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Podcasts and Programmes…

Preparing to go on air at BBC Three Counties with podcast co-presenter Jason

As some of you may or may not be aware, I am now involved in a podcast.

‘From the Rookery End’ is recorded monthly and the three episodes so far have  been really successful, with over 5,000 downloads recorded to date. Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to download and listen, I really hope you’ve enjoyed it. (For those of you that haven’t, search for ‘From the Rookery End’ on iTunes or go to www.fromtherookeryend.com to listen online)

As part of our work on the podcast my fellow presenters and I have been lucky enough to go to the training ground to meet and interview Watford players, feature on BBC Three Counties radio (we will have a regular five minute slot as of next week!) and also been invited to write a page for the matchday programme.

In case you missed it, I have reproduced the article I wrote for the Doncaster programme below. I hope you enjoy it – any comments are as always welcome, along with suggestions for future articles! Oh, and don’t forget to listen to the podcast…

***

Watford have had the lot already this season. Is it any wonder that Mike Parkin, season ticket holder and co-presenter of From The Rookery End Podcast, doesn’t know if he’s coming or going?

Can it really be September already? The kids are back at school, the (non bottled) summer tans are starting to fade and England are already attempting to qualify for the next International tournament at which we can embarrass ourselves. Of course slightly more cheerily, the nPower Championship is also well underway and our beloved Hornets have made a reasonable start.

Widely tipped for the drop by pundits and supporters alike, Watford made a blistering start to the season with a fine away win at Norwich and followed it up with solid draws against Coventry and Hull. Since then, the inevitable happened and we eventually lost our unbeaten record – losing at home to Notts County and Leeds United in the space of a week.

Ordinarily, two home defeats in the space of five days would be cause for concern and utter misery. At the very least

This article originally apeared in the Watford V Doncaster programme, Sat 11 Sep 2010

I’d have bashed out a slightly miserable blog post or two and sulked at home, steadfastly refusing to watch The Football League Show or read the sports pages in the papers. So far though, my post match emotions have been different. It could be because I am older, wiser and more mature. Those who know me will quickly confirm that this isn’t the case. So what is going on?

Well. Being a football fan isn’t easy. Trying to explain the experience is even harder, but here goes. Sometimes, draws feel like defeats. Sometimes draws feel like wins. Sometimes defeats feel like…well, defeats always feel like defeats, but sometimes they are easier to stomach. With me so far?

Let’s take the Coventry game as an example. A sunny Saturday at Vicarage Road and it was the first home game of the season. Former Manager Aidy Boothroyd was afforded a warm welcome back off the pitch, whilst his team were given a footballing lesson on it. For 89 minutes or so anyway.

After racing in to a 2-0 lead courtesy of Will Buckley and an early contender for goal of the season in the form of a John Eustace bicycle kick, Watford played some great stuff in the August sunshine. We were superior in every part of the pitch and it was looking like being a rather splendid day all round.

Then it all went a bit wrong.

When things go badly for your team, fans can always, without exception, find a way to blame the officials, and this occasion is no exception. Mid-way through the second half, the referee got injured and had to be substituted. It soon transpired that there was no substitute for the substitute and a PA announcement had to be put out across Vicarage Road asking for a qualified official to take up the fourth official duties. Understandably this unusual request was met with much laughter in the crowd. The laughter didn’t last. The delay in sorting out the situation, combined with numerous other stoppages meant a long period of injury time. How long you ask? Well, the exact amount of time needed for Coventry to score two late goals and snatch a draw. A draw. A point. An amazing goal. Our unbeaten record preserved. In short, a lot to smile about, but in actuality I felt very little pleasure walking away from the ground.

Compare that feeling to the one I felt after the defeat to Notts County. Despite being out of the cup at the hands of a lower league club, the performance Watford had put in was, in the main, excellent. Chances galore, glimpses of fantastic stuff from some of our new signings and a senior debut for another of our Academy graduates. I walked away buoyant, positive and confident in our team. The same sort of feeling I get when we win. But we’d lost. See? I told you it was confusing…

That’s the joy of being a fan though. The ups and downs, the excitement and disappointment. The consistently contrasting emotions. It’s why we love football, why we keep coming back. Win lose or draw, we have no idea how we’re going to feel when that full time whistle blows. Long may it continue!

Come on You Horns!

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TV Trauma…

So, two games, two away wins, six goals and an international call up for our young goalkeeper. Not a bad start for relegation certainties is it?

Of course, there is a long way to go. I’m sure I’m not the only one to have celebrated the Norwich victory with some class of maniacal jig, offered thanks to the heavens (and Malky) for the retaining of John Eustace then sat down, puffed out my cheeks and said: “Just 47 more points to go…”

Amongst fellow fans I had picked up on a calm, understated, yet strong belief in our squad. Yes it is small, yes it is young, yes it is inexperienced. It’s also a tight knit, talented group, playing for a man they like and trust. At Watford we don’t need any convincing as to what can be achieved with self belief, courage and a will to win.

