The greatest show on earth

Every year I am blessed to have the opportunity to travel across the Ocean to the US of A. For some unknown reason I am considered a bit of an expert in the field of online intellectual property protection (or domain names) and so annually I head off to the sunnier climates of the west coast of America to DOMAINFEST – the biggest meeting of minds in the domain name world. Let me give you a moment to pick yourself off the floor with this news. I am sure you all think a trip around DFS sounds more fun, but let me just say two words to you from last year – Playboy Mansion.

I cannot believe that people do not know I went there last year. After all I do not like to talk about it. This year there was no visit to the best adult theme park in the world but it was still going to be an enjoyable trip, albeit very very busy. First up was a trip up the Pacific Highway to San Francisco, then a few days and nights in Santa Monica before a flight back eastwards to New York City. There, I would divert across to New Jersey, down to Philadelphia before finally returning to TBIR Towers and the welcome bosom of CMF.

Sounds like hard work doesn’t it? But mixed in there was a bit of fun as well. First up would a trip to see the legendary LA Lakers play, followed by a second NBA game in New Jersey and finally we would be experiencing a real Super Bowl party, in New York, amongst the New York Giants fans who would be competing in a replay of the 2008 final against the New England Patriots in Indianapolis.

LA Lakers 106 Charlotte Bobcats 73 – The Staples Center – Tuesday 31st January 2012 7.30pm
It isn’t long ago since the Lakers were the biggest brand in US sports. having won 16 NBA Championships and worth a staggering $643m according to Forbes magazine. They are also one of the oldest franchises in the NBA having “moved” to LA in 1960 after starting life as the Minneapolis Lakers (Minneapolis is the “land of a 10,000 lakes” – hence the name). They have been able to field some of the most famous names in basketball during their history, including Shaq O’Neil, Magic Johnson and more recently Kobe Bryant who still captains the team today. Also in the roster is Ronald William Artest Junior, or as he is better known as today, Metta World Peace.

“Changing my name was meant to inspire and bring youth together all around the world,” World Peace said in a statement released after the name change court hearing…right.

How times have changed in LA. A few years ago you would be laughed at if you said you were a Clippers fan. The “other” NBA team in the city hadn’t really done anything since their inception. Yet today it is all about the money and the Clippers have lots, the Lakers not so much. In the cab on the way over to Downtown LA with its gridlocked traffic, the driver kept his cool until I mentioned the C word and then he went off on one, talking about how he wants to be president just so he can “fuck ’em over”. Passions run deep in franchise sport.

I had a quick look at the odds for this one and quite fancied the Lakers to win with a -20 handicap so I placed £10 on it (I am sure my conscience aka Patrick will now tell me that it is illegal as I hold a directorship with a Non League English football club). Ticket collected it was time for food (one foot long hot dog if you please) and a pint of decent (ish) beer – a Heineken if you will although it was a bargain at $11.25.

You can’t fault the Americans for getting the pre-match hype so well executed. With no away fans (at most sports) it was all about the home team. The Bobcats could have been introduced by a small child for the volume the announcer made, yet when it came to the turn of the Lakers, it was a different story, as the 18,997 people in attendance were whipped up into a state of frenzy as you will see below.

You don’t really want to know about the game though do you? Charlotte scored first, but then LA raced into a 30-18 lead by the end of the first quarter with Kobe Bryant scoring 18 of them. The second period was more of the same apparently – I nodded off and only woke up when a small child starting throwing popcorn at me. Half-time and it was 60-36 – exactly the same performance in Q2 as it was in Q1. Impressive stuff. Despite their awful run coming into the game (3 wins, 19 defeats), Charlotte gave it a go in Q3 and brought the difference back to just 15 but in the end the Lakers just powered on, winning very handsomely by 106 to 73. And I had won a handsome £60, which I invested straight away in a taxi back to Santa Monica, which is as much in Los Angeles is as Dartford is to being in London.

Two days after the game I was lucky enough to be invited to a private party at the Peterson Automotive Museum. Sounds fun right? Well, not really. But then I saw the invite was a “Plus 1″…so when in LA it is only good and proper that you find a celebrity to go with. So I called up my good friend Natalia Velez, one of the US’s top models and star of the forthcoming Go Daddy Super Bowl ad. She was free, and would love to come with me, as the picture to the right shows. CMF didn’t mind – after all as the chaps on the Hangover say, you cannot be unfaithful if you are in different time zones (not that I was you understand but just in case you thought I was).

