Stuff I’ve Seen at the Air Canada Centre

In honour of absolutely nothing, here’s an updated list of all stuff I’ve seen at the Air Canada Centre. I sat in the platinums for both Leaf games I saw this month–I was on the boards for the second one–and it cost me a grand total of zero dollars. I know the best people.

  1. Apr. 30/99: Leafs vs. Flyers (2-1 OT) (Eastern Conference Quarter Finals Game 5)
  2. Oct. 30/99: Leafs vs. Flames (2-1)
  3. Nov. 13/99: Leafs vs. Red Wings (1-1)
  4. Jan. 12/00: Raptors vs. Magic (108-102)
  5. Feb. 1/00: Our Lady Peace w/the Stereophonics
  6. Oct. 5/00: Pearl Jam w/Supergrass
  7. Oct. 7/00: Leafs vs. Canadiens (2-0)
  8. Nov. 17/00: Leafs vs. Lightning (2-2)
  9. Dec. 2/00: Leafs vs. Rangers (8-2)
  10. Dec. 3/00: The Tragically Hip (“An Evening with…”)
  11. Feb. 10/01: Leafs vs. Wings (3-3)
  12. Mar. 3/01: Leafs vs. Senators (2-3 OT)
  13. Mar. 4/01: Raptors vs. Knicks (98-88)
  14. Sept. 18/01: Tool w/Meshuggah
  15. Oct. 9/01: Leafs vs. Mighty Ducks (6-1)
  16. Oct. 21/01: Music Without Borders Live with the Tragically Hip, Alanis Morissette, Our Lady Peace, the Barenaked Ladies, Bruce Cockburn and Choclair
  17. Mar. 1/02: Raptors vs. Trail Blazers (81-91)
  18. Mar. 2/02: Leafs vs. Sabres (2-2)
  19. Mar. 3/02: Raptors vs. 76ers (84-96)
  20. Mar. 30/02: Leafs vs. Devils (1-3)
  21. May 28/02: Leafs vs. Hurricanes (1-2 OT) (Eastern Conference Finals Game 6) 
  22. Sept. 28/02: The Who w/the Counting Crows
  23. Oct. 14/02: Leafs vs. Penguins (4-5)
  24. Oct. 16/02: The Rolling Stones w/the White Stripes
  25. Nov. 14/02: Leafs vs. Red Wings (1-2)
  26. Dec. 5/02: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
  27. Dec. 22/02: Raptors vs. Lakers (107-109 OT)
  28. Dec. 23/02: Leafs vs. Thrashers (5-1)
  29. Jan. 4/03: Leafs vs. Devils (2-1)
  30. Feb. 18/03: Leafs vs. Hurricanes (4-3)
  31. Oct. 13/03: Leafs vs. Capitals (2-2)
  32. Dec. 9/03: Leafs vs. Blues (2-3 OT)
  33. Dec. 20/03: Leafs vs. Canadiens (4-2)
  34. Dec. 23/03: Leafs vs. Panthers (5-2)
  35. Feb. 18/04: Raptors vs. Spurs (82-86)
  36. Jul. 7/04: Eric Clapton w/Robert Randolph & the Family Band
  37. Nov. 2/04: Green Day w/New Found Glory and Sugarcult
  38. Nov. 8/04: The Beastie Boys w/Talib Kwali
  39. Nov. 26/04: The Tragically Hip w/the Joel Plaskett Emergency
  40. Dec. 15/04: Raptors vs. Timberwolves (96-90) (Vince Carter’s last game as a Raptor; he didn’t play)
  41. Jan. 26/05:  Raptors vs. Heat (96-111)
  42. Feb. 6/05: Raptors vs. Mavericks (113-122)
  43. Feb. 27/05: Raptors vs. Lakers (108-102)
  44. Mar. 11/05: Raptors vs. Hawks (112-116 OT)
  45. Mar. 20/05: Raptors vs. Cavaliers (105-98) (LeBron James: 56/10/5/48)
  46. Sept. 1/05: System of a Down w/the Mars Volta and Bad Acid Trip
  47. Sept. 17/05: U2 w/Dashboard Confessional (Eddie Vedder guest appearance)
  48. Sept. 19/05: Pearl Jam w/Sleater-Kinney (Bono guest appearance)
  49. Oct. 5/05: Leafs vs. Senators (2-3 SO) (first shootout in NHL history)
  50. Oct. 22/05: Leafs vs. Flyers (2-5)
  51. Nov. 15/05: Leafs vs. Rangers (2-1)
  52. Dec. 23/05: Leafs vs. Bruins (2-1)
  53. Jan. 26/06: Leafs vs. Sabres (4-8)
  54. Feb. 7/06: Leafs vs. Thrashers (4-1)
  55. Mar. 4/06: Leafs vs. Senators (2-4)
