I suppose it has been a while since my last blog post. It’s not that I don’t enjoy writing this blog, more that nothing of any note has occurred in my life over recent weeks. The last few days have been eventful however so I have no excuses on this occasion.
The World Cup looms and my excitement grows exponentially by the day. Over the years my schoolmates and I have taken part in a sweepstake to add a little bit more spice to the major championships when England inevitably get knocked out. A video was produced for our Euro 2012 sweepstake but unfortunately I wasn’t available to add my insightful punditry to proceedings. On that occasion I was landed with England.
On the face of it: not a bad draw. As it panned out however, receiving a sweepstake team that you would have supported regardless means an inescapable win-win/lose-lose situation. England eventually went out on penalties to Italy but Pirlo’s poetic puppetry of the match were proof of just how lacking England were. Two years prior to this I was landed with Serbia. Again, they appeared an exciting prospect. An extremely disappointing campaign materialised and they finished last in their group, even Australia leaving the Serbs in the dust.
My sweepstake career was becoming defined by mediocrity. Surely the sweepstake for the 2014 World Cup would provide a reason to be cheerful. I was due a bit of luck.
Thursday 22 May, 2014 was an exciting day. I would be making my Youtube debut as a pundit for our sweepstake before heading off to London to watch the final of the Premier League of Darts at the O2 Arena with a select few of my fellow sweepstakers.
It did not start well. We were forced to film the sweepstake draw in the garden due to unforeseen circumstances (the host’s sister was revising for a university exam in our would-be studio). University exams trump sweepstake videos apparently so we were forced to carry out the draw in a blustery garden which was not an ideal setting for 64 small pieces of wafty paper. Our determination to get the draw done saw us through and I was relatively happy with the results. I am of course talking solely from a production value perspective. I was drawn Algeria: a team I had forgotten were even making the trip to Rio de Janeiro in June.
This is what the sweepstake is all about… backing a losing horse. Whoever received Greece in 2004 would have felt a similar feeling to the one I felt when Algeria was plucked from the hat. The Greek team and the Denmark team that won the 2004 and 1992 European Championships respectively give hope to all those sweepstaking no-hopers out there. Despite Serbia letting me down in 2010 I still look out for their results. A life-long affiliation with an otherwise obscure team can result from a seemingly disappointing sweepstake. An on-the-face-of-it disapointing sweepstake draw must be embraced.
Soon after the draw concluded we had to hotfoot it to the coach station on the road to the one-time Millennium Dome, now O2 Arena. A few pints at a Wetherspoons on arrival meant we were ready for the occasion. We have spectated the darts twice before but both were in Exeter. The O2 Arena is a ridiculous yet brilliant choice for a darts venue. We were [quite literally] on Row Z and could barely make out the stage let alone the darts board. Nevertheless, we soaked up the boozy atmosphere and saw the tungsten fly: albeit on the large screens dotted around this Warehouse of Dreams.
The first semi-final saw Michael Van Gerwen getting the better of Gary Anderson. This was followed by Raymond Van Barneveld overcoming an out-of-sorts Phil Taylor. An all-Dutch final between Van Gerwen and Van Barneveld was a magnificent prospect but in the end it was bread and butter for Barney who 10-6 which saw him crowned Premier League champion for 2014.
Louie, one of the original line-up of the darts tour, couldn’t make it on the day as a result of being in China. As he was on a night-bus to go hiking around a mountain in the Far East we were in a large room with thousands of other pissed-up people in South East London. I don’t think the two situations could be any further removed from one other. Louie had said however, prior to pulling out, that we could stay at his house after the event. He remained true to his word despite not being there. The plan was for a key to be left under the doormat. A flawless plan I hear you say. For whatever reason this didn’t pan out so we had to wake up Louie’s understandably ratty housemates in the early hours of Friday morning.
We had unquestionably peaked at the darts and now things were beginning to fall apart. We had managed to piss off Louie’s housemates and as we were leaving the next morning we did something else which defies belief. Louie’s housemates had already left to do normal-people things i.e. go to work. Somehow we had managed to close the porch door but had left the front door wide open for the whole world to see inside. We couldn’t leave the house in this state. Some of us were quite happy to leave, cut our losses and accept there was nothing we could do. The problem-solvers among us, despite our temporarily ropey dispositions, were determined to rescue the situation and that we did. By some miracle there was a building site directly opposite the house so we had an array of tools to choose from. We tried various planks of wood and eventually settled on a thin plank with a small nail on the end so that we could get some purchase on the handle of the front door through the letterbox of the front door.
As you can imagine I was feeling a little worse for wear. I had though promised a friend I would attend his birthday party the following night in Brighton. I ploughed through the hangover and eventually found myself on the South Coast. Three nights on the trot of getting plastered followed and I’m still here to tell the tale… just about.
In other news I have recently written for a ‘Top 100 Travel Blogs’ rundown for the ChilliSauce website which I will attach when it is published. This weekend I have also been handed an interview for the BBC Kick Off Sports Reporter scheme in Bristol over the summer. The interview is in a couple of weeks: it would be the perfect preparation for my work experience at FourFourTwo in August and ultimately my Masters in Sports Journalism beginning in September. With the World Cup just around the corner I have a fantastic few months in store which means, in theory, I should have some things to talk about on this blog. Watch this space.