Coming from London, one of the first things in the “Miss This About Home” box was the season ticket at Arsenal. Shouting and screaming, accusing the referee of all manner of unspeakable things, and hurling abuse at opponents were a staple part of any week from August to May.
How would the devil be released? Would it expose itself at flag football? At an SA trivia night? It turns out that there was no need to worry, that having watched (in the loosest sense of the word) the Red Sox play the Rays three weeks ago, on Tuesday it was time to head down to the TD Garden to indulge in Round 2 of the transatlantic sporting safari to see the Celtics take on Jay-Z’s Brooklyn Nets.
Now, of course it is preseason, and as a result no one cared a huge amount (apart from when the music came on and the thousands-strong boogie competition kicked off to see who could get on the screen), but it was an impressive experience. Not knowing my alley-oops from my point guards was no handicap at all to having a whale of a time.
There’s something endearing about the conduction of crowd cheers through the tannoy system, and the almost total absence of disgusting and degrading language left me feeling upbeat and refreshed, rather than violated and violent. No doubt this will change come the play-offs (yeah, not sure what they are either), but the family-friendly vibe was congenial and enjoyable.
There is something of both the theatre and the carnival when it comes to American sports that the British see as absurd, but whose value is slowly being revealed. Whereas the British conduct sport as a gladiatorial contest for supremacy where no humor is allowed at all, sport in the U.S. makes sure you are entertained from start to finish.
From the aforementioned dancing throw-down, to cheerleaders, to some guy in a “flair”-covered waistcoat bouncing around throwing t-shirts into the crowd, there is a focus on entertainment at all times that is just quite fun. Plus you can drink beer in sight of the court.
In the final act, however, amongst the alien elements there was one big hug of familiarity for any Arsenal fan. Having been 11 points up with two minutes to play, Boston contrived to lose on a free throw on the final buzzer.
It felt like being at home again.
Let’s go Celtics.