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Manchester Phones 4u Arena – NBA Global Games

30 Oct

nbaglobalgames

Oklahoma City Thunder – 103

Philadelphia 76ers – 99

NBA Global Games -8th October 2013

What happens when a “guaranteed sellout” doesn’t sell out?

Around March & April there was much hype and excitement when Manchester announced that they were one of the places that are holding one of the rarest things – a NBA Global Game. The games – held around the world – are preseason games, and this year Manchester held one: featuring the Oklahoma City Thunder playing the Philadelphia 76ers. This was announced with much fanfare, and when tickets went on sale I snapped one up.

Unfortunately, from what I saw, not many other people did.

You see, as the game approached, there was a bit of apathy. I’m not sure why – maybe that the tickets ranged from £50 (my seat) to a couple of hundred, or maybe Manchester just didn’t care. But anyway, as time went on, offers kept appearing on Facebook for this “guaranteed sellout” like for 15% off, 2-for-1 and the like. On the day of the game, there was even the worst one for me: spend £50 at the adidas store in town and you get a ticket for free. Gutting.

nbaglobalgames2

But then I thought “maybe, you know, as an early adopter I’d get bumped up a tier or two?”, not so. Still in the nose bleeds, and there were a lot of empty seats below me. Ay well.

One thing I did want to check out was the “Fan Zone”. American sports are brilliant at making you feel welcome with designated areas with things going on before the game. When I went to watch the Red Bulls vs Revolution in the MLS, outside was the fan zone, with free pool, free fusbal and (unforunately not free) beer. It was great and I was given a comemorative towel to for the game as well. Bonus! The NBA one was okay, taking over a section of The Printworks for basketball competitions and introductions. Which was quite good fun, but I was hungry and thirsty, so I dived into a Weatherspoons to take advantage of their steak night.

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Onto the game itself, and it did look a wee bit like a John Cena convention from the outside, as I joined the mahoosive queue to pick up tickets, onto a queue to get into the venue, followed by another queue to get merchandise. Merchandise that lacked badges, the only thing I was interested in (though I did take a good hard long look at the socks). In the end I grabbed a couple of beers and took my seat.

All in all, the seats weren’t too bad, if a little bit high. Interestingly they did that countdown thingy where they count down to the start of the game which was pretty cool. We were also entertained by cheerleaders and stunt dunkers (is that the right word?), as well as a parade of local projects made themselves known, before the teams arrived onto the court, and the game was underway.

And really – to tell you about the game I can’t. There was one bit of excitement towards the end whereby Philadelphia pulled it back and needed 2 points to draw level, but OC Thunder did pull further ahead. I dunno if it was the alcohol (which wasn’t that much) or the apathy of the crowd rubbing off on me, but I couldn’t get into the game at all. I just couldn’t remember much.

nbaglobalgames4

Still, there were a few celebrities there. Jack Rodwell was booed, Rio Ferdinand was booed more, Andrew Cole was quite warmly received and Fabrice Muamba got a chant. We also got introduced to John Amaechi, who was famous as being a Brit who played in the NBA. Also introduced was Dikembe Mutombo and Vlade Divac, two names I recognised from my years playing NBA Jam! Brilliant!

So all in all, Oklahoma City Thunder – as expected – won. We all went home. I’m not against basketball – when I was in the States I watched pretty much every game of the Miami Heat vs Dallas Mavericks finals when I was last over there and enjoyed it. I just think the apathy of Manchester didn’t make this game memorable for me.

Shame, as it made history. And whilst it’s written by the winners – it is only read by those who care.

Eton Dorney, Buckinghamshire

22 Aug

The Olympic Games, Canoe Sprint Finals – 9th August 2012

So my Olympic adventure came to an end at a place where Britain had so much success – Eton Dorney. Although the rowing was almost a distant memory, the action continued on the purpose built lake for the Olympics – Eton Dorney was the venue for Canoe Sprint finals, and the first time I will see a medal ceremony at the games.

The event was a little different, and stupidly I was a little late in arising as I was confident that the venue wouldn’t be as busy as the day before. I was wrong, as not only did I have to get to Slough, I also had to walk about a mile or so from the car park to the venue. This – coupled with my delay in stopping by the water stand (I was thirsty, it was blisteringly hot!) – meant I missed the first race – the Men’s Canoe Double 1000m, which was won by Germany’s Peter Kretschmer and Kurt Kuschela. I did catch the second race – the Men’s Kayak Four 1000m, which produce a rarity at this games – an Olympic Gold for Australia. I nearly died of shock! The next race was probably the one that many people surrounding me were most interested in – the Women’s Kayak Single 500m. It was the first race that I actually saw a Brit compete in – Rachael Cawthorn. Sadly, it wasn’t to be as she came six, with the Hungarian Danuta Kozak winning the race, sending the Hungarian contingent around me into disarray. I’ve since decided I am very good luck for Hungarians, and should be adopted as a national hero for them. The final race – a Women’s Kayak Double 500m – was won by Franziska Weber and Tina Dietze.

