A night off. On a Saturday. The Wildhearts were off to play some biker fest called Hard Rock Hell were they were co-headlining with Black Label Society. It must have ben put on by some pinko commie faction of Bikers, as they didnt invite Tragedy, but once we found out that Manchester United had a home match that day, it was fine with us. After much scrambling and hoop jumping by our fearless roadie Tommy Rockstar, we had secured 6 tickets for the match through the Man U Fan Ticket Exchange program – otherwise known as an in house scalping network run by, and profited by, the team itself. Genius!
As soon as the bus dropped us off near the stadium, we turned the corner and there was a line a mile deep to get into a pub. We walked right around the line and heard ALL SORTS of songs being sung by drunken brits. Or maybe they were just Scottish.
After wandering around the grounds for a bit, and stopping in to the MEGA CROWDED MAN U MEGA STORE, we headed inside to get away from the cold. The stadium was all drab gray concrete and a bit foreboding; much like the English weather. And the food options inside weren’t much better. Meat pie, cheese and onion pie, burger, hot dog, coke, fanta, diet coke, Boddington’s and Budweiser. Budweiser?!?!?!? I guess it really is a european beer now.
The one marked difference between a British Football Stadium and an American sports stadium is that you can bet on the games. INSIDE THE STADIUM. Yup, they’ve got betting booths set up all throughout the stadium, with preprinted odds sheets for you to fill out your bets on. No shit. Tommy and Chris and I all placed bets for Man U to beat Sunderland. I bet the final score would be 3-1. Chris Bet 3-0, and Tommy bet 3-2. We all had different odds. No wonder the whole crowd goes nutty at these games! If the game doesn’t go their way, they wont be able to pay the dentist! Oh, wait, bad analogy. They wont be able to DRINK THAT WEEK!
We went up into the stadium, and to my pleasant surprise, the seats were all covered. Every single one of them. The stadium, Old Trafton, has this crazy death star roof that slants down from all sides of the stadium and leaves a hole just over the field. Right, so the players can get all wet, running around on slippery grass putting their one hundred thousand pound a week fragile legs and ankles in danger, AND the wet grass can slow down the play even FURTHER. Nice one, mate. I think the same guy that designed the stadium designed the British military’s defense system in WWII.
The pre-game music was amazing. Nickelback. Do They Know It’s Christmas. Kylie Minogue. And making total perfect sense, Man U has adopted John Denver’s “Country Roads” as their theme song. And changed the lyrics.
United Road, take me home
To the place, I belong;
To Old Trafford, to see United;
Take me home, United road
I guess they’d look like even BIGGER fags if they co-opted an Elton John or Freddy Mercury song.
The game itself was a bit of a letdown. Letdown from what, you might ask? And you’d be right. How can you be “let down” by the lack of action in a soccer match. The whole game was invented because cricket was too complicated to play while drinking. Why else would you invent a GAME of SKILL where you can’t use your HANDS??
After a very uneventful first half which ended in a deadlocked zero-zero tie, we all met up back in the “dining concourse” Another lukewarm tasteless meat patty anyone? I popped over to the betting stand to find out they had ALL NEW odds sheets printed out that allowed you to bet, yet again, on the outcome of the 2nd HALF OF THE GAME. Holy shit. all these catholics and protestants, yet sin everywhere you look! Tommy and I both bet that Man U would win 1-0 with 3-2 odds and Chris got 11-1 odds on his 10 pound bet that the game wouldnt get any more exciting and would remain dreadfully deadlocked at 0-0.
With 10 minutes left in the 2nd half, there hadnt been any more action, unless you count guys falling down and crying until play stopped and the trainer came over to massage their egos, which were seemingly located in their calves, as action. Then Man U actually started to attack. It was like they just tapped the keg labelled “offense” by the bench, and actually started TRYING to score a goal. But it was to no avail. At the one minute mark it was still tied zero zero and Chris was having visions of all that non existent British vegetarian food he was gonna buy with his 110 pounds. Man was he excited. Then the unthinkable happened. At the 9 second mark, just as the announcer came on the PA to inform us that the referee had declared 4 extra minutes of “injury time” Man U bounced a shot off the goal post, and some dude with a Russian name dressed in a red jersey tapped the rebound in… and the place EXPLODED! Wow, emotion. Yet another precious commodity in the UK. But just as quickly as it came, it dissipated. A quick kickoff and a few boring minutes later, the game was over and the crowd filed out of the stadium. We waited to let as many people out before us as possible. We lingered for every possible moment until security made it abundantly clear that we were no longer welcome inside, and we made our way to the exits. I envisioned parades of rowdy brits running up and down the streets punching opposing fans, fellow fans, and anybody who looked like their schoolmarms. But when we got outside, nothing. It was just a bunch of people heading towards their cars. Even the pubs were ominously quiet. Is this how they celebrated? Was all the hooliganism I’d read about saved for when their teams lost? OR is just nothing a big deal for these people? Well, Ill never know the answer, cuz Ill never go to another football match in the UK. Or anywhere for that matter. Unless Ive been guessing wrong all these years and there is a God, and he sends me to hell. Which would surely be full of british football matches.