April 12th - Match Day
After drinking and dancing until very late, I knew getting up on Saturday would be a struggle, and when my cell phone alarm rang at 8:30 AM, I came face to face with reality. Either it was wake up and get a full english or doze off for a bit, get some rest and eat a bit later. We were told the previous night that a reporter from the Sunderland Echo wanted to talk with girl and I Saturday before the match, and that he'd be coming to our hotel to talk with us at 11:30 AM. So I turned off the phone, rolled over and slept for a bit longer. After waking up and showering, I headed to the store for some quick provisions while girl got ready. We ate a concoction of biscuits and Reese's Pieces that we invented (very peanut buttery and crunchy) and had some tea, and made our way downstairs with a few minutes to spare.
Gary and Oddie were waiting for us, and we got the details of our tickets, upper West Corner in second deck but you can see everything. Gary also said he hadn't heard from the reporter, but we'd give it a few until we needed to leave. At noon, we wandered out to the car as the reporter was a no show. But knowing deadlines, I had a feeling that we'd hear something. One of their photographers had gotten a few pictures during our reception, so we knew they were looking into our story. As Gary pulled out of the parking area, his cell phone rang and sure enough, it was the reporter. A few comments from Gary, and soon I was chatting with the guy. He asked me about the Timbers Army, why I'd drag my wife half way across the world for a football match, and how passionate are our fans. I gave him some great details about us, and then the question I fully expected him to ask - how does your wife feel about it? I said, she's a football fan so she doesn't mind at all, and said you can talk with her to verify. Girl chatted with him for a few moments, and then the phone was passed to Gary. Since they knew we were leaving on Tuesday, they would try to get the story in the Echo on Monday. A photographer would meet us at the match for some additional photos, and we should be good. So then we were off to the Stadium of Light.
It only took about 25 minutes to get there, and the Stadium is still a breath taking site. Built on some old coal mines in the area, you can see the structure for miles around. We arrived about 2 1/2 hours before game time, so we found a little food and wandered outside the stadium. The wind was a bit brisk, keeping the temperatures down and us in jackets, but the sun was trying to peak out a bit. We soon visited the stadium shop, and I purchased a few things for back home. We then watched as Gary went to the ticket office to collect his tickets for their upcoming match versus Newcastle, their fiercest rival the following week. He was happy to be one of 3,000 fans to get to travel up north for this match. We then went to the Supporters Bar inside the stadium to have a pint while waiting for the photographer. At 2 PM, the photographer showed up but said we couldn't take any shots in the stadium so we'd have to go back outside. So we bundled up and headed to the front gate to brave the elements. And soon enough, we were showing our scarves, wearing red and white, smiling while freezing our asses off for the pictures. Hey, they turned out well.
We then headed inside to our seats, placed a couple of bets on the final score, and settled in for the match. Sunderland did have the run of early play, but soon Man City was getting some shots on goal near halftime. The Black Cats were running circles about, getting good shots, but couldn't finish anything and the match went to the half scoreless. The second half started with more Cats fury, but no goals until a weak penalty call gave Man City a penalty kick and soon enough the first goal. The Cats tied it soon afterwards, but about 80 minutes in, one of the Man City strikers got loose and was running full speed at the keeper. He chipped it just outside his reach, and suddenly it was 2 to 1. A final frenzied rally by the Cats couldn't get the equalizer and the game ended with a Cats loss. While they were still above the relegation line, this result did mean the team needed to get some points in their next matches to secure their place. We headed home, sad for the loss, but buzzing a bit at the noise and atmosphere of the game. As we pulled into Seaham, we knew that our party bus was arriving at 7 Pm to take us to the night's event.