And that was it, in an hour, my Olympics was over.

Hindsight being a wonderful thing, I kinda wish I went to the free Open Swimming event in Hyde Park, where we had a decent chance of a medal, and I had a decent chance of a lie in (it was a late one the night before), but nevertheless, the memories would stay with me forever.

The best thing about Day 13 of the Olympic Games for me came a bit later at 10pm. Whilst I’ve been watching a fair bit of the events, very little I have cancelled or changed plans to watch.

Until Jade Jones came onto the scene.

Jade is pretty much the only athlete in Team GB from North Wales – and is from Bodelwyddan. I caught her semi-final in the mid afternoon, which saw her beat one of the best in the world to reach the final of her class in Taekwondo. After meeting up with a few friends in the evening, I told them that – if nothing else – I’m watching the Taekwondo final, the first chance of Britain to get a Gold in that event, as well as the first North Walian gold medallist that I can remember.

After commandeering one TV in the second bar I went in (the first didn’t allow them to change channels – boo!), I sat and watched the entire of the final, feeling every punch and kick. And lo-and-behold – she did it! Jade Jones, Olympic Champion, from North Wales.

After getting bought a beer by a South African Gamesmaker, who wanted to record my story, as well as a Mexican journalist, I left the bar, headed back to the hotel in a drunken haze, after listening to Catatonia’s “I Am The Mob” about half a dozen times (often singing the line “When duty calls, gonna bust some balls” at the top of my voice on the tube). In a weird way, despite seeing the greatest football team of my generation live, the day spent in the Olympic Park, seeing the venue with a lot of British success and all sorts of smiley faces, I think Jade Jones’ gold medal will be my legacy from the games.

And yes, as I sit and write this, I like to think I am at least a little bit inspired. I’ve taken a look at the schedule for the next sporting event in the UK – the Commonwealth Games in 2014 in Glasgow, and already made a conscientious decision to go. I am inspired; now to find a sport I can take up and get good in two years so I enter not as a blogger, but as a competitor.

Now… where can I take up Lawn Bowls?

The Olympic Park – London

13 Aug

Iceland – 33

Hungary – 34

The Olympic Games, Handball Quarter-Finals – 8th August 2012

From the day that the Olympic Games was announced to be held in London, I knew I was going. Come hell or high water, I was going. Admittedly, I had visions of watching the Athletics, seeing Justin Gatlin defend his 100 meters title. Alas, I wasn’t the only one with this dream, and I didn’t get tickets. For a long time I thought I’d have to make do with my trip to Old Trafford, as that was the only ticket I got. However, luck would have it on the third round of announcements of tickets – I had a strategy, and I had a friend to go with, and I had the time and the money. After a quick search, I landed tickets to the handball quarter-finals.

In all honesty, at the start of the Olympics, I had no idea of the rules or anything else to do with handball. Sure, I swotted up on the Wikipedia article, but in the end it seemed a little dry. However, thanks to the obscene level of BBC Coverage of the Olympics, I managed to watch a few games before going. I was treated to a fast paced, enjoyable team sport. Sure there were a few nuances I hadn’t picked up before the match on Wednesday, but I’m sure I could still enjoy it.

Her off the telly!

We woke exceedingly early for a day slap bang in the middle of the holiday as we were told to arrive 2 hours before our event. We caught a train to Stratford, and entered the Olympic Park. Security was tight, but it was extremely quick getting people into the park – there were airport style bag scanners that weren’t present at the football at Old Trafford, and this made security rather quick.

Also it should be noted that the helpers were incredibly jovial, many of them occupying tennis-umpire-style chairs, geeing up the crowd over the megaphones. After a short wait, we were in the Olympic park, and was greeted by the large Olympic Stadium and the Orbit – a red structure that was a focal point of these games. After taking in a few photos, we headed to the TV gantries, where we saw our first celebrity of the day: Bill Turnbull. Bill bloody Turnbull! The early morning breakfast legend! We also saw two time Olympic gold medal winner Laura Trott being interviewed as well.

The Basketball Arena

After taking a small walk around the park, we headed to the Park Live area, which was all the action on the big screen. The first race was a canoe sprint (an event I’d be seeing the next day), which wasn’t won by a Brit (shock horror). At about 10 o’clock, we headed to the basketball arena, where we got an idea on how big the game of handball is.

You see, today was quarter final days, and on paper – a game between favourites Iceland and strugglers Hungary – may not set the world alight. Some unlucky fans of some of the other quarter finals (including Sweden vs Denmark and Spain vs France) ended up with these tickets, and were already looking to exchange their tickets for replacements.

They shouldn’t have bothered, as they were in for a treat.

