully Foley’s gets another at-bat somewhere else in town. Hopefully we all have the chance to pass through its transplanted turnstiles again.
Hopefully by then all of us are the things that none of us can take for granted at this moment. We’ll all feel well. We’re all feel reasonably well off. We’re all feel safe not just from viruses and hardship but from the kind of darkness you keep thinking must have been left to rot in the past, yet keeps resurfacing from the worst instincts of a country you’ve always truly wanted to believe is progressing relentlessly toward fulfilling its brightest ideals, periodic backslides notwithstanding. This should be about lifting a glass to a wonderful bar and its gracious staff and a restaurateur who made everybody feel like a Hall of Famer, but it’s hard to confine your thoughts to a baseball attitude when you know too many Americans are taking a beating figuratively, literally and everywhere in between.
In December of 2012, Friend of FAFIF Sharon Chapman went to typically selfless lengths to arrange a release party for one of my books, an event that doubled as a celebration of my fiftieth birthday, which has pretty much eliminated the need for me to ostentatiously celebrate any further birthdays, because nothing will ever top that Saturday afternoon. Of course it was going to be at Foley’s. Of course it was going to be imbued with a baseball attitude. Of course it was a fantastic day . We sang every verse of “Meet the Mets” loud enough so that maybe even the infiltrating SantaConners upstairs got an earful.
But the day before, I had my doubts about doing it at all because that was the day a madman opened fire at an elementary school in Connecticut and killed children and adults who looked after them. It just didn’t seem right to have a party. Maybe I’d seen one too many Aaron Sorkin productions in which everything comes to a stop because one American’s tragedy is every American’s tragedy. We had the party. I distinctly recall a few side conversations about the horror of Sandy Hook before getting back to the good times. Maybe that’s a metaphor for how we do things in this country when we’re fortunate to have options.
Here’s to everybody having options. Here’s to everybody having health. Here’s to Foley’s. Life may not be the best sports bar you can imagine, but we should all treat each other as well as Shaun Clancy treated everybody on 33rd Street.