Sporty Billy! 

Sporty Billy! 

Taking another trip down memory lane and today it’s all about Sport. OK so now I am nearing 50 but still enjoy playing football (soccer) especially since I made my return to playing a little over a year ago after 20 years away from playing regularly. So where did I get this love for playing football. 

Well it started in my backyard back in Ireland playing with a tennis ball or a football and just kicking it against the wall. As a kid I played football, rugby and hurling. I was kinda small for rugby but I was lucky enough to be fast, it helped stopped the big guys flattening me. Hurling I found a great leveler, the little guy with a. Stick can hit just as hard as the big guy but again it was a little bit of speed thst kept me out of getting hit to hard. See a trend in both of those sport? And so I got really good at football and I wouldnt get hit, at least not to often. 

My football playing days ended really when I suffered a broken femur just after I turned 20. I just couldn’t face a hard tackle again so I stepped away from the game for a good few years, just playing occasionally. But that did not stop me watching football as often as I could. My earliest memories of watching football was the 1976 FA Cup Final in England, followed by the 1977 FA and European Cup finals and the 1978 World Cup Finals in Argentina. I think it was the 1977 Euro Cup Final that really got me hooked. Liverpool had lost to Man Utd the previous weekend in the FA Cup Final but bounced back on the Wednesday to won the European Cup.  I then started to follow English football and became a Liverpool supporter. 

The World Cup in 1978 was memorable as it was the first time I remember seeing international football, Scotland beating Holland but still going out after 2 previous disastrous games, the ticker tape final which seen a Mario Kempes inspired Argentina hand Holland their second successive final defeat and Archie Gemmils goal in the aforementioned Holland Scotland game are just some memories I have of that world cup. 

As this is a trip down memory lane I won’t go into what I follow today, but I still watch for Liverpool results, watch football most weekends and play most Sundays. But some of my best memories have been watching St Patrick’s Athletic back home in Ireland. I have seen them win leagues, cups and play away in Europe. I have also suffered heartbreak as I have seen them lose more Cup finals than I care to mention. But in 2014 that ghost was laid to rest as St Patrick’s Athletic finally got their hands on the FAI Cup and I was the road to record the whole thing on camera. 

I will come back to memories with St Patrick’s Athletic as they are so numerous that a single post wouldnt do them justice. Being a fan of St Patrick’s Athletic is a privilege I am glad to have, I have met some wonderful people, made live long friends, lost some good people, had some great experiences at games and some heart breaking ones too. 

I suppose now as I live in the USA I have to adopt a few local teams in various sports. So now I have Atlanta Falcons (NFL), Atlanta Braves (MLB), Atlanta Hawks (MBA) and now Atlanta United in the MLS. Add them to St Pats and Liverpool as well as Michigan Spartans for college sports and I have a busy schedule just keeping up with results. 

I hope you enjoyed this little trip down memory lane and I hope to add more over the coming week as the big 50 birthday looms. 

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Superbowl Sunday

Superbowl Sunday

This time last year I wrote about my first Superbowl Sunday here in America. It consisted of a group of friends getting together and enjoying the game and the adverts! Yes, the adverts during the Superbowl along with the half time show can be the highlight of the Superbowl. This year though I think will be slightly different as the Atlanta Falcons have made it to only their 2nd Superbowl and it is a well deserved appearance. 

They will come up against the New England Patriots, and they are the team I followed when I lived in Ireland but my allegiances have switched to my new home town, so I will be cheering on the Falcons. 

Superbowl 51 pitches the best defence (Patriots) going up against the best offense (Falcons) so it will be an interesting game. With possibly the 2 best QB’s playing, the legendary Tom Brady v the new league MVP Matt Ryan it could be a shootout between these two. Looking forward to a exciting game and hope Falcons manage to pull it off, but won’t be overly disappointed if the Patriots win. 
It would be fantastic for Atlanta to win and the excitement has been building for last few weeks through all the play offs and now to the final game of the season. It reminds me of home and when St Pat’s made it to the cup final and the build up would start a couple of weeks before and by game day I would be a nervous wreck. 

It was hard to know how to feel when we lost a cup final and we certainly did lose a few but the camaraderie of fellow fans who were feeling the same always helped, along with a few tasty pints of Guinness. But St Pat’s finally did win the FAI Cup and I have to say it is still and probably always will be one of the highlights of watching my local team in my life, and we have won leagues and other trophies but to finally win the cup after 53 years of waiting was just a fantastic moment.  

So now it is time to get ready, put on the shirt, go to friends house, and settle down and watch the game. And may the best team win which I hope is the Atlanta Falcons. RISE UP!!! 

A little bit of sport. 

A little bit of sport. 

I haven’t mentioned my sporting likes in a while and it’s those that helped frame the title of this blog. So a quick reminder how the name came about. Firstly the St Pats part is about my home town football club back in Ireland and the Spartans part is about Michigan State here in the USA. 