Watford’s performance at Norwch was a fine example of exactly what England* failed to achieve so spectacularly in South Africa over the summer. Our heroes entered the fray, powered not only by the power of our smart new AC Milan-esque away kit, but also by a sense of pride, confidence and perhaps most importantly – a lack of fear. The low expectation levels could have helped. There wasn’t a single pundit who picked Watford to take the points. I’d even be surprised if any Watford fans had any money on us to win. (For the record I had us down for a 2-2 draw) Whatever the reasons behind it though, Watford began with purpose and poise and it quickly became apparent that we weren’t going to be the pushovers many had anticipated. It was game on.

As we all know by now, things are never that straightforward and despite never really having to deal with a sustained period of Norwich pressure, the last minutes were endured with no small amount of swearing at the TV, wringing of hands and pacing round the living room as Watford battled to cling on to the 3-2 lead they so deserved.

At the final whistle, I cut a delighted yet exhausted figure. Slumped on the sofa with a giddy grin on my face, my gorgeous and very understanding girlfriend looked at me and said; “Happy now?”. I was of course, but her comment had more to it than just the obvious question.

You see, most of the time I’m quite reasonable company. I’m not rude, I don’t smell and I know a few jokes. Watching Watford though? Well, I’m hard work. At the games I’m bad enough – ask my brother about my never ending pessimistic commentary and rants at the referee. He won’t be able to talk to you about it without a sharp intake of breath and wincing. Anyway, it turns out I’m even worse whilst watching on TV. As Watford went about dismantling Norwich, cushions were thumped and thrown. Sky remotes were bashed into palms and onto legs. Helpful ‘advice’ was provided to the commentators who predicted that “Watford had done enough to win it” with plenty of time left on the clock.

I think I felt out of control. Like I didn’t have any influence. At least when you are there you can vent your frustration and a fellow fan, if not those who actually can make a difference out on the pitch, will hear and understand your frustration and fears. At home, only the neighbours can hear you scream.

It gets worse. If we’re winning, I won’t let anyone move anything. If a light was off when we scored – it stays off. If the remote is on the right arm of the sofa and we haven’t conceded – it stays there. If a door is open and we are ahead – it stays open. Even if it’s the fridge door. I know, I know, it’s scary.

So. This is where you come in. I know I wasn’t alone in watching the Norwich game on the TV, I could almost hear the sound of Watford shirts being pulled over heads, curries being ordered and beers poured as Hornets across the globe settled down for kick off. However, my big fear is that I am alone in being so completely and utterly unreasonable and unhinged when watching Watford on the box.

I can’t be the only one. Can I?…

*After the World Cup I kind of gave up on England. I’ve been left disappointed by them and their “efforts” one too many times. Giving up on England had meant not writing about them and certainly not watching a friendly against Hungary.  Last night, that changed. last night, something extraordinary happened.

Scott Loach got called up.

Call me fickle, but with Scott involved, my stance has softened considerably. I want his experience to be as valuable and enjoyable for him as possible and will be watching tonight, hoping against hope that he gets a run out.

He is the first (non-loan) Watford player to be called into a full England squad since John Barnes in 1987. A fact that Scott can be very proud of. I interviewed him for the From the Rookery End podcast last week and not only was he a great bloke, but he is clearly hugely dedicated and very, very determined.  He richly deserves this incredible opportunity.

Good luck Scott.

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I don’t like cricket…

To paraphrase dear old Aggers I’m about to use a sentence that has never been used before. Not truthfully anyway. England are cricket world Champions. Sounds good doesn’t it? There was even some icing on an already tasty cake. It was Australia that we beat in the Final. Handsomely. For a cricket fan, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner

So why do I find myself feeling slightly underwhelmed?

Well, the culmination of the tournament meant two things. On one hand, it meant England hoisting aloft their first ever World Cup, but on the other, it meant that (for a while at least) Test Match Sofa would be going off air.

Whenever I used to happen across an episode of Eastenders, I always used to baulk at the lack of realism –  “There is no way they could be so close to Ian Beale without ever swearing at him” I would protest. Well, sports commentary is a bit like that too. It is often very good, but it rarely describes the action in a way a passionate fan would. This is where the Test Match Sofa gang come in.

Broadcasting from a front room in London, Test Match Sofa comprises a gaggle of cricket fanatics who gather in front of Sky Sports to provide an alternative, live commentary on all England’s International matches.

Having commentated on the recent winter tours of South Africa and Bangladesh, the sofa team faced their biggest and most ambitious challenge when they undertook to commentate on each and every game of the Twenty20 World Cup.

