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Manchester Popular culture Preview/review Sport

Court by the Buzz*: an afternoon with the Manchester Giants

I’ve only been to the basketball once in my life before (I know, shame.on.me.)

Started off low-key at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, with the Brooklyn Nets. I had no clue what was going on. Not entirely helped by being in the nosebleed section. See, I know basketball words.

One minute there was seemingly some basketball being played, next we were being alerted to the presence of a beaming Bill Clinton smiling and waving to us on the big screens (I could just about make him out in the arena – a tiny dot, waving his tiny dot hand), the next t-shirts being fired out of a sort of t-shirt gun at what appeared to be a frightening rate and speed, the next some rapping.

I mean it was all very exhilarating and exciting but anything could have been going down in that court, I only knew it was basketball because it said so on my ticket.

Mind, I did accomplish one of my finest purchases that day. A foam finger in all its glory.

And so when I was kindly invited to a basketball game last Sunday on home turf; that of the mighty Manchester Giants!

Told the game against Plymouth Raiders was a sell-out, with tip-off at 5pm (yes, tip-off! Think kick-off but with fewer feet), we arrived at George H Carnall Leisure Centre, Urmston, about 40 minutes early, assuming plenty of time to have our pick of the bleachers and seats. I had my eye on court-side – if it’s good enough for Jack Nicholson, it’s good enough for me.

Oh how naive I was. As we approached the sports hall, we could hear balls bouncing and beats ringing out from the sideline DJ and as we entered, it was clear that there was to be no court side for me today, no siree!

The atmosphere was electric and the players were still only warming up! As we found our way to the end of a row – not courtside yet not quite ‘nosebleed section’, the beauty of going to see your local team is that you don’t need to be courtside to be engaged with what’s going on.

A brief rundown of the rules (that I will pretend I already knew…

Basketball is played by two teams who score points by throwing a ball into an opposing team’s basket. The team with the most points are the winners.

Each team has a squad of 12, with 5 players on the court at any one time.

You can move the ball round by passing, tapping, throwing, rolling or dribbling.

The game consists of four quarters of 10 minutes each with a 15-minute break at half time. There are also two-minutes interval between the first and second periods, and between the third and fourth periods.

If the game is tied after the fourth period, it continues with an extra period of five minutes, then as many five-minute periods as are necessary to break the tie.

Points are scored for shooting the ball through the hoop – 2 points for a goal within the 3 point semi-circle and 3 points for goals scored from outside.

Free throws, taken from the free-throw line and awarded after a foul, are worth one point.

BBC Sport website

An immersive and seemingly collaborative experience, the MC (?) is on it throughout, helping to whip the fans into a frenzy, encouraging cries of

DE-FENCE, DE-FENCE, DE-FENCE

And of course…

GI-ANTS, GI-ANTS, GI-ANTS

I started off chanting to fit in with the crowd, ending up chanting because, reader, I was willing defence to block that shot (is that the correct terminology?), passionately wanting the Giants to get the ball in the net.

It really does get you.

And then I espied the merch. Was there a Manchester Giants branded foam finger?

Oh yes.

There was.

And it was pretty.

My Brooklyn Nets finger was all fine and dandy but the most miserable shade of grey you could imagine.

This finger was green, of course. Bright green. And it was mine.

I also pondered the many rubber ducks I could see on sale, but the finger was the thing, and I returned to my seat triumphant, noting the slightly tortured look on my face of my partner as he recalled the constant foam jabbing he endured on our last trip to the basketball.

Half-time came and did the action calm down? It did not and suddenly the abundance of rubber ducks became clear as what felt like hundreds starting whizzing past from every direction towards the centre of the court, launched by grinning children, teens, adults alike. What was this sudden onslaught? It was the ‘Chuck a Duck’ challenge, it transpired; closest duck to the centre got its thrower a signed ball!

At one point it seemed like there were as many people on the court as off, as local children and teens lined up to take part in a penalty shoot-out session.

As people returned to their seats and rubber ducks were swept away, it was time to return to the action proper.

Time flies when you’re having fun, as the whole adage goes and it really did feel like the second half flew just flew by as my eyes only momentarily left the court to check that my foam finger wasn’t intruding on someone’s personal space (only happened the once – my partner’s personal space does not count).

