Priced out of the match, I presume
The fans start pouring in, the coaches speak, and the TARDIS lands. All this today from London.
The Wembley way
The city is now officially overrun by fans and world media. Yesterday, Wembley Way was starting to fill up; the airports and train stations are now dyed a deep Mancunian red and Barcelona blue.
There’s a peculiar dance that goes on at big events between the world media and the fans, an amorous two-step that goes something like this: Exhausted, frazzled reporter charged with securing "local color" points his microphone at fans, asking them stupid, leading questions. Drunken, giddy fans, utterly convinced in the supremacy of their team, mug for cameras. Repeat ad infinitum. Add in offers for "assistance" to reporters at the game by said aforementioned fansh (Hey, tickets are selling today for $10,000, so yeah, why not give it a shot?)
I mention this because the media's experience is very different from the fans at these things. The fans are the best thing about this whole affair, and we in the media are deeply jealous. They get to wear silly hats and go drinking until the wee hours in pubs. We have to file copy, edit tape, and then moan about it until the wee hours in pubs.
Think about it: we're charged with getting in, spending a week of 16-hour days putting out supplement after supplement, and by the time the game comes, most of us are lucky if we can remember our own names (I’m told mine is "Jamie," but my word processor auto-fills it). The irony of these things is that most of the media's work is done in presenting the run-up to the game. For example, since I've been here, I've filed twenty separate stories and spent about five hours in front of a camera. When the game ends, I'll write just two pieces, file a nice "wrap-it-up" postcard and then head to the airport.
The fans, in contrast, do the real suffering. They pay out the nose for the privilege of coming here, have to put up with all sorts of indignities and hardships, and then half of them will be utterly crushed by the result. And yet, everyone at these things is enormously cheerful, thrilled to have a chance to be part of history, hopeful that they see a superb match, and ready to take whatever comes as a great experience.
A lot of us in the press forget this - we're sent here to work, after all, and work is work. But there's an unfortunate, jaded air that surrounds so much of the corps, in deep contrast to the glee currently going on outside on the street. Sometimes we need a bit of a reminder of what this is all about, and why we're here in the first place.
My reminder came yesterday, after a particularly frustrating encounter with UEFA bureaucracy that I will not bore you with. Outside the stadium, a group of four kids were kicking a ball back and forth, juggling it, popping it about, and running up and down Wembley Way. I asked if they were going to the game, and they told me they couldn't afford to - couldn’t even afford to get a program. They lived right around the corner.
Five minutes later, and one media goodie bag emptied later, I had them all kitted out. They ran down the Way, the jacket far too big on the wee one, the tallest dribbling the ball as they went and waving the programs in the air to show off to their friends. I hopped on the Underground, and went back to work.
Hunting for Conan Doyle
"So, hon, what do you want from London?"
"I like socks."
"How about something from London?"
"Get me something from Baker Street then."
So, off I went, charged with getting something for my erstwhile partner, who as you may have gathered, is not exactly a material girl. She is a writer about and for comic books, and an avid pulp novel collector, so what better to get her than some relics from the greatest pulp authors of them all?
Off to 221b Baker Street, the home of (fictional) detective Sherlock Holmes, whom you might know from that movie with Jude Law in it. The Holmes series is one of the great serial detective stories of all time; Conan Doyle is arguably Scotland’s best-known and best-loved writer. Today, the site of his best-known creation's "home" is a museum, dedicated to preserving the legacy of the pipe-smoking, deerstalker-wearing detective.
The idea of a museum dedicated to a fictional character was a bit ahead of its time; in fact, Conan Doyle's relatives were vehemently opposed to it. This seems quaint today considering that across town there is a large exhibit set up for Doctor Who, and Star Wars has been a popular touring attraction at museums across the USA.
Less-well known is that Conan Doyle also was a pioneering science-fiction author, and the British Library is currently having an exhibition of British contributions in the field. Appropriately enough, the Library, near King's Cross, was also a place where thousands of authors parked to write their novels in one of the "reading rooms" and warrens. The exhibit, which properly features a TARDIS parked in the main lobby and a flying saucer crashed into the stacks, is a great look at how British authors pioneered the genre.
On the way out, I ran smack into a passel of young Manchester United fans, in town for the game, and obviously sharing the same sensibilities.
Coach said it
During Sir Alex Ferguson’s press conference yesterday he was asked by a Chinese reporter if it was "worth it" for her people back East to stay up so late to see the game. He said: "I hope so," to laughter.
Jamie Trecker is a senior writer for FoxSoccer.com covering the UEFA Champions League and the Barclay's Premier League.