I have always supported St Patrick’s Athletic FC and even now I follow the games via Twitter, TV when available and fan commentary when I can listen in. The support for Michigan State came about as it is the team and college that my wife attended, hence the title of the blog; St Pats to Spartans. 

Anyway, this season hasn’t been a great season for St Patrick’s Athletic in the league. Struggling to string a few decent results together and languishing in the lower end of the table with just a few games left it’s lookin going a season to forget. Even though they managed to reach the FAI Cup Semi Final a heavy defeat in thst game just shows how much work the manager has to do th get Pats back up the table next season. But it wasn’t all bad, retaining the League Cup me at that St Patrick’s Athletic have managed to win one of the 3 major trophies on offer in each of the last 4 seasons, starting with the League Championship in 2013, FAI Cup in 2014, League Cup in 2015 and 2016. So once this season is offer in a few weeks it will be time to rebuild and be ready to go in March next year. 

And onto Michigan State, the football season started 7 weeks ago and just like St Patrick’s Athletic, it hasn’t really gone to plan. After a relatively good season last year this season has started with just 2 wins and 4 defeats. Nothing seems to be going right this season so it’s time to make sure lessons are learnt and that MS got back to winning ways quickly and the players step up to the mark early and make a run of victories to turn this season around, even though it is probably to late to make it as successful as last year already. But there is always next year and with college football being as it is the junior players will have gained valuable experience with this seasons early difficulties. 

Being a sports fan does come with its highs and lows, sometimes more low days that good days but that’s what makes the good days so special. Seeing St Patrick’s Athletic lose so many FAI Cup finals made the victory in 2014 all the sweeter and it wiped away all those defeats and 53 years of waiting in 90 minutes. One of my favorite moments was when that second goal to clinch the cup went into the back of the net in the dying minute of the match. 

With Michigan State football team not doing to good it will be up to the basketball team to lift spirits and with St Patrick’s Athletic moving into the off season at the end of October I will continue to watch the English Premier league until the Irish soccer season starts back in March when of course it is also March Madness here for the the basketball. 

Sporting events 

Sporting events 

So far I have attended an NBA (basketball) game involving the Atlanta Hawks, an NFL (football) pre season game involving the Atlanta Falcons, a MLB (baseball) game involving the Atlanta Braves and last night I went to my first college football game as Georgia Tech played Clemson in Atlanta. 

Each of these were different in their own way, the basketball was my first major sporting event to attend with Leanne here in the USA and I was still in awe of a lot of Atlanta and the Hawks managed to win and overall it was a great event. The Braves game was equally a good night, we had Robert with us and it was fun. The Braves PR team even made it better by giving us free hats and t-shirts as it was our very first baseball game to see. Kudos to them for that gesture. The NFL game was a pre season one for the Falcons so was quite a lack luster affair but again we had fun as myself and Robert went with our Irish neighbour. 

And so last night it was time to experience College football. The fact that the stadium probably holds about 80000 and was about 3/4 full on a Thursday night absolutely astounded me. With Leanne being a Michigan State fan, and me as well by default, I knew the stadiums were big but to actually walk into one was amazing. It is a full blown production, big band, cheer leaders, fireworks etc. Unfortunately Georgia Tech lost last night bringing an end to my unbeaten event attending, the Falcons, Hawks and Braves all won when I attended.

At the Georgia Tech game

Now compare these sporting events to back in Ireland. Probably nothing can compare to the production, pre game and during game entertainment to off the pitch. But on the pitch games at home are much more exciting, less stopping and starting, play is more involved. But is one better than the other, No, not at all. I do love all sports and I do miss attending St Patrick’s Athletic matches at home with our little crowd of 1000 but I have also enjoyed all the sporting events I have gone to so far in Atlanta. 

There are a few more on my list to attend, an ice hockey game in Detroit, a Michigan State football game, an Atlanta United soccer match when they are up and running and a USA international soccer match as well. Which one gets my vote as the most enjoyable so far? Well that’s a tough choice, the Braves looked after us and Robert was able to attend, the Hawks as it was my first game to go to with Leanne, Falcons as it was first NFL game or the College football? I will have to go with the college football and its more to do with the off the pitch stuff. The band played practically non stop for the full night, the student fans made lots of noise and they had a white out night, where everyone wore white, and it all added up to a great occasion. So Georgia Tech lost, but the night, the event, as a whole was superb. Oh and I have to mention traffic management, at home traffic basically comes to a standstill after events, here the traffic management is excellent and everyone gets away and home quickly and efficiently. 

So I look forward to lots more sporting events, enjoying this particular aspect of my new home, and maybe becoming emotionally attached to a club so I can cheer them on just like I did at home for St Patrick’s Athletic. 

