Monday, 14 February 2011

Looking forward to a proper derby...please forgive The Police pun at the end

This week I managed to book a return trip to New York, where I fell in love with ice hockey on a 10-day jaunt back in November.

For a football fan the very idea of the 'American sporting experience' filled me with dread. But 60 fight-packed minutes later (well, 60 GAME minutes and a few intervals spent trying to find out the rules) and I was hooked.

So hook in fact that when I saw a cheap five day trip available on t'internet, I snaffled it up. I head off on March 14 and will be able to sneak in a pair of New York Rangers match-ups as well as a New York Knicks face-off with Memphis Grizzlies.

The most exciting bit though - other than being off work for a week - is I get to see the New York Rangers play the New York Islanders. A derby game no less.

As a football fan, the derby is obviously one of the highlights of any season. Too often Brighton have been without an annual tear-up with Crystal Palace, but at least this season we benefited from a one-off ownership of Portsmouth in the FA Cup.

The derby game fascinates English sports fans. Nothing gets the pulse racing like a meeting with your nearest rival (even if, as is Brighton's case, that nearest rival is MILES and MILES away in south London).

As a Seagull I have seen us play (and beat (and lose)) to both Crystal Palace and Portsmouth. But other than that, my experience of the local derby is limited to say the least.

The only other derby I can remember attending was a Horsham vs Crawley game - equally passionate, but not quite as grandiose. True, I was at The Goldstone for Brighton vs Crawley Town in the FA Cup (it was one of my first games) but even that didn't seem to really count back then.

As a some-time rugby league fan, having lived in Hull for four years, I would love to go to a Big City Derby between FC and KR, but moved back down south just as The Robins got promoted.

That is not to say I have not been to games at other clubs. I have. But I guess whereas sneaking in alongside proper fans for Tottenham Hotspurs vs Nottingham Forest, or Birmingham City vs Swindon is forgivable, a derby has a far more intimate affair. Quite simply, I would feel too much of an impostor.

The only other derby of sorts I have attended was Fulham vs Leyton Orient in the FA Cup a few years back. An Orient supporting mate had a spare ticket and it was a great occasion. For them. Not for me. Unable to join in the celebrations and feeling strangely alien among 5,000 fans who simply BELONGED.

For that reason I am looking forward to see how our cousins across The Pond do derby day. For starters the crowd won't be segregated - something unimaginable at a derby in this country.

I just hope that, unlike the Fulham vs Orient match, I don't end up feel detached from it all. Just another Englishmen in New York.

Once back from New York I have decided to try and catch as many local derbies as I can over the next year - in various sports. Suggestions would be appreciated...

1 comment:

  1. I know it's atavistic, but I LIKE segregation at football. I love the tribalism of the thing and I don't bloody WANT to sit with those oiks from Selhurst when we play them, or anybody but Brighton fans, for that matter.

    One thing I want to do before I die, though, is an Old Firm game. I know the sectarianism is nasty and some of the singing is vile, but having seen Utd v Liverpool and Spurs v Arsenal more than once here, I can't see that there's a more ferocious derby to be had on these islands.