Why would anyone swap 28 degrees and cloudless skies for 8 degrees and rain? Another game of course. On any given Saturday (good name for a film?) I would try and get in a couple of games so why would I be different in the US? So I hopped on a flight to New York. My limited knowledge of US distances meant that as opposed to the flight being a short hop of an hour and a half, as most places in Europe are, it was a five hour trip. Add to that the three hour time zone and it was 3am by the time I hit the pillow in New York City.

New Jersey Nets 105 Minnesota Timberwolves 108 – Prudential Center – Friday 3rd February 2012 – 7.30pm
So after a day of work in NYC it was time for some play. And what better place than New Jersey. Yes, I was leaving one of the greatest cities on earth for a night in the homelands of such cultural greats as Jon Bon Jovi, Gloria Gaynor and Frank Sinatra. Even better is the fact we were heading for Newark, NJ. Newark has a place in my heart as CMF was born there. Not Newark NJ but Newark Notts. Would it be similar, I wondered? Would there be a Ritzy’s Nightclub? Would Poundland be the height of retail sophistication? Would every bar be full of thirteen year olds? Who knows, but we were going to find out.

We? Indeed we. Not only had Mr Luge Pravda stuck his hand up for this one, but Super Bowl tourists Lucie J Allen and Ross the Scot flown over especially to watch West Ham v Millwall in the Football Factory at 7.30am on Saturday and were thus at a loose end for the evening. And who wouldn’t want to go to New Jersey given half the chance. It would be like a real episode of Jersey Shores – basically the Only Way is Essex but with more trailer parks (we can them Caravan sites in England), random gun crime and less fake tan and no vajazzles. Shame really as that was the reason why Ross had agreed to come.

We were on the other side of the Hudson to see the mighty New Jersey Nets. This was to be a historic season for the Nets as at the end of the season they would be swapping New Jersey for Brooklyn as their new home. In fact they would be neighbours with Luge Pravda in the TBIR US office (well as close as you can be as neighbours in the US which means at least a 10 minute cab ride away). The new Barclays Center is nearing completion in Brooklyn and will welcome the team with open arms, with a new logo, a new colour scheme and of course, in true American franchise style, a new set of “hardcore” fans to support the new team name – The Brooklyn Nets. Sod the people who support them in New Jersey some 20 miles and about 3 hours away by public transport. The Nets are dead, long live the Nets.

It is not as if this is something new for the Nets. They started off life as the New York Americans, based in New Jersey. A few years later the hopped back over the Hudson to Long Island and became the New York Nets. But that didn’t last long as legal wrangles with the New York Knicks forced them back on the train to New Jersey in 1977 where they have remained ever since.

Success took a while to arrive, but when it did under the guidance of Bryan Scott and Lawrence Frank the franchise dominated NBA for a short period. Divisional Champions in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006 were mixed with a shot at the ultimate prize in 2002 and 2003 when they faced (and lost) the LA Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs respectively.

We pitched up just in time for kick off after having one too many in the Ye Olde Rose and Crowne (“Complete with authentic English ashtrays” – but you can’t use them of course) and headed straight away for the Beers from Newark stand. Well, why wouldn’t you? I never knew that Bud, Bud Lite and Coors Lite came from Newark. In fact when I asked the serving lady (after she had asked for my ID and told me it was against the law to buy more than 2 beers at a time) she had no idea where Budweiser was brewed, or that any beer was actually made in New Jersey, let alone Newark.

It wasn’t actually full in the arena. Let me give you a little secret (Ticketmaster look away now). We had $60 almost court side tickets….but we paid $9 each for them (Thanks, as too did the row in front of us. It seems people aren’t too keen with supporting a team today who tomorrow will fuck off over the Hudson river.

The game itself?  A close run thing with both teams swapping the lead.  New Jersey have the smallest mascot in the world – debate was whether this was a child or a “small person”; we saw a women eat her won body weight in fried food and then need physical lifting out of her seat and apparently Kim Karadashian’s ex-husband was playing – because that means a lot to me.  The Timberwolves won by three points in the end with a last second shot if you were interested.