These boys and girls know their cricket, but Aggers and Henry Blowfeld they most certainly are not. Fortunately they aren’t Mark Nicholas

Tit

You won't hear from this man. Fortunately.

either. Once tuning in, you can expect to hear a full compliment of profanity, the voicing of personal and irrational hatred for individual players and demands for someone to “answer the bloody front door”. You’ll also get used to the background accompaniment of beer bottles being opened and drained, cigarettes being lit and food being fetched from the kitchen. Amongst the chaos and banter, you’ll also find some pretty entertaining cricket commentary.

The captain of the Test Match Sofa ship is Dan, who from what I can gather, was on air for every single game of the tournament, illustrating impressive if not slightly demented commitment to the cause. The rest of the commentary team was put together on a whoever can make it basis. Jarrod Kimber, the exiled Aussie, author of a number of books, creator of the cricket with balls blog and founder of the “Dirty” Dirk Nannes fanclub (Membership – 1) was a regular feature, whilst the caustic tones of Manny and Nigel were heard more sparingly, but to devastating effect.

Another regular was Sophia, who deserves a special mention for A) reading out a lot of my correspondence on air and B) putting up with the characters listed above. There is also anecdotal evidence that a number of listeners tuned in primarily to hear her velvety tones…

The other members of the squad all pitched in at frequent intervals and the jingles, recorded for use in any eventuality and ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, quickly became the soundtrack to my tournament.

I’m missing it already.

When you come back from a comedy night, your nearest and dearest invariably ask to be told one of the jokes you’ve heard. Invariably you can’t remember any. It’s equally hard to explain why listening to Test Match Sofa is such good fun. Trust me though. If you like cricket aren’t you aren’t a complete nitwit, you’ll enjoy it.

They are back on air for the Bangladesh test match which begins on 27 May. Tune in. You won’t like it. You’ll love it.

You can tune in via the web at http://www.testmatchsofa.com

 

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Watford 3 Reading 0 – In Pictures Part 2

After positive comments on the first batch of pictures, here are a few more from Saturday’s triumph against Reading.

Thanks for taking the time to visit, I hope you enjoy them.

2009/10 Player of the Season - Tom Cleverley

 

2-0!

 

HH, Eustace and Danny Graham wheel away

 

Celebrations

 

Can you spot yourself?

 

A busy but disappointed away end

 

And Taylor must score...

 

It's too much for Reading Manager Heston Blumenthal

 

Mission accomplished

 

Relief

 

Keeping the peace

 

Lloyd and Watford will be back in the Championship next year

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Watford 3 Reading 0 – In Pictures

As Saturday dawned, long time chum and fellow Watford fan Kev “The Hammer” recognised ideal photography conditions and bought his brand spanking new camera to Watford’s pivotal game with Reading. Some of the resulting images turned out quite well, so to an almost audible sigh of relief,  this time round I’m going to let them do the talking.

Enjoy.

Oh, and well done boys.

Vicarage Road watches with bated breath...

Fans keep the faith

Heidar and John Eustace have different ideas

Lansbury goes close

Jostling for position

Harry enjoys the sunshine

A picture is sometimes better than a thousand words...

Fans celebrate at 2-0

Lloyd looks on

Lee Hodson continues to come of age

McAnuff cuts an increasingly forlorn figure

Henri Lansbury

It was all too much for some...

Victory Salute

The last we'll see of this Watford legend?

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The blame game

The sun is shining, my sinusitis is finally subsiding and perhaps most importantly of all, it has now been a couple of days since that spectacularly un-enjoyable trip to Loftus Road. (QPR 1 Watford 0 20/04/10) The upshot is, I’m ready to talk to you again.

The debacle on Tuesday night threw up two personal causes for concern. The state of football in general and, closer to home, the state of our club.

Regular readers of my irregular ramblings will be aware of my dislike and distrust of the modern day footballer. Unlike many I don’t begrudge their extraordinary salaries – if the money is there (take note Portsmouth…), the top boys deserve the top dollar. There is no denying the things that professional footballers can do with a ball at their feet is astonishing. It’s brilliant. Awe inspiring. Then they go and ruin it all.

They dive, they abuse referees, and they try to get opponents booked. It’s appalling. The most galling aspect of all though, has to be the lack of respect

Big Brother is watching. So are we...

We can see you...

that their histrionics betray. At the top games the number of cameras trained on them at any one time can be in double figures. There is even likely to be two camera angles available at Torquay V Burton. The point being, they know we’ll see them cheating. They know we’ll see them dive. They know they’ll be found out. They just don’t care.

