All week long, I wait. I wait for Saturday or Sunday morning, when I can turn on the TV, boot up the internet to look for a live stream, or, best of all, head down to the Cock n' Bull to meet up with the other two West Ham fans here in the midlands of South Carolina to catch the Hammers match up against their latest foe in the perils of the EPL. Sometimes, I have to wait for a tape delayed broadcast. Most often, I can wait until it comes on before I search for the result online. Very rarely do I seek out the final score before having the chance to watch the actual match.
WW surveys the Tennessee River where Grant and the Union troops crossed to meet the Confederates at Shiloh.
So, like most of the Hammer fans this week, I was distraught when the match was postponed due to potential fan danger getting to and from the event. The despair became greater when the photos of the grounds surrounding Upton Park came out, showing clear streets and sidewalks. Of course, the more rational Hammers realized the delay could only help our team by giving them a chance to heal and field a stronger team when the two underprivileged tier teams met. When was the last time you met a rational Hammer's fan, though? I can't be counted amongst their ilk most times.
On January 2, 2010, I watched the East Carolina Pirates lose to the Arkansas Razorbacks in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee. When I played for the Pirates, we weren't very good. To be fair, we played a brutal schedule every year that kept us from competing for the much fewer bowl spots available in that day. I have had the chance to attend a few bowl games since then though as a fan and have had a great time at them all. This year, I took my 80 year old father and Buddy Steve and headed out to Memphis for BBQ and gambling in Tunica. With no real time to apply to a long session at the poker table, I concentrated on blackjack and got back about half of what I donated in Vegas last summer. I gave Dad five basic rules of blackjack and set him loose on a $10 table. Buddy Steve lives by his own rules, not those of the universe.
We wanted to record a hit record. We were rebuffed.
We spent a full day in Memphis and enjoyed fantastic ribs at the BBQ Shop. Go there. Now. We had big beers on Beale Street and I stopped a fight in Blues City Cafe. Unfortunately, the game did not prove to be the high point of our trip. After dominating possession and both lines of scrimmage, the Pirates had two mid range field goal attempts in the last few minutes to in. These are not quite as makeable as a penalty, but they should be darned close for a college kicker. Making matters worse, the Pirate kicker missed in overtime and the Arkansas kicker didn't. The Razorback fans, so full of pride of their big conference program (Think EPL versus Fizzy Pop) slunk out of the stadium, cautiously happy about the escape.
Chicken and Waffles. Win.
What in the world does this have to do with proper football you make ask? Well, immediately after the game, we headed back to the car for the twelve hour trip back home. I got so sleepy, I actually let Dad drive for a bit. That may not sound like a big deal, but for the last two trips I have made cross-country, I have driven all but about ninety minutes. That is about eleven thousand miles of beautiful country, almost all of which I experienced eyes wide open.
I stopped a fight inside, then had some fantastic bar-b-queued shrimp.
Anyway, we finally made it back to town with one extended stop at a Waffle House on the west side of Atlanta. I dropped Dad off and made an offer to Steve to drop him at his house or bring him along to Cock n' Bull for the FA Cup match versus Arsenal. That's right, I drove twelve hours over night (drove over ten of them at least) after being up all day drinking beer (I quit in the first quarter of the game and was dead sober by the end) to continue past my house and the arms of my loving family to sit in a dark bar and watch West Ham play a match they could not possibly win. To make matters worse, I was the only Hammer in the bar. In Columbia, there are three West Ham fans, two Spurs, a smattering of Hull and Fulham fans (due to Dempsey and Altidore), and one lonely Pompey. There are a butt-load of Arsenal fans though. They sat silently to either side and around me as I hunkered down over a Guinness, then another. Right before half, I raised my arms in silent triumph as Diamante finished like a champ. I grimaced in the second as the dream died. I paid my tab and drove home to the embrace of my kin and collapsed into bed.
The tracks out of town.
A rational fan would realize a loss early in the Cup helps the long-term prospects of WHU. Who wants to be rational though?