What a difference a year makes.
I know that I’ve detailed quite a few of the things that have changed in my life over the past year, from work to personal life changes, but last Saturday probably had to be one of the most stark realizations of the changes that I have made in my life, when it comes to my feelings about sports.
My family is still living in Wisconsin and since I’m living in Atlanta, out of a hotel and alone, I have a tremendous amount of free time to fill. The house that we are buying doesn’t close for another week, so I spend a great deal of time in my hotel room trying to figure out something to do until I go to bed and repeat the process the next day.
Last Friday night, I was reading through some Premier League news sites and saw that the Premier League is playing a single match live in movie theaters every week of the season, and as luck would have it, this week it was the match between Crystal Palace and Newcastle United.
When I lived in Wisconsin, these sorts of events were almost always held in theaters that were located roughly 7 days away and would require a sherpa and a ritual sacrifice so that you could track down the specified theater, but in Atlanta one of the theaters was 10 minutes from my hotel room (more sherpa’s and lambs to kill in this area, apparently.)
When I woke up on Saturday morning, I was giddy with the excitement of being able to watch Palace on a huge screen. The expense of going to see a match in South London is quite a bit more than I can absorb at this point, so this was probably going to be one of the best Palace experiences that I could put together (since seeing the friendly in Columbus a few months back.)
I pulled up to the theater and noticed a pretty empty parking lot, but seeing as how I got there about 10 minutes early, I didn’t think much of it. I went to the ticket booth, paid my $12.50 (which did seem a bit high for a 10 a.m. soccer match showing) and went in and took a seat in the theater.
When I walked in, my eyes immediately scanned the seating area looking, anxious to find a Palace or even a Newcastle supporter. Alas, the entire theater was empty and it stayed that way for the entirety of the match.
While it felt a bit comical to be the only person in a theater watching a live event, as time went on, the match felt more and more intimate because I was the only person there seeing it. Being the only person there meant that I could cheer, or jeer, as much as I wanted. I could rant at the screen when Frazier Campbell came off the post, in the 74th minute, and allowed Aarons header to get by him to tie the match. It also allowed for me to swear loudly when Newcastle took the lead in the 89th minute.
The American in me nearly walked out of the theater at that point, because that’s what most American sports fans do when your team gives up the lead when the game is nearly over, but for some reason I thought I should sit back down (after some more swearing and pacing) and sit and watch whatever would remain of the game once extra time was added.
I was rewarded for staying with a wonderful strike from Wilf Zaha in the 95th minute to tie the match and I left the theater with a massive smile on my face as Palace rescued a 3-3 draw from certain defeat.
Later that day, Wisconsin played LSU in Houston and I went to bed not having seen a single minute of the game, nor caring that I had missed it.
When I think back, it has been amazing to think that the two sporting events that have given me the most joy over the last 6 months have been two Crystal Palace matches that ended in 3-3 draws (The Liverpool match from May will always have a special place in my sports memory.)
One year ago, I couldn’t have imagined sitting (for part of the match) by myself in a movie theater, in Atlanta, cheering when Crystal Palace scored a late goal that earned them a draw and then 12 hours later falling asleep having no interest in the Wisconsin football season opener.
What a difference a year makes.