  56. May 9/06: Pearl Jam w/My Morning Jacket
  57. May 10/06: Pearl Jam w/My Morning Jacket
  58. Oct. 4/06: Leafs vs. Senators (1-4)
  59. Oct. 14/06: Leafs vs. Flames (5-4 OT) (Mats Sundin’s 500th career goal)
  60. Nov. 21/06: Bob Dylan w/the Foo Fighters
  61. Nov. 25/06: Leafs vs. Bruins (1-3)
  62. Nov. 28/06: Leafs vs. Bruins (1-4)
  63. Dec. 4/06: The Who w/The Pretenders
  64. Dec. 5/06: Leafs vs. Thrashers (2-5)
  65. Dec. 19/06: Leafs vs. Panthers (3-7)
  66. Dec. 26/06: Leafs vs. Wild (4-3)
  67. Dec. 30/06: Leafs vs. Senators (2-3 OT)
  68. Feb. 8/07: The Tragically Hip w/Buck 65
  69. Feb. 12/07: Leafs vs. Islanders (2-3 SO)
  70. May 1/07: Raptors vs. Nets (98-96) (Eastern Conference First Round Game 5)
  71. Oct. 6/07: Leafs vs. Canadiens (4-3 OT)
  72. Feb. 2/08: Leafs vs. Senators (4-2)
  73. Feb. 5/08: Leafs vs. Panthers (0-8)
  74. Oct. 11/08: Leafs vs. Canadiens (1-6)
  75. Dec. 23/08: Leafs vs. Stars (2-8)
  76. Dec. 30/08: Leafs vs. Thrashers (4-3 OT)
  77. Dec. 1/09: Leafs vs. Sabres (1-4)
  78. Jan. 30/09: Leafs vs. Penguins (5-4)
  79. May 9/09: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
  80. Oct. 10/09: Leafs vs. Penguins (2-5)
  81. Dec. 19/09: Leafs vs. Bruins (2-0)
  82. Dec. 21/09: Leafs vs. Sabres (2-3 OT)
  83. Dec. 26/09: Leafs vs. Canadiens (2-3 OT)
  84. Apr. 6/10: Leafs vs. Flyers (0-2)
  85. Aug. 9/10: Paul McCartney
  86. Nov. 6/10: Leafs vs. Sabres (2-3 OT)
  87. Nov. 13/10: Leafs vs. Canucks (3-5)
  88. Dec. 20/10: Leafs vs. Thrashers (3-6)
  89. Dec. 28/10: Leafs vs. Hurricanes (3-4)
  90. Mar. 2/11: Leafs vs. Penguins (3-2 OT)
  91. Mar. 5/11: Leafs vs. Blackhawks (3-5)
  92. Sept. 11/11: Pearl Jam w/Mudhoney (Neil Young guest appearance)
  93. Sept. 12/11: Pearl Jam w/Mudhoney
  94. Dec. 22/11: Leafs vs. Sabres (3-2)
  95. Jan. 3/12: Leafs vs. Lightning (7-3)
  96. Jan. 5/12: Leafs vs. Jets (4-0) (first time seeing the Jets in either of its iterations)
  97. Oct. 25/12: The Smashing Pumpkins w/Morning Parade
  98. Nov. 23/12: The Who w/Vintage Trouble
  99. Oct. 6/13: Leafs vs. Senators (5-4 SO)
  100. Dec. 17/13: Leafs vs. Panthers (1-3)
  101. Dec. 19/13: Leafs vs. Coyotes (2-1 SO)
  102. Apr. 5/14: Leafs vs. Jets (2-4)
  103. Oct. 18/14: Leafs vs. Red Wings (1-4) (Sam’s first NHL game)
  104. Dec. 16/14: Leafs vs. Ducks (6-2)
  105. Dec. 20/14: Leafs vs. Flyers (4-7)
  106. Nov. 30/15: Leafs vs. Oilers (3-0)
  107. Dec. 19/15: Leafs vs. Kings (4-0)
  108. Jan. 2/16: Leafs vs. Blues (5-1)
  109. Jan. 18/16: Raptors vs. Nets (112-100)
  110. Feb. 2/16: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band (Sam’s first Springsteen concert)
  111. Feb. 23/16: Leafs vs. Predators (2-3)
  112. Mar. 1/16: The Who w/Tal Wilkenfeld
  113. Mar. 21/16: Leafs vs. Flames (5-2)
  114. Apr. 27/16: The Who w/Slydigs (Sam’s first Who concert)
  115. May 10/16: Pearl Jam
  116. May 12/16: Pearl Jam (Sam’s first Pearl Jam concert)
  117. Aug. 10/16: The Tragically Hip
  118. Aug. 12/16: The Tragically Hip
  119. Aug. 14/16: The Tragically Hip
  120. Nov. 11/16: Leafs vs. Flyers (6-3)
  121. Dec. 19/16: Leafs vs. Ducks (2-3)
  122. Jan. 23/17: Leafs vs. Flames (4-0)
  123. Mar. 7/17: Leafs vs. Red Wings (3-2)
  124. Mar. 28/17: Leafs vs. Panthers (3-2)