Excitingly, the fourth period ended on a draw and so time was played for one team to secure a win. On our feet, we cheered, whooped, chanted with all our might. Sadly it was not to be as Plymouth Raiders narrowly secured the win.

However, and forgive the cheese, we were all winners really (I know the Giants may argue that point), as we’d all enjoyed a brilliant Sunday afternoon.

It really is such an inclusive and immersive experience. And whilst some sporting events and fixtures can feel quite intimidating, I would recommend that parents especially considering getting your children into the game as it’s such a fun and exhilarating sport, and this is coming from a grown woman (yes, foam-finger withstanding – now I own two, I’m ready to set up as a Kenny Everett tribute act – google it..!).

A match report this was not in the sporting sense, but as a new experience and event, the Manchester Giants triumphed.

For details of fixtures and tickets, please visit https://www.manchestergiants.com/

* yes I’ve just been to see Supergrass at Victoria Warehouse

Categories
Hotels Manchester Photography Popular culture Preview/review Travel Uncategorized

Bowled over by the Hilton

Brought up by cricket-loving parents. I can boast that I was there at the infamous Headingley Test in 1981. I was barely stringing a sentence together given my young years

what’s new?

(Good one, me. Who just wrote that too. About me)

… but I was there.

img_1756

And so with that grounding, I had no choice but to have a fondness for the game. I have to admit that my love lies more in the memories that it brings for me than the stats and quality of that day’s fielding…

My Dad in the garden, listening to test match special with its permanently crackly, radio interference against the dulcet tones of RP voices, detailing that day’s play.

I might not be able to tell you all the intricacies of the game, but I’ve seen Warne bowl and I’ve seen Beefy bat. And I like Boycott’s bonkers bantz.

And for those who have no interest in the game whatsoever I’ll get to the point which involves one of the newest hotels to hit Greater Manchester;  Hilton Garden Inn, at Old Trafford Cricket Ground (aka the Emirates Stadium).

Just celebrating its 3 month birthday, I recently checked both myself and husband in to celebrate our 9 year anniversary.

We do that thing where we try and come up with some sort of genius yet tenuous link of a gift, according to what anniversary it is that year; i.e. paper, pottery, copper, ketchup, Pot Noodle, titanium and so on and so forth.

To help our quest, we open up the options to both the modern list and the traditional list (we cheat, essentially, as it can be a ball-ache).

This year I went with ‘willow’. We’d both wanted to check out the new hotel on the block at some point and so I forced a link with cricket – (willow being the bat, those who aren’t au fait with the romantic cricketing description…

the sound of leather on willow

Unfortunately our wedding anniversary inconveniently lies outside of the cricket season (or, more accurately, those games played at Old Trafford Cricket Ground this year.

No matter, this could be a recce for next summer.

Booking a room that faced the pitch (imagining dropping the ball on that one), the view was fantastic enough to please any cricket fan (again, play or no play) and impressive enough for those who don’t know their googly from their search engine).

Throwing open the curtains and french doors alike (it admittedly took a number of goes – reassuringly stiff), your balcony is there waiting for you, the pitch opening up from your privileged vantage point.

On this occasion it was the perfect position to watch the sun go down over Greater Manchester.

One can only imagine the thrill of sitting there watching play on a summer’s day, from your room.

With your little fridge available in the room for cold beverages at will, and a bathroom that doesn’t involve queuing with your fellow fans, you could be forgiven for feeling positively like an MCC member (basically fancy-pants cricket-goer decked out in mustard and maroon).

Away from the view, for a second, The hotel itself is modern and stylish. The rooms comfortable, and the members of staff warm and welcoming.

There was brief hilarity in the hotel bar and restaurant when my request for a margarita cocktail was misunderstood for a margherita pizza (to be fair, it’d be a cold day in hell when I rejected either), but a good night was had by all (both).

Throw those curtains wide (making sure you’re decent first)
So your trip to Trafford be for cricket, football, music or just for the sunsets, I recommend the Hilton Garden Inn at the Emirates Stadium.

Howzat!

Well very good, since you asked. And we’ll be back next summer.

And he’s out
And he’s out!
All the deets.

