After Joe Allen’s team lost a charity softball game two years ago, he sat in a pub and grimaced while his buddy Tom Smith and the winners played “We Are the Champions” on the jukebox. Forty-one times in a row.

But this May, Allen’s team won the annual game. He played that same Queen song over the jukebox every chance he got.

And he’s now had the last — or at least the latest — laugh.

In what has to be the ultimate escalation of one of the pettiest smack-talk battles to ever grace Delaware County, there now exists a billboard in the parking lot of J.T. Brewski’s Pub shaming Smith, the bar’s co-owner. It’s next to an ad for home care for the elderly, and it reads: “Happy Holidays. Let us not forget that Tommy lost the softball game."

Ouch.

Smith, 51, has stared at that billboard for the last week and will continue to for another three weeks while the campaign runs its course. “I deserve every bit of it,” he conceded.

The billboard references the J.T. Brewski’s Pub Annual Softball Game, which has been played in Primos every spring for the last eight years, since Smith and a co-owner bought the bar. Every year, the teams raise money to help a local family in need. There’s not much practice or prep for the game, aside from a not-insignificant amount of beer at the official pregame the night before.

“It was always fun,” said Allen, 42. “But Tommy likes to talk trash. When we lose, it’s unstoppable.”

And for the last eight years, Allen’s team has found itself on the losing side more often than not. He was the butt of jokes that Smith would write on the electrical sign outside the bar. Stuff like: “Joe, Matt and Chris lost again.”

But 2019 was Allen’s year.

Though Smith can’t remember the details of how his mighty team fell, Allen does. He wasn’t playing this year — he had grounded out to end the game, causing his team to lose, two years in a row — so he recalls watching from the bench.

Allen’s team was up by one in the ninth, and there were two outs. A run would tie the score, and a lefty who played high school baseball was batting for Smith’s squad.

The batter got a solid piece of a pitch, and it soared to right field, where a woman who coaches softball was playing. She ran backward, faced home plate, contorted her body, stretched out her left arm, and snagged the ball. Game over.

“It was mayhem,” Allen recalled. “I couldn’t believe it. I was almost on my knees.”

The softball teams are photographed here in May. J.T. Brewski's co-owner Tom Smith is on the far left. Rival Joe Allen appears in the center in the blue USA shirt.
Anna Orso, Inquirer
The softball teams are photographed here in May. J.T. Brewski's co-owner Tom Smith is on the far left. Rival Joe Allen appears in the center in the blue USA shirt.

Then the trash talk began anew.

For months, Allen used an app to remotely play “We Are the Champions” in J.T. Brewski’s as often as possible. Smith got so sick of it, he started rejecting the song every time Allen turned it on.

Allen and two family members who also played on the winning team knew they couldn’t control the electrical sign outside the bar that Smith had used to shame them in years past. So his brother had an idea: What about that billboard in the parking lot?

It would cost $925. Five guys on the winning team split it evenly. And it was worth every penny.

Last week, Smith was sitting inside the pub filling out paperwork when a customer told him to look up. Workers from Clear Channel swapped out the old billboard for this new, certainly more savage, one.

“That’s pretty darn good," Smith said.

And so, the stakes have been raised. Both teams have plans to up the ante next year. Smith wants to recruit some retired Phillies to play on his team. Allen wants to hire an umpire who isn’t slugging as much Bud Light during the game.

What is certain is that this battle has only begun.

“I’m going to come up with something stupid and really embarrassing somehow,” Smith said.

Allen retorted: “If you want to go big, you better go big.”