We entered the basketball arena surprisingly late at around 10:15, and took our seats. The arena is one of the temporary structures in the park, and it showed. It was nice enough, but it did seem like it could be dismantled fairly easily. Nevertheless, we were treated to a warmup, as well as an explanation of the rules, and who to look out for. With 10 minutes to go, a lot of people filed into the crowd, and there were a fair number of Icelandic fans, but they were dwarfed in number by the Hungarian fans. The atmosphere was incredible, as the game went to the start. We were surrounded by Iceland fans and curious observers, so we adopted Iceland as the team for this game.

Iceland with a rare attack

The game began, and Hungary took an early lead. With so many goals and moments occurring, it’s difficult to explain what happened in this fast pace game, but scores remain fairly constant – particularly against strong teams and particularly in the quarter finals. Therefore, it was surprising that Hungary took a 5-1 lead early in the contest. Much of the game was Hungary leading, with Iceland trying to claw back the lead, but in the first half, Hungary were either leading or drawing, usually leading.

The atmosphere was electric in the Basketball arena, with Hungarians being louder than the Icelandic fans, and come half time the game was tightly poised. However come the second half Hungary ran again and pulled out another five goal lead of 17-12, and Iceland spent most of the second half fighting back. However, Iceland came back, and lead 27-26 with 10 seconds to go.

And then the most incredible passage of play to occur.

Iceland had a penalty, if they score they’d be 28-26 up with 10 seconds to go. However, it was saved, and the pass was made to Mate Lakai to score with 2 seconds to go, taking the game into overtime.

DRAMA!

After the first overtime, the game was once again level, at 30-30, but Hungary scored a couple of goals in the early in the first half of second overtime, to take the game beyond Iceland, 34-33.

An amazing atmosphere, with an amazing game. I loved every minute, but the day was still young, so we checked out the rest of the Olympic Park.

My view for the afternoon. Much beer was had.

Overall, it was an incredible experience, a lot going on, with plenty of people around. Forget anything else, nothing was like my day in the Olympics. And it wasn’t quite over yet, with canoe sprint to go!

Manchester Evening News Arena – TNA Maximum Impact IV

30 Jan

27th January 2012

Another ranty post! The target? Ticketmaster.

Last week, one of the highlights of my year occurred. The annual trip to watch the action of TNA Wrestling in Manchester. I’ve gone for the last 3 years, and this year would be special – we got aisle side seats as we had the option to buy them from Ticketmaster. We got tickets sat in Block A, Row H, seat 2. Which according to the Ticketmaster website was right by the aisle.

And here was our view.

Turns out the way that Manchester Evening News and Ticketmaster report the seats were different. After taking our seats we were ejected and moved. After complaining to customer services who were not particularly helpful, we took our seats far away from where we thought we’d be, surrounded by a bunch of pissed off people who believe they – like me – were misold tickets.

We had one escape, where during the end of the matches we could run around the back and go to the aisle, allowing us to get good photos, but the ring was awkwardly positioned, meaning we got a post in the way of all action photos. For £55 a ticket we were not happy, and I’m never booking with ticketmaster again. I urge you to do the same.

The show itself was brilliant. The crowd was rackus, and Samoa Joe vs Bobby Roode being a standout match, Doug Williams finally getting a reception he richly deserved in the UK, Bully Ray winding up the Manchester crowd by wearing a Liverpool shirt, and of course seeing Dixie Carter (getting a photo with her), Sting and Hulk Hogan. TNA does amazing shows on the road, especially in the UK.

I’m just annoyed that the M.E.N. Arena and Ticketmaster ruined our complete enjoyment of the day. Here are some pictures.

Liverpool Echo Arena – WWE Monday Night RAW

7 Nov

8th November 2011

So as I write this I am sat on the train home after an ace day watching WWE Monday Night RAW in my adopted home town of Liverpool.

Now I could talk about the matches (which were great) the atmosphere (which was electric) and the banter with fellow wrestling fans (which was fun and flowing). However as predominantly football blog, most people are here are interested in one thing – the possibility of one less that subtle fan.

Half way through the Justin Gabriel vs Curt Hawkins Superstars main event, which was taped before the show, a fan wearing a Mario Balotelli shirt walked past us. He had a gold chain, Mohawk and an earring. Except he wasn’t a City fan, he appeared to be a City player, Mario Balotelli.

Yes, what appeared to be the Premier League’s charismatic enigma was shown his seat (bottom tier, back row, ironically by the pyrotechnics), to take in quality wrestling.

He seemed approachable, smiling at the Balotelli chants (a first for Liverpool, sod being a Liverpool fan), and posing for photos.

Here are the photos, including the ones of actual wrestling. Watch RAW this Monday (8th November), particularly Alberto’s Del Rio’s entrance, as it was right in front of him, and the Divas Entrance (as he seemed to ditch his missus to film it).

However it appears that Yahoo! have confirmed it wasn’t him. As somebody who was there, it did appear to be a guy that really, really, really did his homework. Even the girl he was with looked similar to his missus.

Either way, watch RAW as – although Balotelli may or may not have been there, it was a great show!