Why May is the other September

I’ll admit straight off the bat that I didn’t see Manchester City’s winning goal last Sunday night. Even as a neutral observer with a leaning towards blatantly wanting to see Sir Alex Ferguson suffer I couldn’t take the tension and changed the channel to ‘Cheers’ where Sam had again got himself in to hot water by dating a woman and her daughter at the same time…hilarity ensued.

When I switched back expecting to see glum faces and the odd seat being kicked off its holding screws I instead saw Argentine International (and son in law of Diego Maradona) Sergio Aguero being mobbed by his teammates with the stadium rocking, the camera bringing the pictures shaking and knowing that the power shift had changed in Manchester thanks mainly to an immense amount of pound sterling. Instantly after seeing the replay of the goal I switched to the United game through the magic of Foxtel’s red button and saw the Sunderland fans mocking their visitors as they sat and/or stood in disbelief. Some of the United fans made for the exits with the odd two fingered salute and yelling of abuse that perhaps wasn’t quoting Oscar Wilde. The display of shock from of the United fans seemed like the kind of hypothermic numbness that a Titanic victim perhaps would have felt when they hit the icy waters of the Atlantic some 100 years ago.

Intense Pain. Then Numbness. Then Blackness.

You could say that too for the poor Bolton fans who had watched their team lurch towards the drop with trips to Amex Stadium and Turf Moor to look forward to next season instead of Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge where they will bite and scratch for their chance to get back in to the big dance. Their misery a mirror to the fact that all three promoted clubs had stayed up, only the second time that this had every occurred.

A quite brilliant finish to a season down on skill but high on drama. Not since 1995 when Kenny Dalglish and Australian benchwarmer Robbie Slater had glory with Blackburn Rovers on the final day to again deny United or even Michael Thomas’ heroics in 1989 for Arsenal at Anfield had there been a finish like this at the top level in England. This was just one of the many dramas that happen in this sport in the ‘other September’ for a lot of people including myself. This ‘other September’ I talk of is the month of May when leagues are decided, cups floweth over and middle aged men in big novelty jokers hats emblazoned with their teams colours cry their eyes out live on world wide television.

SBS has always built up May as the business end of the season in soccer. ‘The Mad Month of May’ is what Les Murray has drawled in his “could be from anywhere” accent since the days when both him and Johnny Warren would pop up on our screens behind a cheap SBS desk late at night. SBS’s commitment has always been a fixture but now with the advent of pay television we are spoilt for choice around this time of year with a majority of the major leagues in Europe now shown live to our living rooms or sports bars.

On Sunday night from the comfort of the couch I managed to watch my lot Celtic lift their league trophy that had been sewn up some month before and also saw two Italian legends in Allesandro Del Piero and Pippo Inzaghi say goodbye to Juventus and AC Milan respectively with farewell goals. Inzaghi is commonly known as ‘The Pest’ and has never seemed to have scored a goal that wasn’t a tap in but the little striker’s enthusiasm for any scrappy goal has been infectious on most fans and he will be missed along with the myriad of other Milan players that have left the club in front of a ‘curva’ of colour and noise. Milan fans don’t do things by half measures. This was all before the Premier League climax on multi channels and broadcast through the BBC World Service with a breathless cross to a breathless commentator somewhere around the country when a goal was scored in one of the 10 games being played simultaneously adding to the drama and reminding us that the world service was the only thing we had up until even the mid to late 90s.

And there’s also more to come after all this drama. There’s the Champions League Final between a team steeped in skill and a bucket load of arrogance against the ageing chancers from West London having one last tilt at a cup that has alluded them despite an oil oligarch’s millions being stuck up their rear end like a suppository. There’s also the climax to the French league with a prince (Paris St Germain) with a team costing tens of millions trying to reel in a pauper (Montpellier) who is chasing its first ever league title with a team worth not even a tenth of the price of their Parisian pursuers. Then finally there’s the ‘richest game in football’ between West Ham and Blackpool playing off to see who gets back in to the Premier League and this is even without mentioning the upcoming and always ultra competitive European Championships in Poland and Ukraine.

A great time to be in front of the box. While back here in Australia winter kicks in, injuries grow for your respective footy teams and you decide on whether you should risk paying that money for a flight to Melbourne for the Grand Final in case your team makes it it’s all coming to a well tied in end in Europe for the round ball game. Perfect timing and sometimes you get that perfect ending like in England on Sunday night. Long may the late nights and even later drama continue.

Comments

  1. Peter_B says:

    Good stuff, Dennis. I have resisted Foxtel, mainly because it would be too seductive. It is in the ‘after retirement’ box. But I love the BBC World Service and Sports World. As Les and Phantom commented earlier in the week, there is something about being tucked up in bed with good sport on the radio. I think I am conditioned by a childhood of ‘hiding’ the ‘two house bricks’ radio under the blankets listening to the Ashes. I remember stumbling onto Crisp’s Grand National and how thrilling the call was, with the BBC commentator waxing lyrical about his stag like leaps. And then his disbelief when he was run down in the final straight, with me willing him to hang on. It was only in subsequent years that we discovered his conqueror, Red Rum, was the greatest jumper of all time. I regularly adjourn to the spare bedroom late on Saturday evenings to drift off to the rhythm of the sports commentary. Just as Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald could ‘sing the phone book’ and make it captivating, I love the melody as much as the lyrics. The final day commentary on the EPL climax was a joy to share thanks to ABC news radio relaying Sports World. Radio leaves so much more to the imagination and the personal knowledge base to create your own mental image of the contest. Love it.

  2. Dennis Gedling says:

    The FA Cup and Major European finals were the only games that were shown live for a very long time so the World Service coverage is the only thing a lot of us had. As a teen I listened to the crosses to an excitied commentator updating the drama of an equaliser in the third division with the noise in the background let me go nuts with my imagination about such places like Carrow Road and St James Park thinking they were exoting locations. Even 10-15 years ago I’d be at a party and a few of us would go out to a car out the front of the house to put the radio on at 12.10am WST or thereabouts to hear James Alexander Gordon read out the results.

    Very cozy memories or what is still an excellent amount of coverage even in the era of the smart phone and pay television.

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