Well I do care. The ever increasing number of players willing to throw themselves to the turf in search of a free kick or penalty has pretty much stopped me from watching games that don’t involve Watford. Watching players at the top of their profession wilfully deceiving the referee and showing no regard for the good of the game or the pleasure us fans derive from it winds me up too much.

I can’t be alone though. Can I? UEFA effectively waved the white flag to diving when they dropped the Eduardo charge under immense pressure from Premier League heavyweights Arsenal. They are scared of upsetting the big clubs so don’t fancy it. This is a shame as they and the other governing bodies are the only ones in a position to do anything meaningful about it.

UEFA - Cowards

I managed to get this question to The Times’ football correspondent Oliver Kay who to my relief told me that sports writers hate it too. “The only way to combat it is with retrospective action. Players need to know that they won’t get away with it just because the referee missed it or was hoodwinked by a theatrical tumble”

No-one wants to rock the boat though, least of all the ineffective and weak willed men in UEFA suits, who remain fervently focussed on self preservation. As for the clowns at FIFA, I don’t suppose anyone knows what backward initiative they will be announcing next. So, whilst those in charge turn a blind eye, us fans are left to suffer. The game we love diluted by players who have no concept of what their actions mean to so many

So, as I said, I don’t watch the big time Charlie’s any more. The problem is, I do watch Watford and whilst our yellow and red bedecked heroes wouldn’t dream of diving, some of the players we play against most certainly do.

Now, it may well be that the fearsome looking Dusko Tosic came into contact with Aidy Mariappa on Tuesday night. It may have even been a foul. What I

Tosic - Graceful

can say with 100% certainty is that he definitely dived. It was almost poetic. The graceful, smooth take off, the streamlined and poised glide through the air before ending in style with a polished landing on the turf. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been tripped up before. Never have I, nor have I seen, anyone who has truly been tripped or knocked off balance fall and land with such style. If you get tripped, you go down in a messy, awkward heap. It’s simple. It’s just unfortunate that officials don’t seem to remember it.

Having said that, I think officials need to be given a break. As we have established, the game is riddled with players only too happy to try and deceive referees. Cheating is now officially part of the players’ armoury and with the laws changing with the seasons, ref’s already had enough to worry about. That’s not to say I haven’t been, ahem, mildly upset, with some of the officiating we’ve seen at Watford this season. Following the Atwell abhoration last season (This being the only thing that could have been worse than the award of a penalty at Everton after the ball struck Chris Powell’s head), we have continued to be subjected to a litany of baffling . The Handball at home to Forest. The penalty at Leicester. Rubbish. Dreadful. Wrong.

These incidents are no excuse though. Since QPR on Tuesday, when our much treasured game in hand went up in smoke, Watford fans have publically soothed themselves with the misguided notion that if we hadn’t been on the wrong end of such errant decisions, we wouldn’t be in this mess. Well, I beg to differ. This list provides the real reason we’re in this mess:

  • Swansea (Away)
  • Leicester (Home)
  • Coventry (Home)
  • Blackpool (Away)
  • Sheffield Wednesday (Away)
  • WBA (Home)

If these games seem numbingly familiar to you, they should. These are games in which we have surrendered leads or parity in the last 5 minutes. In total, our late lapses in these games have cost us nine points. You don’t need me to tell you, that an additional nine points would have been very handy.

In addition, in the last few weeks, we’ve had big games. Six pointers. Opportunities to effectively make ourselves safe. Away at Sheffield Wednesday and QPR and at home to Crystal Palace. A win in any of these games and we would have been safe. Even a point would have been enough. Our return from these three huge games? Nothing.

There are of course mitigating circumstances. We have a wafer thin squad, with limited experience and almost no back up. Injuries and suspensions have taken their toll and only a madman would have expected our early season form to have been replicated throughout. We have a management team learning with each passing day and the cloud of financial uncertainty still lies heavy over our scruffy, three sided ground.

So, whilst we are still in there fighting, our destiny still just about in our own hands, we’re not in great shape. Let’s not kid ourselves though – the people to blame for our predicament are not the ones with the whistle and the flags.

The team hasn’t been great.  We’ve conceded too many and scored too few. We’ve lost key matches and our away form has been laughable. We’re where we are for a reason.  In my view, the mitigating circumstances mean the team, the management and the Board still have my full support. We need to

COME ON YOU HORNS!

learn from our mistakes though. This end of the table is no fun in April.

Reading visit Vicarage Road on Saturday. Last home game of the season. We’re in this together. Let’s act like it. Win it and we live to fight another day so let’s all do our bit and see if we can’t cajole one last push out of our weary, battle scarred team.

See you there.

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My sporting 2010 – It’s in your hands…

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

I'm the Daddy

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

My chum Boba Fett

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

The London Monarchs are no more

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.

You may well look displeased. I was...

Jordan - Crocked

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.

Shea Stadium

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…

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