Apparently we’re through the worst of it. Whilst it still seems like the depth of winter to me, last Monday (February 1) is by all accounts the most depressing day of the year, with the highest number of sickies (Duvet days for the politically correct) being thrown on this date, year in year out. So, if we’ve all made it past then intact, we should be OK.
Despite refusing to succumb to seasonal affective disorder and the overpowering urge to stay in bed with season seven of 24, I do still need something to look forward to. I need things in the diary. I need to plan stuff.
It should be pretty apparent that I’m partial to watching sport. A lot of sport. A borderline unhealthy amount of sport. It therefore follows that much of my advance planning revolves around going to watch sporting events. Regular
readers will also be aware that I am now a proud Father. Now, whilst life as a Dad has proved wonderful, exciting and rewarding, it also means that with reduced free time, I have to be increasingly selective with the sporting events I choose to attend.
I’ve been lucky enough to see a wide range of sporting events and with Fatherhood resulting in rapidly diminishing disposable income and time, I thought it best to channel my efforts into trying to go and witness sport that I have never seen live. This is where you come in. I’m asking for your help. I need advice and inspiration.
I have listed the sporting events that I have been to below, so you know what I’ve don and what I haven’t. What I need now are suggestions as to sports I have thus far missed, and where I should go to witness them at their finest. Whether it be hurling in the Highlands, Super Slalom in Kitzbuhel or turtle racing in downtown LA, I want to know what I should do next, where, and ideally, why.
There is always the possibility of building a family holiday round a sporting event, so location isn’t important. Seeing something that I have never seen before, is.
So, I’ll leave you with my list, a brief outline of my sporting CV, and trust that you fine people will help me fill in the gaps. Don’t let me down people. My 2010 sporting diary is in your hands…
Football. I’ve seen a lot of football. In a lot of places. I’m a Watford season ticket holder, so much of it has varied in quality, but have also been lucky enough to be at European Championships and World Cups. I’ve even seen live Australian “A” league. My football cup runneth over.
Rugby Union. My first rugby match was England V Australia at Twickenham in 1988. England won 28-19 and apart from rousing choruses of “Swing Low” the atmosphere was created by the (seemingly entirely drunk) crowd stamping their feet on the wooden floor. For an 11 year old boy this was intoxicating stuff indeed.
No subsequent visit to Twickenham has inspired the same thrill and excitement, and I’m now content with the occasional trip to Wasps or Saracens.
Cricket. As a youngster I played as much cricket as I possibly could. Then I discovered the healing properties of real ale and pork pies, and now I watch as much cricket as I possibly can. I’m a member at Middlesex and have heard the
sound of leather on willow in venues ranging from Bristol to Brisbane.
I still play a bit too, and my favourite claim to fame actually comes from playing cricket. I’m not one to name drop, but wouldn’t you if you had played cricket with the actor who played Boba Fett in Star Wars? I thought so.
Darts. Before anyone starts, it is a sport. Of course it is. It’s on telly and everything, you must have seen it. Phil the Power doesn’t strut his stuff live on a channel called Sky Hobbies does he? The clue is in the name – Sky Sports.
Anyway, I went to the spiritual home of darts, the Lakeside, to see the much maligned PDC darts championship some years ago now, and I have to say I loved every minute of it. I mean, what’s not to love? Any place where you see Andy Goram clutching a Bacardi Breezer to your left and Ray Stubbs interviewing the terrifying looking Colin Monk to your right is alright by me.
Tennis. I’ve only been once. To Wimbledon. It was back in the day when Number One court was bolted on to the side of Centre Court and at the back of the arena there was a place for standing. Well, that’s where I was on one of the hottest days I have ever experienced. I was a spotty schoolkid at the time too, so wasn’t exactly flush with cash. For those of you that haven’t been, Wimbledon isn’t the place to be without access to money and on a fiercely hot day I went hungry and thirsty, but did have the privilege of seeing Boris Becker and actor Jack Nicholson (only one of whom was playing tennis by the way…)
Speedway. I’m not quite sure how, but I’ve been to two speedway meets. Once to see Coventry and more recently to see the Poole Pirates. I actually quite enjoyed it. It’s noisy, fast, messy and generally pretty dangerous. I am a man. These things please me.