Wow! I’ve had lots of great nights at the ACC, but if I were whittling them down to a top five–and I am–I’d rank them as follows:

  1. The second night of Pearl Jam’s 2006 Air Canada Centre run, which was one of the absolute greatest concerts I’ve attended
  2. The Who in 2006, which was also one of the absolute greatest concerts I’ve attended; I almost collapsed on my way out I was shaking so hard
  3. Leafs vs. Flames in 2006, when Mats Sundin scored his 500th career goal, shorthanded, in overtime, to complete his hat trick
  4. The second of the Hip’s three-night stand on the Man Machine Poem tour. I went to all three. The first and third shows were great; the second was a pantheon concert. I’ve seen the Hip seven times at the ACC…and counting, until we hear otherwise.
  5. Leafs vs. Carolina, 2002 Eastern Conference Finals, for reasons both good and bad.

I can’t wait to keep updating this list!

My Putter

I got a new putter for Christmas (whaddup, 36 for 36!). When I bust it out this season it’ll be the first time I’ve had a new putter since the late-80s.

Not the late-00s. Not even the late-90s. The late-80s. As in the 1980s. When I was still in the single digits.

Some context. I’ve been golfing since I was seven, and when I started playing I was using a spare set of women’s clubs which, if memory serves, had previously belonged to my grandma. But on August 16, 1988*, my dad and my grandpa (mom’s dad) took me to a place called Madgicals Golf Kingdom to buy me my own set.

(* – You might recognize that date: it’s my birthday! But it might’ve been August 16, 1989; I don’t think it was later than that, so we’ll settle once again on “the late-80s.”)

Upon entering the store I went straight for the putters. About five minutes later I heard arguing–and so I turned around, just in time to see the owner storming out of his own store.

I soon found out what’d happened: the owner, a guy by the name of Brian Madge, had (wrongly) accused my grandpa of coming into the store, busting up a set of demo clubs, and then fleeing. My grandpa wasn’t about to take that, so he fought back. Arguing turned into shouting, and then Madge walked out of his own store. He then refused to come back in while my grandpa was there. So my grandpa walked out as well, and sat down on the curb outside.