After dressing for the night, dinner downstairs and me redressing after a flying fork/spaghetti sauce stain on the shirt incident, we met our bus for one of the neighborhood centers for the concert. Admittedly, I was a bit stressed not only cause I wanted the night to go well for girl, but I'm not used to being the center of attention for this long. The spotlight is OK now and then, but after a few days of being the center of things, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. But I was determined to not let my hangup spoil the night. The bus arrived with Paul, Jackie, Gary and Oddie waiting, and it was pre-arranged to pick us up at 11:45 PM. The bar at the center closed at 11 Pm so we could get last drinks and have them done by the time our taxi would arrive. Unlike here in the states, you don't hail taxis on the street or call them right when you need them, but you rather pre-arrange return trips ahead of time or you wait at the club in a queue for taxis which could take a while.
The place was about half full when we arrived, and we moved up towards the front at a table for six. Paul, Gary and I headed for drinks, and soon this getting drink theme would dominate the night. The first act was going on stage about 8, the main act going on about 9:15 ish with a couple of raffles in between. Not a bad plan at all, and as I wandered about, I saw many familiar faces of townfolk that smiled and shook my hand. The friendly treatment was exactly what I needed to get me on track, and the alcohol soon took over from there.
The first entertainment was an Elvis impersonator from the area, who spoke in a British accent until he sang. The costume was good, and the falsetto notes of Elvis were impressive, but he didn't move at all on stage, and most of the songs he sung were the obscure songs that most casual fans wouldn't recall. But the pints and vodka were flowing so I was getting a good buzz. About 9:20 or so, a banner showing the main entertainment was unveiled and the main surprise was confirmed. But honestly, Girl is pretty smart and knew what was going on before then.
For the uninitiated, Robbie Williams is the biggest pop star that the U.S. has never heard of. He has many albums, performs all over Europe and is known all over the world except in the US where here he's the guy that makes weird videos. But he's a very good singer, and one of girl's favorites. The town was having a charity night with a Robbie impersonator to come to town, and when they found out one of Robbie's big fans was coming to visit, they arranged it to be on the Saturday we were there. And this guy was even approved by the star himself.
And I must say, he had an energy and a voice that woke everyone up, and the dance floor wasn't empty for the rest of the night. The floor did get a little scarce as folks got more drinks, but otherwise it was dancing. And since most of his music was very energetic and danceable, sitting wasn't an option. I had lost track of the number of drinks I'd had, starting with a gift of champagne, pints of beer, and vodka drinks. But then again, everyone in our group wasn't feeling much pain. The night was amazing as Girl got serenaded a few times, she sang to every one of his songs, and we just had an amazing night. 11:45 pm arrived and we finished our drinks. While riding home, Gary invited us back to his place for a night cap.
Paul, Oddie, Jackie, Gary, girl and I arrived about midnight and cracked open a few beers and chatted more about the night. One topic that did come up during our talks was an event that was supposed to happen at the reception the previous night but didn't. They had set up a dart board with a kit of one of the Timbers' bitter rivals, and we were supposed to throw darts at it. But we had forgotten to do this during the night, so the kit was rescued and we tried to figure out what to do with it. Beer makes any decision seem normal, so when the idea of burning it came up, nobody thought this was a bad idea.
Soon, we were outside with a lighter, scissors, lighter fluid, and a sense of destruction. The jersey was cut into a couple of chunks, soaked in fluid, and then lit. Surprisingly, it actually burned a lot faster than expected and soon enough the flaming kit was lying on Gary's patio still burning. Unfortunately, Gary's garden hose was also near there and the kit had landed on top of the hose. And it has started to melt around the hose. So at that point, it was time to put the fire out...and so....
I'm not sure why peeing on it sounded like such a good idea, or that I was the one that started this plan by dropping my pants, but soon enough, the fire was getting put out slowly and surely. Some water and more help later, the damage was somewhat cleaned up, we finished a few more pints, and then it was time to wander home. Iain was waiting up for us at the Harbour View, so we chatted for a bit with him about the night's events, and we walked upstairs for sleep. The next day was a drive to York for some sight seeing, and Gary was going to be there at 10 AM to head there. Well, maybe I won't still be drunk by the time he gets there, but I did have some nice memories of the night and the song Millennium stuck in my head as I lied down to sleep. My liver still hates me...
Next Time - How Many More Stairs are there? And Do Vikings Always Smell this bad?