There would now appear to be two English clubs where I have come to be known as the Yank with the camera and the blog.
All I have ever wanted to do is go to interesting places, have interesting experiences, meet interesting people, and then tell the story. I could add to that, in the context of this whole project and book, that I also want to help people have their own grand experiences.
Either way, my recent trip to the city of Sheffield pretty much made all of that happen.
The short version here is that I went to the Steel City Derby, Sheffield Wednesday v Sheffield United, at Hillsborough Stadium. It’s a big, big deal when the two Sheffield clubs play each other, and this game was amazing. United scored two early, leading to bedlam among their fans and misery among the home folks. Then Wednesday stormed back and leveled it up at 2, leading to unreal scenes of bouncing and singing, like nothing I’ve seen in all my footy travels.
Then it got even crazier: Wednesdays’ celebrations shut down seconds later, when United went right back up the pitch and scored again, in front of their own fans.
I captured that moment in this video, which I had started because of all the bouncing …
I tweeted it out from the lobby of my hotel in Derby, hopped on a train to London, and checked into my hotel there. Firing up my iPad, I thought, Hmmm, I wonder if any United fans noticed?
Pretty soon the messages started rolling in:
- I’ve already watched this 100 times and can’t stop laughing
- My three favorite films: This, Citizen Kane, Godfather
- I want this played at my wedding
- And so on
Before I went to bed, I saw this, which I assure you has never happened before:
So I woke up in the morning, and with only a couple of hours before heading to Heathrow, I knocked out a blog post on the game, which again featured the video. Here’s that post. And here is what I saw when I got back home to Portland and checked Twitter:
By the end of that day, I had heard from a reporter at the Sheffield Star, who wanted to excerpt my blog post and put it on their website. He emailed a couple of questions, I sent some photos, and by the end of the day, I was in the Sheffield paper! (Well, on their website, but still, it’s a first.)
Sadly, the story itself appears no longer on their website.
So, what effect did all this have on my website visits? Well, see if you can tell which day I posted the piece on the Derby:
A site where a couple of hundred visits in a day was considered good suddenly had 3,500 in one day, and 13,000 in a week! The second bump, by the way, is from the story hitting the Star website.
Also coming in regularly: invitations and encouragements to come see the return leg, Steel City Derby II, at Bramall Lane in January — to which I can only say, Oh Hell Yes. I assume it will be more fun than my previous visit to the Lane.
All of this has actually happened before. Way back in January 2014, I went to a Manchester United game at Old Trafford. I don’t care about Man U, really, just needed to do my research, and since it was a League Cup game against Sunderland on a Tuesday night, I was able to get good seats. And it just so happens that Sunderland brought 9,000 fans who sat right behind the goal to my left, and I had my high-def camcorder with me, and, in the 118th minute, this happened:
That video was seen about 30,000 times in the next 24 hours, and many similar messages came streaming in: people telling me they jumped so high they landed three rows down, people telling me they were injured in the carnage, that I had captured one of the greatest moments in their club’s history. When all was said and done, I was an honorary Mackem.
(By the way, that turned out to not even be the winner! United scored a moment later, and Sunderland then advanced after the worst penalty shootout in history, which I also filmed. But that moment is what everybody remembers.)
I still keep in touch with some Sunderland folks, and I even saw them break Jose Mourinho’s unbeaten run at Stamford Bridge later that season. So I was something of a good luck charm for a while there.
I guess the point of all this is, you just have to keep going to these things and see what happens. I mean, I’ve been to 64 games now, and this has happened just twice, but it shows that if you get yourself in the right place at the right time with the right frame of mind (and a camera) you just might capture some magic.