While this was happening I found a Northwestern Tom Weiskopf signature putter. I couldn’t put it down: it felt like it’d been made just for me. Meanwhile, Madge (who’d since come back in) came over and explained to me that I was too young for my own set of clubs–that there was no point in me getting one because I’d outgrow it within a couple years. I didn’t care: I wanted the putter. My dad saw the putter as a reasonable consolation present, and I walked out of the store with the putter and feeling like I was floating. We got my grandpa from the curb on our way.

I used that Tom Weiskopf signature putter for almost thirty years. It’s been obsolete for at least half of them. I never cared: it still felt good, and after a while it became a nostalgia thing as well. A postscript: a few years after the incident between him and my grandpa I played a round of golf with Brian Madge. He turned out to be a pretty affable dude. I told him about the putter; I left out the bit about the argument with my grandpa and the two of them taking turns storming out of Madge’s store on my eighth (or was it ninth?) birthday. It’s one of my favourite childhood memories. And it’s one I’ve relived every single time I’ve golfed for most of the past three decades.

The Best Goals He Ever Scored

Wayne Rooney broke Manchester United’s all-time goal scoring record last weekend. I’m starting to lose hope of ever scoring once for United, let alone 250 times–but his goal got me thinking about the best goals I did manage to score for various teams. Two in particular stand out. One was genuinely good. One wasn’t.

The good one occurred, ironically, during what had been up until then the worst game I’d ever played. I know, I know: Captain Exaggeration and all that. But I’m serious: I was awful that night, which was an indoor game between my former high school, Westgate Collegiate & Vocational Institute, and our rival St. Pats. Every touch was heavy, every pass misplaced. And at one point in the middle of the first half, after yet another loose pass, I turned and ran towards the bench, barking: “Get me off.”

And then, just as I was arriving at the bench, the ball appeared in front of me. A defender was closing me down quickly. So I said to the bench, “Just a second.” Then I flicked the ball over the defender’s outstretched foot, stepped around him, and hit the ball as hard as I could. I wanted to hit it into the corner so I could finish the line change. And, well, take out my frustration on the ball.

But remember: I was playing the worst game I’d ever played. So I aimed for the corner of the field, hit the ball as hard as I could–then watched it fly into the net off the underside of the bar. The ‘keeper had no chance. Never before nor since have I hit a ball so sweetly. The technical term, I believe, is “thunderbastard.”

And it was pure, dumb luck.

Naturally, I scored on each of my next two shifts and was named man of the match. We won 8-5.

The not-good one happened in an U-18 indoor match. My team that year was (warning! Captain Exaggeration again!) the best I’ve ever played for; we waltzed to our league title, winning our semi-final 16-1 and the championship game 8-2. Anyway. Before the game my friend Rob dared me, for no particular reason, to celebrate any goal I scored by doing a faceplant. Again, this was an indoor game; the old Soccerplex in Thunder Bay used thin artificial turf overtop concrete. I’d actually scored earlier on in the game, but I’d stabbed the ball into the net at full stretch and, therefore, couldn’t do the planned celebration. A few minutes later, with the game long since won, I chased an opposing defender into his own end. We reached the end boards at the exact same time, which resulted in the following sequence of events:

  1. “Oh, shit!” he said
  2. He hoofed the ball straight up into the air; it hit the netting that covered the field and bounced straight back down
  3. He wheeled around and kicked the ball as hard as he could
  4. The ball proceeded to whack into, well, my balls
  5. As I fell over in agony I somehow managed to bundle the ball past the ‘keeper into the net

I got up, barely able to breathe–and then I remembered what I’d promised Rob. So I stood as straight as I could…then flung out my arms and did a full-on faceplant into the Soccerplex turf. Face met thin-turf-covered concrete. And then I was helped off the field.

Wayne Rooney’s scored some spectacular goals, his latest included. But I bet he’s never done that.

