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A New Season Beckoning

The football season has started, the summer warm-ups have begun in rugby, the cricket tests … well, cricket never really stops, does it?

I’m happy about this. I went out to watch my team’s opening day fixture, I’ve made some preliminary plans to make my first trip to North London on a match day.

I’ve an issue with being a dedicated sports fan: I despise idol-worship. Being an Arsenal fan, I feel the disappointment and the happiness of a win as much as your average armchair fan. However, the thought of getting a player’s name emblazoned on my replica shirt (which I got for free with my last broadband package, go figure!) sits very uneasy with me. Not least because next season they could be gone to some other club.

Things changed in April 2010.

As for the previous four full seasons, I’d been at nearly every Belfast Giants game since mid-September. Originally as a duty – I was helping out a friend who ran the video team – and latterly while working but more and more enjoying the game, and the atmosphere. The Giants were all set for the quarter final game; possibly their last of the season. A home-and-away double header against the Newcastle Vipers, a team now extinct after they folded this summer. Belfast emerged victorious, whitewashing the Newcastle team 10-3 over the two-legged fixture. A swift advance then, to the Easter weekend finals.

Penalties decided the Giants v Nottingham Panthers semi-final after 65 minutes (60 regular + 5 minutes of sudden death) – a gritty affair with one of the Panthers players sent packing a few minutes early.

Before the final I experienced something I’d never really been through before: My team, in front of me, in a position to achieve glory or insignificance.

I was toting a HD video camera; not an unusual task at the time, but this was a little different. This was to capture the fans, not the game. The game passed by with a normal level of interest, a cheer when Brandon and George scored for the giants in the 22nd and 32nd minutes, a groan when Max Birbraer made it 2-2 with two goals before the final period began. Tension for twenty minutes until the end of regulation and five minutes of bouncing heels through sudden death overtime.

Words really don’t do justice to the nail-biting edge of the penalty shots. I was trying to hold a camera steady and hoping for a glimpse of steel from Stephen Murphy in the Giants net. I wanted to see the fans around me roar when Cheverie, Walsh and Szwez took their turns, but all three missed the net. Thankfully Murphy had the steel, he stopped all four of Cardiff’s attempts. Evan Cheverie took the fourth shot and scored sending the team and the fans crazy with the win.

So. The new years begins in a fortnight with a double header pre-season friendly in Belfast hosting the Nottingham Panthers. Not your average pre-season. The Panthers are hated rivals (as much as can-be in a non-native sport market) and it should be a decent show.

Usually I would be promoting our webcast but we won’t be broadcasting this particular game. Check it out some time though, and if you’ve never been or seen, hit me up for a free view and I’ll send one your way.

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