Within thirty minutes of the end of the game we were back in Ye Olde Kings Head, planning for a massive day ahead in the morning – West Ham v Millwall followed by a trip to the Rocky Steps in Philadelphia.

New England Patriots 17 New York Giants 21 – Lucas Field – Sunday 5th February 2012
The greatest show on earth?  Not sure about that but perhaps it was the greatest party on earth.  At 6:29pm EST (not that sports are dictated by TV schedules at all in the US) I was bedecked in a Giants shirt, with face paint and a cup of Bud Lite.  I was as American as Dolly Parton.  I yelped, cheered, jeered, ate way too much food and drank way to much pop during the next FOUR HOURS as this game sat on a knife edge.  After the in comparison quiet game we had watched in the Football Factory at 11am as Chelsea threw away any title ambitions against Manchester United, we had lunched (Cuban if you must know), Drunk (a cheeky Blue Moon with a wedge of orange in it) and then travelled north into New York State suburbia to the town of White Plains.

We arrived at the “Frat House”…It might as well have been called Delta Pie Gamma or the like.  Huge (and I mean 72 inch huge) TV, everyone decked out in Giants clothes, food coming out of every crevice.  The house even had its own bar downstairs, and one bedroom was accessed via a secret bookcase.  This was the ultimate man’s house.  Every gizmo and gadget could be found, and even the pets (a dog and a one-eyed hairless cat) had dressed up for the Super Bowl.

And so to the game itself.  The first period was a cagey affair.  DEfenses ruled (emphasis there on the defence) and it took awhile before the first score was on the board, which happened to be a strange one.  Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady was caught in possession (“sacked”) and as he was hit he threw the ball low to the ground.  Because no-one was nearby it was deemed he deliberately threw the ball away and a “safety” was awarded, meaning the Giants gained 2 points.  Six minutes later the Giants got their first touchdown as Manning threw to Cruz and he danced into the end zone – the joy from the watching room was plain to see below.

By now we were getting right into it.  Being one of three Brits in the room, the girls gravitated towards us.  Yes, we knew Hugh Grant.  Yes, we lived in thatched cottages.  Yes, we often entertain the Beckhams.  Why wouldn’t you if you were in the same position.  We also took part in drinking games – a strange one where if the cap from the beer keg was put in your drink you had to chug it.  Silly game that one so I called time on it by hiding the beer keg cap.

Half time and the Patriots were back in it, scoring with the last play.  I got a bit excited at this point as I had an end of quarter score of 9-9 in the sweepstake and stood to make a dollar or two.  But I had forgotten about the ridiculous “Extra Point” – the kick they take from in front of the posts that has a success rate of 99.99999999999% Why bother?  Or at least make it like our Rugby Union conversion with it being taken in line with where the touchdown was scored.

Warpaint now on for the second half it was time to get serious.  Out came the “Mac and cheese” and the pulled pork.  For a brief moment the room’s attention was distracted.  But their attention was soon returned as the Patriots scored another touchdown to make it 17-9.  At this rate there was going to be some sore heads in the office in the morning.

But this story had a happy ending.  New York rallied, scoring two field goals in the third quarter to make it 17-15.  Fifteen minutes would decide a season’s work.  Fifteen minutes became one minute.  Sixty four seconds remained to be precise when Bradshaw went through the middle of the pack to score to give the Giants the lead.  Instead of the single point they went for two – which would have meant the Patriots needed a touchdown to win.  They missed the rush and everyone sat hands over their eyes as the leagues best Quarterback launched one last hail mary into the Giants end zone with two seconds left.  Three players jumped for it.  A Patriot hand seemed to reach the ball, but it was Hernandez which blocked it and the ball was dead.  The Giants had won – the emotion is clear to see below.

Relief turned to joy.  The Giants were Super Bowl champions again.  We had been blessed to have been here and shared the emotions with the fans.  Champagne corks opened and all through out the city (and beyond) parties cranked up a gear.  For us we ended the evening with a game of Beer Pong (don’t ask) before being whisked back to the city.  It had been 8 days since our last game of proper football but this more than made up for it.  Whilst London froze, New York sizzled.  Until next year…


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