Seattle Seahawks Lots, Minnesota Vikings 7

tcfI spent my second weekend as a Torontonian in the Twin Cities, where I (among other things) saw the Minnesota Vikings get pummeled by the Seattle Seahawks at TCF Bank Stadium (see #15 on 35-for-35). I think it was less the Vikings being bad than the Seahawks being really, really good…but either way, the fact remains that the Vikings haven’t scored an offensive touchdown the last three times I’ve seen them. Chronologically:

  • November 21, 2010: Packers 31, Vikings 3 (0 touchdowns, obviously; the Vikings actually led this game at one point!)
  • January 2, 2010: Lions 13, Vikings 10 (Jared Allen interception return for a touchdown)
  • December 6, 2015: Seahawks 35, Vikings 7 (Cordarrelle Patterson kick return for a touchdown)

As for the Seahawks, they’ve won the two games I’ve seen them play by a combined score of 88-24. This game felt even more lopsided than the last one, at which I at least got to hear “Gangnam Style” live. This time I paid $100 U.S. to sit outside on a damp Minnesota December day and watch my favourite team gets its butt kicked. I wanted to see an outdoor Vikings game. The lesson, as always: be careful what you wish for.

The Vikings’ new stadium, U.S. Bank Stadium, is rising over downtown Minneapolis like some postmodern longship. It looks great. Bet on “attend a game at U.S. Bank Stadium” appearing on 36-for-36!

Seattle Seahawks 28, Green Bay Packers 22 (O.T.)

I come to bury the Green Bay Packers, not to praise them. They just lost one of the most memorable (if not one of the greatest) conference championship games ever played–yet while the Viking fan in me is reveling in their frankly Viking-esque defeat, the sports fan is simply nodding grimly. Things happen sometimes. Sometimes it’s luck; sometimes it’s coaching; sometimes it’s both at once, like it was this afternoon. If any one of the following things hadn’t happened the Green Bay Packers would likely playing for the Super Bowl in a couple weeks.

But all of them did. And that’s sports for you.

Those things:

  1. Mike McCarthy, demonstrating bewildering conservatism, electing to kick a field goal on 4th-and-goal from the 1. Hindsight’s 20/20, but find me anyone (other than Saj) who wasn’t immediately questioning the decision.
  2. Mike McCarthy, demonstrating bewildering conservatism, electing to kick a field goal on 4th-and-goal from the 2. Hindsight’s 20/20, but find me anyone (other than Saj) who wasn’t immediately questioning the decision. (In fairness to Saj I don’t know for a fact that he supported the decisions…but knowing Saj, I’m guessing he did. *checks with Saj* He did.) Let’s say, for argument’s sake, the Packers had gone for it on each of those fourth-down situations and converted on one of them. That would’ve given them seven points instead of six. All other things being equal…think the Packers would’ve liked having that extra point when Mason Crosby was lining up his game-tying field goal attempt with :14 left to play? (I realize I’m not saying anything earth-shattering, by the way. That’s not the point: I want to remember this game.)
  3. Morgan Burnett going down after Russell Wilson’s fourth interception, which for some reason made sense to me at the time. By the way, the Packers just lost a game in which the opposing quarterback threw four interceptions and the other team turned the ball over five times.
  4. Aaron Rodgers throwing it incomplete on 3rd down late in the fourth quarter. At the time I tweeted, “Why on earth are the Packers throwing??”
  5. Brandon Bostick fumbling the climactic onside kick right into the arms of the Seahawks’ Chris Matthews. Before the kick HLP Paul said, “I’ve never seen a recovered onside kick.” He has now.
  6. Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix (real name, in case you aren’t a football fan) whiffing on the two-point convert that turned a one-point game into a three-point game.

And as if that wasn’t enough, Jermaine Kearse caught the game-winning touchdown. Kearse was targeted five times this afternoon. The first four resulted in interceptions. The fifth resulted in the touchdown that sent his team to the Super Bowl. Again, sometimes these things just happen. I’ll never feel sorry for Packer fans. Their team’s won multiple championships; mine’s tied for most Super Bowl appearances without a win. Today, though, I understand how they feel.

