Monday, 16 January 2012

Memories Are Made of This

In 1997 for the only time in my life I was in America for Super Bowl Sunday. Hours before the Packers and Patriots clashed in New Orleans I was where I normally would be on a Sunday morning, at Church. I still remember the opening prayer: "Lord, we know you don't care about sports..."

Respectfully, I would disagree. Don't get me wrong, I don't think God cares about teams and scores, but the individuals involved? Oh, I strongly believe that God cares about them. And the fans involved. And for the life changing events that coincide with sporting events? God, in my view at least, definitely cares about those.

Every once in a while someone will ask me about a particular event, and more often than any normal person would do, I'll be able to reel off everything about it and even get down to the date it took place.

Now in all honesty, part of this is because I kept a diary for not far short of a decade (1988-1997), but a lot of this relates to sporting events and when they took place. Obviously most of these are Palace games, as from the time that I first started supporting Palace until my move to Scotland those games were what I planned my leisure activities around. I tended to always know who Palace were playing and on what dates, especially so during the time I was in London at university (1993-1996).

Regardless of where I was during those years, the card sent to me by Palace's box office which provided a handy-sized guide to the season's fixtures wouldn't be far away, and fixture dates didn't change much at that time (Sky and UEFA have a lot to answer for), so I tended to know most fixture dates off the top of my head. I always looked forward to Palace games, so I guess the dates became lodged in my head (which isn't so useful when you can't find things like your mobile phone or your keys, but can remember immediately tell someone who Palace played on a certain date and who scored).

There are certain stretches of games which I remember really well, like in February and March 1996. You'll have to take my word for it that I didn't look this up:

February 17th - Watford (H), won 4-0
February 20th - Tranmere (A), won 3-2
February 24th - Huddersfield (A), lost 3-0
February 27th - Birmingham City (H), won 3-2
March 2nd - Luton Town (A), drew 0-0
March 5th - Grimsby (H), won 5-0
March 9th - WBA (H), won 1-0
March 12th - Tranmere (H), won 2-1
March 16th - Grimsby (A), won 2-0 (the only game in March that I missed in this list)
March 19th - Luton Town (H), won 2-0
March 23rd - Portsmouth (H), drew 0-0
March 30th - Millwall (A), won 4-1

(Okay, I looked this up after typing what I remembered. I got the Tranmere home score wrong, as it was the away game that we beat them 3-2 and I got them mixed up. I also forgot when the game at Tranmere was, because for some reason I thought that took place in January despite hearing the Palace end singing "We're gonna win 3-2!" before the kick-off at Huddersfield. And I forgot the home Luton game, which was an awful game until we scored two late goals. The most memorable part of that game was a Luton striker nearly getting a shot into the Upper Tier of the Holmesdale. But everything else? That was spot on, trust me on this. Not bad for a five-minute task undertaken nearly 16 years after the facts.)

And if it wasn't enough to know fixture dates in advance you'd have the season review videos to confirm them afterwards. You would watch back and think, "Why wasn't I at that game?" and then I would remember where I was instead (not that I had a great inclination to go to Grimsby's Blundell Park, but to give you one example when Palace were winning there I was at home in Hampshire seeing my family and friends for the weekend).

Anyway, I do remember more than just scores, scorers and other obscure events. Here are a few examples of remembering dates in some part due to sporting events:
  • I found out I was going to be a Dad for the first time just prior to flying down for the Crystal Palace v Norwich game in 2005 (16th April 2005 - , although I flew down the day before so I actually found out on the 15th).
  • On the day that my now wife was first hospitalised with her diabetes after we were together I came home and unwound while not really watching the France v Italy World Cup Quarter Final (3rd July 1998)
  • I had my hernia operation on 19th September 1996, which I remember as it was on the Thursday following Palace's 3-1 over Manchester City, which took place on my Dad's birthday. (The game was memorable for a great Palace performance and also for being the only time that I've sat in the Player's Lounge section of Selhurst Park.)
  • I attended the Silk Cut Challenge at Arundel on 21st September 1985 and stayed at my Dad's, which is what reminds me that going out for lunch the next day was the last time I saw my half-sister for 25 years (photo from Friday's play - it was also when I had my two-day flirtation with being a vegetarian, but that's another matter).
A lot of these dates are ones which can now be looked up online, as you can tell from the links above. There seem to be databases for everything, from football results, to cricket scorecards, to just simple calendars which help to confirm that a particular date fell on a particular day (without recalling all the fixtures that month I still have a mental block about whether Palace beat Millwall in 1996 on either the 30th or 31st March, a 1996 calendar confirms it was the 30th - this actually doesn't make sense as it was my favourite day of a horrible year for me).

Having been to lots of football matches you do hear people mention dates of events in their own lives, and if (like me) you've been to lots of football matches you can't help but think about what scores took place on or near those dates. Thankfully my friends are gracious with me, and tend to laugh at me kindly instead of brazenly mocking me.

Of course some dates are significant enough to be remembered by themselves (e.g. when I got engaged, got married, my children's birthdays, when I became a Christian, etc.), and others where I remember the sporting dates because of other events (e.g. Palace playing at Charlton on 26th September 1993 because that was the day I started university, or the Cantona incident taking place on 25th January 1995 because of a letter I received the day before).

So without sounding dismissive that is how I tend to remember dates. It is almost certainly a shallow way to do so, and arguably it isn't that important to remember these dates anyway, but I do tend to remember dates and that's the way that I do so.

And that Super Bowl Sunday's date? 26th January 1997, which I happen to remember because I flew into California on Monday the 20th. Even now there are still some things I haven't forgotten.