Pre-Match and During Match Rituals – a Comparison between MLS and SFL Div 3
Due to personal reasons, I had to miss going to the Trenton Social for the Union away game against Columbus and head back to NE Scotland and my home-town of Peterhead. One of the things this allowed me to do however, was to go to a Peterhead game for the first time in 9 years. That really sounds strange for me – as a child I went to every home game and many away games, following the Blue Toon. During preparations for game day it got me thinking about the differences between going to a Union game, and going to a Peterhead game. While there are some differences, the similarities mean that a Union fan would enjoy an SFL3 game and Peterhead fan would love the Union pre-match rituals.
On game day on both sides of the Atlantic you wake up with a buzz of excitement for the game. After a shower - putting on your replica jersey makes you feel alive. First thing to do during the day is find out information on the game–who is injured, who is likely to play, what are the players thinking before hand- just getting into the mood. Here’s where the first real difference comes. In the US – you go online to find out information on the game. From the official site to blogs such as the Union Dues, that’s the only place you can read about the Union. In Scotland, you still go to the written press and newspapers. As seen in the photo – there’s a lot of information you get from the local newspapers. In the national rags (Sun, Daily Record) you are lucky to get a column of information, unless you are one of the Old Firm. After reading and some lunch, it’s time to go to the bookies. Unlike in the US, it is almost normal for anyone over 18 to place bets on the weekends football games. I put on 3 lines (i.e sets of 5 games), which if they all came up as predicted would have net me $30-$100 (depending on odds of each results).
As well as betting on the football, it was Grand National week. For those that don’t know, that’s basically the Belmont Stakes in the UK. A list of about 25 horses to pick from, and i have no clue who to pick. Looking through the names, nothing really stuck out. I’ve no idea who’s who in the Jockey world so that wasn’t a way to pick. Sir Alex Ferguson had 2 horses in this, but not being a Manchester United fan, that was more likely to put me off. Therefore i did what every good Son of Ben would do, pick the Jockey that wore blue and gold (or yellow). Therefore the only choice then was a horse called Aurora’s Encore.
Unfortunately for me – it looked like that was a dud pick. A 66-1 bet in the paper, ranked a “2/5″ and basically no chance. Therefore, i only put $3.75 on the bet. Overall, between the coupon, horse racing, 50/50 raffles and game betting (I went 3-1 to Peterhead) I had about $30 in bets. Fingers are now crossed as much for the bets as a winning game for Peterhead (and if we won 3-1 even better). On to the game I go, and instead of getting there 3-4hrs before kick off for a tailgate like you do for the Union, it’s to the Peterhead Social club for a pre-game pint (or 3). Arriving about 1.5 hours before kick off, the bar is empty apart from a friend of mine giving me cheek for being American now. Akie still bought a pint, and now I owe him one. I suppose that gives me good excuse not to leave it 9 years before another game. There is no bearfight brigade or tailgates in Scotland (probably because it’s always too cold). However enjoying a drink is common in both settings. After meeting more friends for a few more drinks, you head out to get through the line and into the stadium. Before hand – picking up the matchday program is a must. Unlike a Union game, the program costs about $4. However, you get a new one for every game with up-to-date information. You find out who the opposing players are, and there are far more reading this program than the Unions matchday (monthly?) programs. I don’t know about anyone else, but if I had to pay a little for a real program, I definitely would.
Into the stadium you go, and if you want to, Pie and Bovril or Pie and Coffee can be purchased. Unlike at PPL park, prices are pretty good and for $5 you’ll get everything you want to eat and drink. Unlike PPL park however, there’s a ban on alcohol being sold inside the stadium. This isn’t that bad however, as I’ll explain later. I joined my (approximately) 400 fellow Blue Toon fans, with one or two strange looks from the punters. Whether they wondered who the “Philadelphia Union” were or didn’t know if they knew me, i don’t know. For those wondering about there only being 400 people there – Peterhead is only a town of about 17,000 people. To put it into perspective, a similar crowd for the Philadelphia Union would be about 30,000 fans. Players were coming out of the tunnel now (after being announced). Like in the US, the announcer really gets into it with one of my favourites being announced as “Super Rory Mcallister”. Unlike the US though, theres no messing around with national anthems, and the players get ready to play right away. After the coin toss, East Stirling decide to “stay where they are.” While that may not be important at PPL park, one of the fun aspects of Peterhead’s Balmoor Stadium is that you can walk from one side of the stadium to the other without being stopped (apart from when a big team visits). Therefore their choice to stay where they are meant i had to walk around the other side of the stadium to find my “spot.”
Peterhead vs East Stirling kicked off, and i was hoping for a similar result to my last game, a 5-1 win against Elgin. Luckily for me, I just rounded the opposite side “away” stand when a ball from the keeper was knocked on, and Rory Mcallister was through on goal. Our top scorer did what he does best and finished in the corner. 1-0 Peterhead and a great start. 40 minutes later, and it was the 5th goal i was celebrating. My 3-1 bet was down the drain but i didn’t care. The Blue Toon played some fantastic football (best all season I heard) and it was game over already. While the quality of Union players may be better overall, the style of play made me wishing I could watch Peterhead more often than some of the poor performances the Union have had the past year or two. Maybe Rory can come and play for us?
The half-time whistle went, and those we had sent away (and they missed 2 of the goals) to buy the drinks were waiting for us back at the bar. Unlike the big stadiums, Peterhead’s social club has a door that you can enter at half time for a drink. Therefore as long as you can last 45minutes without a beer, Peterhead’s the SFL Division 3 team for you. The other good news, when we came out for the 2nd half it was a shorter walk behind the goal Peterhead were shooting at. For 15 years of my life, I’ve always stood behind the goal Peterhead shoot at so I can get great view of our goals, and not really see the opponents goals. I’d like to think this kind of support worked well for the team, imagine the Sons of Ben being behind the goal we attacked for both halves cheering the team towards the goal. This ability to move really helped me, especially when I had a great view of all the goals in a 17-0 record home win against Fort William. I was out waiting for more goals, maybe even breaking our SFL record. However only 1 more came along, and the 6-0 win was in the books. After the game – it’s back to the Social club for a final beer, or even a Dram or 3.
So all in all it was a fantastic game to watch. The Beer was good, seeing friends again was good, and the result set me up for getting home to watch the Union game online. Unfortunately, the bizarre fact that MLS Live isn’t available abroad and being on my work computer meant I had to follow on Twitter. Whether that was good or not I’ll leave up to those that watched the Union game. A 1-1 result can’t be scoffed at – so that is 2 good things from the day.
Now to my Football bets. As I said, my Peterhead correct score was ruined very quickly. In the 3 lines of the coupon, Motherwell drawing ruined line 1, and Blackburn’s loss stopped a good win on that line. The 3rd line was ended with Liverpool’s inability to score on Sunday against West Ham. However, for those of you who may have been interested in the Grand National – you may have recognised the name Aurora’s Encore. Yes – my Sons of Ben inspired pick, an 80-1 shot when I made the bet won the race. I had turned my $3.75 bet into $375 and a 100x increase in my money. Thank you Sons of Ben for picking the Blue and Yellow for your colours.
(For those of you interested in watching some highlights of the Peterhead game – check out Blue Toon TV’s highlight package. Very professionally put together, and one of my favourite “tweets” to get. Copyright for this highlights package I think goes to the Scottish Football League and BlueToonTV. – highlights here, have a look to see if you can find the fan in the Philadelphia Union jacket. Here)