Stuff I’ve Seen at the Saddledome

I went to the Flames/Islanders game on Friday, which was surprisingly enjoyable given the teams involved. (The Flames were trailing 3-1 with ten minutes left to play; when the game ended they’d won 4-3, with former Leaf Joe Colborne scoring twice.) The game was the latest thing I’ve seen at the Saddledome. Here are most of the others!

  1. Feb. 17/07: Flames vs. Avalanche (5-2)
  2. Oct. 4/07: Flames vs. Flyers (2-3) (Flames 2007/08 season opener)
  3. Oct. 18/07: Flames vs. Kings (4-3)
  4. Nov. 1/07: Flames vs. Red Wings (1-4)
  5. Nov. 8/07: Flames vs. Canucks (2-3)
  6. Feb. 9/08: Flames vs. Oilers (4-1) (Hockey Day in Canada)
  7. Mar. 7/08: Flames vs. Predators (1-2 O.T.)
  8. Apr. 13/08: Flames vs. Sharks (Western Conference Divisional Semi-Final Game 3)
  9. Aug. 30/08: Oasis w/Ryan Adams & the Cardinals
  10. Oct. 27/08: Bob Dylan
  11. Nov. 11/08: Flames vs. Maple Leafs (4-3)
  12. Nov. 22/08: Flames vs. Red Wings (2-5)
  13. Nov. 29/08: Flames vs. Canucks (3-1)
  14. Dec. 19/08: Flames vs. Blackhawks (2-3 O.T.)
  15. Jan. 28/09: Flames vs. Sabres (5-2)
  16. Feb. 17/09: Flames vs. Canucks (3-4 S.O.)
  17. Apr. 20/09: Flames vs. Blackhawks (4-2) (Western Conference Divisional Semi-Final Game 3)
  18. Oct. 20/09: Flames vs. Blue Jackets (6-3)
  19. Dec. 4/09: Metallica w/Lamb of God and the Sword
  20. Jan. 8/10: Flames vs. Blue Jackets (3-2)
  21. Mar. 31/10: Flames vs. Coyotes (2-1) (the Coyotes were the 30th NHL team I saw in action; actually, if you count the Minnesota North Stars, they were the 31st–but regardless, by seeing them I’d seen every team in the league)
  22. Jun. 15/10: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers w/Joe Cocker
  23. Dec. 7/10: Flames vs. Lightning (4-2)
  24. Dec. 16/10: Flames vs. Maple Leafs (5-2)
  25. Feb. 22/11: Flames vs. Bruins (1-3)
  26. Sept. 21/11: Pearl Jam w/Mudhoney
  27. Feb. 3/12: Flames vs. Blackhawks (3-1)
  28. Feb. 14/12: Flames vs. Maple Leafs (5-1)
  29. May 11/12: The Black Keys w/the Arctic Monkeys
  30. Nov. 13/12: Neil Young & Crazy Horse w/Los Lobos and the Sadies
  31. Nov. 16/12: Leonard Cohen
  32. Feb. 7/13: U of C Dinos vs. MRU Cougars (1-3) (inaugural Crowchild Classic men’s game)
  33. Sept. 14/13: Flames vs. Oilers (2-3) (preseason)
  34. Oct. 9/13: Flames vs. Canadiens (3-2)
  35. Oct. 30/13: Flames vs. Maple Leafs (2-4)
  36. Nov. 25/13: Nine Inch Nails w/Autolux
  37. Dec. 2/13: Pearl Jam w/Mudhoney
  38. Dec. 10/13: Flames vs. Bruins (1-2)
  39. Mar. 7/14: Flames vs. Islanders (4-3)
  40. Apr. 20/14: Black Sabbath
  41. Aug. 12/14: Arcade Fire
  42. Aug. 19/14: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers w/Steve Winwood
  43. Jan. ##/15: Roughnecks vs. Rush (8-16)
  44. Mar. 13/15: Flames vs. Maple Leafs (6-3)
  45. Apr. 9/15: Flames vs. Kings (3-1)
  46. Jul. 15/15: Rush

This list is incomplete. I know for a fact it’s missing the following three things:

  • Two Calgary Roughnecks National Lacrosse League games
  • A Calgary Hitman Western Hockey League playoff game (any idea when that was, TJP?)