Horse Racing. Birthdays and stag-do’s. There is inevitably one such event each year that involves in a trip to the races. I have left Ascot, Goodwood, Newmarket, Kempton Park, Windsor, even the rather strange track in Budapest with a much lighter wallet but fantastic, if slightly hazy memories.
Oh, and if there is a more enjoyable way to get to a sporting event than the water taxi down the Thames to Windsor racecourse, I want to hear about it.
American Football. Anyone remember the London Monarchs? Well, I do. In their first couple of seasons season
they played at Wembley Stadium, culminating in a “World Bowl” victory over the Barcelona Dragons in front of 80,000 odd fans. One of which was me.
Of course it was all downhill from there and the Monarchs have long since disbanded, (That’s Monarchs, not Monarchy – no treason here), but Wembley does still play host to Gridiron, and I have been lucky enough to be at two of the phenomenally successful trio of NFL regular season games, with the game last year hosting the newly crowned Superbowl champs the New Orleans Saints.
Ice Hockey. I was in New York City. As a sports fan, I was therefore required to go to Madison Square Garden. It didn’t matter what I saw there, I just had to be there for something. As it turned out, that something was an NHL fixture between the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Rangers were having a dreadful season and what really sticks in the memory is the home fans letting their team have it with both barrels. We are used to the occasional bit of booing over here, but in the Garden, where you’d expect the New York home crowd to be passionately behind their team, there was no support, just annoyance, and well, pretty poorly disguised disgust.
I was impressed that they clearly weren’t prepared to accept poor performances from their home town team, but the grief they dished out to their own team was a bit of a shock. I can’t remember the final score, but true to form the Rangers lost. And yes, before you ask, there were plenty of on ice fights.
Basketball. During that same visit to the States, I crossed the Hudson River to see a sporting franchise that were performing slightly better than the hapless New York Rangers. The NBA’s New Jersey Nets.
The Jason Kidd inspired Nets were due to play the Washington Wizards, and this was exciting on two counts. Firstly, a win for the Nets would secure the Divisional title and a place in the play-offs and secondly, the Washington Wizards boasted a certain Michael Jordan amongst their ranks.
As with all best laid plans, there was a hitch and Jordan sustained a knew injury in the week leading up to the game. Frail old sod. The Nets however stuck to my personal script and triumphed by 101 points to 88 and qualified for the play-offs. For the record, They lost four games to none against the LA Lakers in the Finals.
Golf. When the American ExpressWorld Golf Championships, featuring the worlds top 50 players is hosted approximately 20 minutes from your front door (It was hosted by The Grove in Hertfordshire in 2006), it’s a tough opportunity to pass up. So I didn’t. I was lucky enough to be one of about 20 people to walk round with Tiger on his practice round, and was also able to be there on the final day to see him win the trophy after a masterful four rounds.
Apart from being fortunate enough to witness some of the greatest golfers the world has ever produced, I was also privy to the slightly rarer sight of Vijay Singh attempting to kill a man with the power of his unblinking eyes, after an unsuspecting spectator stepped on and snapped a twig during the Fijians backswing. Vijay was not impressed.
Baseball. Of all the American sports I have seen live, baseball was the one I was most uncertain of enjoying. As it turns out, it was the one I enjoyed the most. I saw the New York Mets at Shea Stadium on a bright April day, and enjoyed it from start to finish. The crowd is usually big, and (during the regular season at least) pretty good natured and relaxed. You can drink beer in your seat and various food vendors meander their way bewteen the seats selling all manner of appallingly unhealthy food. Perfect.
Baseball is of course a game full of traditions, and the seventh inning stretch is up there with he most random and enjoyable. The Americans, love them or loathe them, also know how to sing their National Anthem. The game lasts a good three hours or so, so there is a real chance to relax and soak up the gameas it unfolds. When I’m in the States next, tickets for a Major League game will be high on my shopping list.
So, there you have it. A quick run down of the sport I have encountered over the past fifteen years or so. What I want to know now is, what next? Over to you…