Saturday, 4 July 2009

Happy 4th July

Ah, the fourth of July.
Obviously as an Englishman it means just one thing.

Gazza's tears, two missed penalties, Peter Shilton's legs finally showing their age when they refused to react to a deflected free kick, Lineker motioning to Sir Bobby and mouthing "Have a word with him", the English crowd humming the tune to the 'Dambusters' as the German team piled on top of each other in celebration.

I've seen the highlights of that evening in July 1990 countless times.
I'm pretty sure that I could have a fair stab at doing the commentary word for word if I needed to.

Everyone knows exactly where they were on the day.
I know I do.

I wasn't in the newly opened Stadio Delle Alpi in Turin.
I wasn't round at a friends house knocking back the beers and getting a bit lairy.
I wasn't even sitting home alone or listening on the radio while driving up the motorway.

Unbelievably, I wasn't even watching it at all.

I was a student in South Wales at the time and had managed to secure myself a J-1 work permit and visa under the reciprocal UK/USA student scheme.

I had flown out to New York City, (JFK airport), with 2 mates while England were playing their earlier match against Belgium.
The pilot told the passengers of David Platt's last gasp winner, leading to loud cheering and pestering of the trolley dollies for celebratory beers.

A few days later, I was to be found on the long avenue called Benjamin Franklin Parkway which leads up to the Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art.

If you have seen the 1976 film 'Rocky,' you will be aware of the long Parkway and the museum.
It's where Rocky runs at speed and then sprints up the steps to bounce around at the top, signifying his fitness levels are at their peak.
The steps are still known locally as 'the Rocky steps'.

I was there to sell ice cream at the 'Freedom Fest'.
An estimated 300,000 to half a million people were there to witness a big free concert on the 'Rocky Steps', culminating in the most spectacular firework display.

The day had started well.
We had gone out for breakfast at WaWa's and managed to find out there were some local Spanish language television stations who were showing World Cup games.
Our next challenge was finding someone with a TV that received one of them.

Unbelievably, we managed to invite ourselves to someone's home and all was going well until it dawned on us, shortly before half time that we were due at work in only half an hour. The journey on the subway to the depot was around 20 minutes so we had a heartbreaking decision to make.

I spent the second half wondering what was going on in Turin and selling Jack and Jill ice creams to people who really didn't need the extra calories.

I lost count of how many times people recognised my English accent, and then asked me how Independence Day was celebrated in London.
I had to point out, gently, that as they were celebrating independence from us, it wasn't something we spent much time getting the banners and bunting out for.

There were lots of big name artists who performed and got the crowd jumping.

Local Soul diva Patti LaBelle was totally fantastic in my opinion but the 50 minute show by the (also local) Hooters seemed to be totally out of this world for everyone else.
If I'm honest, I've never listened to them before or since but everyone around me spent their show hanging onto each other, singing the words and waving lighters in the air.

I might have been able to enjoy the show a bit more if the local cops hadn't come to hassle me and ask to see my permit.
Of course I didn't have one as it was the company who had been given the certificates rather than the individual vendors.
I had to move to somewhere else and nearly got myself arrested when I accidentally said out loud what was running through my brain.

After the firework finale, packing up, taking the gear back to the depot and a late night subway journey we found ourselves back at our local neighbourhood bar, 'Murphy's' on Spruce street.
We still hadn't found out the final score of the game.

Upon entering Murphy's, we noticed a loud group of teutonic types getting merrily messy and drinking copious amounts of draft beer from pitchers.

Uh oh!

It didn't take long for us to be filled in on the details.

I have very few memories of the rest of that night.
My mate Sibbs went missing in an alcoholic haze and my other companion Nobby ended up getting involved in a game of pool that seemed to require a lot of pushing, shoving and swearing.
I have no idea how we all got back to our place in one of the 'liveliest' / dangerous places in America at that time.

It was at least 6 months before I finally got around to watching the highlights of that night in Turin.
I've seen them so many times since that I sometimes forget I didn't see them live. They've become part of our collective consciousness.

Happy Independence Day!


Anonymous said...

Nice one Marco!

charlton north-downs said...

Great piece Marco -The sad thing is we were much the better team and and by an inch Waddle's long range effort would have gone in off the post. Are we destined never to see another World Cup Win or a Wimbledon winner in our live time. Your more likely to see one of those than me. Disappointed not to be seeing Murray play Federer
Roddick a real street fighter deserves to win today and I hope he does against the best player the world has ever seen.

Marco. said...

They both deserved to win.
Roddick just ran out of energy first in my opinion.
Totally absorbing.