It might also be missing one Flames/Canucks and/or one Flames/Red Wings game. And it’s a bit shorter than it once was: I’d originally listed a February 11, 2012 game between the Flames and the Canucks, then realized I’d watched it a bar with my friend Shannon. I’ll do some digging and see if I can make this list as complete as “Stuff I’ve Seen at the Air Canada Centre.”

The Manchester Derby

On March 25, as part of mine and my nerd lobster’s cancerversary trip, I’m going to the Manchester Derby at Old Trafford. It’ll be by some distance the biggest soccer game I’ve attended. I’ve seen Manchester United play both Juventus and A.C. Milan, but those were exhibition games in New Jersey and, one incredible Diego Forlan miss aside, inconsequential to any of the clubs’ histories. But the Derby’s different; the Derby matters, no matter how the two teams are playing, and that’s good because United’s currently producing football that’s watchable in only the broadest sense of the word.

You have to understand: if I didn’t support United I think I’d despise them, along with every other so-called “big club” and everything they represent. Instead I’d support a “real” club like Southampton–or better yet, Salisbury City–and congratulate myself on my superior morality. Alas, it’s not that simple. In the 1960s my dad divided his time at the University of Manchester between the Barnes Wallis Building and the terraces of Old Trafford, where Sir Matt Busby was re-building Manchester United after the Munich air disaster and turning them into eventual European champions. It’s debatable where he spent more of his time. Old Trafford never asked him to leave; UMIST very much did, which speaks to where his priorities lay. But can you blame him? Who among us, given easy access to the genius of George Best, wouldn’t have done the same? Dad saw his earliest soccer games at the old Dell in Southampton (the same place, coincidentally, where I saw my first game) and was later a regular visitor to Goodison and Upton Park, among other grounds. But Old Trafford was his heaven.

For me, then, the decision to support United was made on my behalf long before I knew of their existence. My earliest United-related memory was hearing Graham Leggat, then the host of TSN’s Soccer Saturday, proclaim: “Relegation worries are over for Old Trafford” (1989, perhaps?). The next two are from the two 1990 F.A. Cup Finals; for the second I came home from school, turned on the TV, and heard exclaimed, “Manchester United have won the F.A. Cup!” Back then live games were as rare as hen’s teeth; now it’s unusual if United matches aren’t televised, provided of course they aren’t League Cup matches. Following the English Premier League from Canada’s become as easy as following, say, the NHL; indeed, if you don’t live in your favourite hockey team’s broadcast region it’s actually cheaper subscribing to Sportsnet World than something like NHL Game Center. I used to feel obliged to defend my love for Manchester United; I’ve thankfully gotten past that phase and realized that supporting a club because my father supports them is actually incredibly typical. The English have an antediluvian obsession with “supporting your local team.” Otherwise, the feeling goes, it’s not so much that you’re an inferior supporter as you don’t have a right to support the team at all. But with soccer (and sport in general, for that matter) becoming increasingly globalized that accusation’s as archaic as the back pass. Geography, not to mention finances, may prevent me from seeing my favourite team very often, but that doesn’t diminish the intensity of my feelings towards it. Not even David Moyes could accomplish that.

I haven’t been to Old Trafford since that fateful final day of the 2009/10 season (United needed to beat Stoke City, which they did, then hope for Chelsea to drop points at home to Wigan Athletic; in the event, Chelsea won 8-0). I’m glad to be going back, even if it’s unlikely United will retain their unbeaten record in games I’ve attended. City should win easily. For me, for once, that’s almost beside the point.