If you’re anything like me (and I suggest if you’re a regular to this website then you are), no sporting event is ever the same if you’re not there to see it in person.
No amount of extreme close-ups, slow-mo replays, special comments or Richie Benaud hawking limited offer commemorative memorabilia will ever replace the one element missing from television coverage, atmosphere.
Now you can get close to it by watching sport at the local pub, right down to the long queues for the toilets. The closest I ever got was when my old soccer club used to show the FA Cup live in the local cinema, lights off with a liquored crowd.
So I want to hear from the Roarers out there: What is the best atmosphere you have ever come across at a sporting event?
Here are my favourites (in no particular order):
NFL: St Louis Rams vs. Indianapolis Colts – 2001, Edward Jones Dome, St Louis, MO, USA
Now granted, Peyton Manning was still a work in progress but on this day he got a lesson from one of the finest of the day, Kurt Warner. In 2001, St Louis were ‘the Greatest Show on Turf’ after winning the 2000 Superbowl and having the amazing running/receiving combination of Faulk/Holt/Bruce.
Tickets for the entire season sold out in 30 minutes so the fact I was at the game at all was a miracle. Edward Jones is a 60k+ indoor stadium with all the trimming so the sound was incredible. And as always, the home team winning made the atmosphere even better.
Cricket: Australia vs. England (and Wales) – 2009, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff, Wales
My first Ashes test, managed to get to three days. There’s nothing quite the banter that goes on in an English cricket crowd, Barmy Army or not. Coupled with an Australian contingent who had obviously spent a few years in the UK and learnt a thing or two about chanting themselves.
The climax to the game was brilliant as the crowd became more animated on the 5th day, hoping for a draw (typical English). Then watching in shock as Ponting threw in Marcus North, hoping to bowl out the resilient Panesar (how often do those words go together) will forever be etched in my mind.
And a perfect example of why a packed small stadium is always better than a big empty one.
Soccer: Club Cienciano vs. CA Boca Juniors – 2007 Estadio Garcilaso de la Vega, Cusco, Peru
Now I have been to Nou Camp, Maracana, Bombanera and other famous football grounds, but nothing has come close to the atmosphere in Cusco for this Copa Libertadores game. The whole city was buzzing for this match.
The big boys only flew in only hours before kick off to try prevent the impact of altitude sickness but they may not have bothered after 3-0 upset victory from the locals.
It had everything you wanted at the football, chanting, flares, flags draping over the crowd, people clammering up razor wire fences to celebrate with the players. It was sheer joy shared by the whole city, not just the stadium, and celebrated for days afterwards.
Rugby Union: Australia vs. Wales – 2008, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales
My first rugby game as a recent convert, even bought a Wallabies Jersey the morning of the game. Millenium Stadium (again indoors) will always produce a great atmosphere for two reasons, location and singing, not chanting, but singing.
It is located literally in the centre of Cardiff and being rugby territory, if you’re not at the game, you’re watching it at one of the many pubs on St Mary St. The centre of town is so full the police stop all traffic and Cardiff turns into a massive roundabout.
But what made it special was listening to 70k+ Welshmen singing ‘Bread of Heaven’, all in key, spurring their boys to hold on in the final moments. Bad result for me but it still sent chills down the spine.