I played a lot of sports as a kid. I wasn’t good at any of them, and the one that has always particularly stuck in my mind has been basketball.
I have no idea how my parents talked me into playing, but it must have had something to do with my dad promising to coach the team. Being the mid-90s, I somewhat comically wore the number 23, perhaps hoping it would channel some Michael Jordan into me. It didn’t.
I was terrible at basketball. I didn’t quite get the concept of dribbling the ball and moving down the court at the same time. I would mentally beg for teammates not to pass me the ball. I would cheer when I got to sit on the bench.
And this was when I was still actually tall for my age, believe it or not.
However, like a lot of sports, even though I’m shocking at playing basketball, I’ve always quite liked watching it. It’s good on the telly and it’s even better live, as the music and MCs actually add to the atmosphere.
The basketball at the Olympics was no different. The venue for the preliminary rounds was perfect, and the announcer got us all in the mood by having different sections of the crowd belt out British classics by the Beatles and Robbie Williams – nothing to do with the basketball, but it didn’t matter.
We’d signed up for the night session, which allowed us to see two matches – firstly the Czech Republic come from behind to beat Croatia, and then the United States absolutely demolish Turkey. There were a sprinkling of Americans in the crowd, but support for their team came from everywhere. There’s certainly something about cheering for a good team, and those Americans were pretty damn good.
In front of us were two American teenagers, who turned into raging bulls as soon as any 3-pointer was scored. They were wearing Lakers jerseys, but I have no idea as to whether or not this was something that was ‘done’ by people who were wholly familiar with the game, or this was just a family thing between two brothers. Regardless, they kept Paul and I entertained and they came to the rescue any time we were befuddled by the rules.
The only dampner on the night was the fact that we had to leave early. The second match went until almost midnight and staying until the end would have found us stranded in Stratford without any public transport to take us back to Chingford. By the masses of people who left when we did, it seemed to be one of the few things the London organisers missed.