Categories
Fitness Manchester Marathon Sport

The Greater Manchester Marathon (it’s not Snickers. Heathens) 2016

This was my third marathon. My hat trick.

There, any kind of remote feelings of wonderment towards me must end (only in this regard, of course, carry on for the other reasons).

My third as a spectator, bag looker afterer, next of kin, meerkat impersonator as I attempt to spot my partner in crime (the Rabid Mime) proud supporter and, it has to be said, worrier.

My first was the Greater Manchester Marathon 2013, my second the New York Marathon 2015, and this the third, the Greater Manchester Marathon 2016. 

My marathon (supporting) career resembles a kind of New York sandwich. Which would make it a Reuben.

The journey on the day begins with the actual journey. Early rise on a Sunday, on public transport with fellow runners and fellow supporters – do they feel as embarrassed as me to be in civvy clothing? Probably not as they are sure to be well adjusted and more self assured than myself.

None more so than the couple who swanned on at Cornbrook.

Hey everyone, if you move down it creates space and allows more people on!

This, revelation, mind, was bellowed as the doors were opening. Everyone, not having had a chance to create space. 

We then approach Trafford Bar.

Open the doors! Open the doors and let me off. This is the stop for the Marathon.

A kindly soul gently explains that they are best to get off at Old Trafford Cricket Club, that being, in actual fact, the closest to Old Trafford Cricket Club, the start of the race.

This was met with silence and a refusal by the couple to make eye contact with everyone.


Great weather was matched by a greater location for the race village; Old Trafford Cricket Club. Yes I know its full name includes its sponsor but I’m no corporate puppet, no siree.


I do understand that the baggage collection element of the ‘Manchester Marathon didn’t go brilliantly, but this didn’t affect this blogger and her charge, as this blogger also serves as supporter and packhorse at races.

As always, it was heartwarming (read ‘soul-destroying’) to see all these fit and sporty people, smiling, laughing, and milling right before running 26.2 miles.


It’s important to have a pre-arranged meeting place after any well-populated race. Where better than in the Pavilion with this view:


Goodbyes said, the runners make their way over to the Start Line whilst supporters plan their vantage points, consider how they’ll spend the next few hours, wonder if their phone batteries will last the course (me), where the nearest loo is (me), whether they’ll find somewhere to linger and write, that won’t judge me (see Foundation Coffee House post) .

Most of all, whether they’ll ever find themselves running a marathon (me and no).


After having the brilliant idea to go to the Costa Coffee down the road (did you know that it’s an actual drive-thru?! I’m still getting over my first visit to a McDonalds one, two years ago – what a seamless magical routine they have), I quickly discovered that pretty much everyone had the same idea.

And so it was to the 5 miles mark that I headed, right opposite the infamous Lou Macari’s Chip Shop. Here were lots of fervent supporters and whoopers and there I stood, and filmed, and photographed, and clapped, and managed to miss seeing my runner.

Come on! Hooray! Well done.

You get the general idea.


I and my fellow self-loathers did see plenty of other runners though and magnificent they all were. Two boys behind me made me smile as they listed the characters who were so far beating their dad…

Batman and Robin!

A gorilla!

118 men …

and

Wait for it

A man in a skirt!!!

yes, we’re looking at you man and indeed all men from Scotland.

Some hours later, the runners, they did run and emerged back at Old Trafford Cricket Ground tired, magnificent, happy and victorious.

Whilst this blogger and supporter got out of breath walking over to Salford Quays and back, these runners had been here, there, everywhere and essentially to Altrincham and back.

As I sat in the ground on our pre-arranged spot I was just considering whether a spot where my runner had to walk up steps, immediately after finishing, was wise. And so just as I was looking around for a plan B, up those steps he did appear.

With a personal best of

3.45.03

the Rabid Mime did become the Rapid Mime (brilliant, eh?).

And so another wonderful day for (Greater) Manchester as Mancunians joined with non-Mancunians who came from far and wide, to run, see South Manchester, achieve personal goals and raise money for charity in the

Greater Manchester Marathon 2016.

 

Final mention and word, however, must go to fellow supporters, little George, and his mother, as we were all leaving the race village…

George, you’ve pulled your pants up with tomato ketchup hands!

Congrats to all (especially George)!