Another step on the journey

Another step on the journey

The content of today’s post literally changed as I was about to start writing. As regular followers will know I am in the middle of the immigration process in the USA and this morning another step on that journey was completed. Authorisation to start working arrived and so after 5 months it’s time to apply for a job. With the work authorisation came a document allowing me to travel home to Ireland in case of any emergencies while my application for full permanent residencey is completed later this year.

This is a huge step and it comes nearly exactly 1 year after we first started the K1 visa process. The visa journey isn’t for those lacking patience and we have been extremely lucky as we both support each other through the various stages. 

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Card Approval

Anyway back to what today’s post was supposed to be about. Last night my wife had arranged a surprise night out for herself and me. I had no idea where we were off to as we set off at 6.30pn yesterday evening. Even as we got the train into Atlanta and got off at the Philips Arena station did I know what was happening. It was only as we walked into the Arena and Leanne produced two tickets see the Atlanta Hawks NBA did I realize we were going to a basketball match.

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At the Hawks game

I have only seen one basketball game in my life and that was in 2000 when I went to see the Boston Celtics while over on a trip for St. Patrick’s Day. I had totally forgotten about that game until I was reminded this morning. But last night was my first proper experience of a basketball game as we were seated about 6 rows from the court and we able to have a beer and food in our seats while enjoying the game.

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Scoreboard showing the Hawks down early in the game

Just a quick note on those beers and food, I am well used to being overcharged at events in Ireland, but I have to give the concession stands in the Philips Arena the gold medal for overcharging. $9 for a beer and $10 for a few chicken tenders is a bit steep to say the least. I would hate to see how much a t-shirt or a cap was. But it was a special night so we had a few beers and a bite to eat.

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2 beers cost $18

Onto the game itself, it was fun with the Hawks coming back from a 14 point deficit to win by 13 with a brilliant second half. I had to keep asking Leanne some rules as I know the basics but that’s about all. The while staging of the game is professional and good. With pregame entertainment involves cheerleaders and music and the music continues all the way through the game. We even had some soccer style chanting from a group of fans close to us. As the game wore on and the Hawks were staging their comeback the crowd really got behind them, the $9 beers starting to take effect I think.

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Atlanta Hawks score a free throw

As a surprise night out it was an excellent choice. One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is that last night was the first time since I arrived here last November that I have heard the US National anthem sung live. Like all national anthems it was great to see it respected and some day in my future it will be my anthem alongside my Irish one.

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Atlanta Hawks 103 Phoenix Suns 90 FT

So a lovely evening ended with the Hawks winning and a trip home via MARTA, the rail system for Metro Atlanta. I love MARTA, and it’s a lot like the DART back home but more efficient and covers a much larger area. The Philips Arena emptied and people were on trains in a few minutes. Looking forward to my next visit to a American sporting event, Baseball, NFL, College Football or soccer, I am sure it will be equally as good as last night.

A little bit of March Madness

A little bit of March Madness

So here I am trying to figure out American football, college football and their weird terminology for proper football (soccer) and up comes a few weekends of non stop college basketball that I know is called March Madness. Yes it’s all about the National Championship but it also about brackets, the art of predictions.

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March Madness Basketball

The whole idea of brackets is to predict the whole tournament from the last 64 to the final champion. Teams are seeded and that should help but this is a knockout tournament and favourites get knocked out, just ask Number 2 seed Michigan State who were a lot of peoples choice to win the whole thing. Middle Tennessee had other ideas and the number 15 seed send the highly fancied number 2 seed packing in the first round. (Sorry honey but it had to be mentioned). My wife is a Spartan, and as such they are also my adopted team team, sure it’s even in site address for blog!

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Spartans bench look on as they crash out of March Madness

A few other highly fancied teams fell early but as the tournament hots up to the Sweet 16 this weekend I expect to see less shocks, Middle Tennessee couldn’t repeat their heroics of their victory over Michigan State and were promptly knocked out in the next round. My bracket started off well, I was even ahead of the wife for a while, but it soon came crashing apart and I only have 9 teams left in the final 16. Hoping against hope the 6 that can make it to the final 8 do their job as it would nice to have some interest going into the final four weekend.

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My March Madness Bracket

So sport here is a while different ball game, excuse the pun, to at home. College football gets huge crowds and has massive investment, college basketball is no different. Now if only a tiny percentage of Irish businesses or media took the same interest in sport at home maybe Irish sport could expand its fan base. Highly unlikely but one can alwaya dream. March Madness is on TV for the whole weekend, every game is shown live and available for free on live streaming. Walk into nearly any bar and it will be showing all the matches live.

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TV coverage is widespread of all games

NCAA app allows all games to be streamed live, compare that to at home where only for a few lads doing commentary for St Pats matches I would have to rely on Livescore apps or Twitter for updates. I know I can get some feeds from the Internet but the quality is terrible. As a sport watching hgan, either live or on tv, I will enjoy learning the various sports and competitions here and always keep an eye on sport back home in Ireland.