If there’s one BBL fixture I’m looking forward to, it’s next month’s clash between my beloved Cheshire Jets and their northwest rivals Mersey Tigers.
Not just because it’s a derby game that may have a knock-on effect on who claims the final play-off spots, but because it’s on home turf and there’s no chance of me making the same embarrassing mistake I made during when the clubs last met at Knowsley Leisure & Culture Park. That is, I sat with the wrong set of fans.
Although I’ve seen the Jets take on the Tigers plenty of times, the last time I saw my team play their nearest rivals away was when the Merseyside outfit played at the Greenbank Sports Academy, so I had no idea where I was meant to sit at their newest home.
Nevertheless, when my friend and I got into the building, I found two seats near one of the baskets and decided they were good enough.
It was only few seconds after tip-off and I was already well into the game. I couldn’t stay quiet any longer. “Come on, Cheshire,” I shouted, “let’s get going.”
I could feel, and see, a crowd of eyes around me, staring at me as if I’d done something wrong. I thought I was going to be lynched for the rest of the evening. I even thought about moving seats to avoid the barrage of insults and flying objects that would soon be coming my way.
It wasn’t like that at all. The Tigers fans around us realised what had happened and saw the funny side of it. They didn’t just laugh though and move on, they talked to us at the end of each quarter about our thoughts on the game, both side’s seasons so far and what was going on in league. Also, during the match, we were able to loudly exchange some friendly banter.
What’s interesting is that this isn’t the first time I’ve seen this happen. I can remember three Leicester Riders fans sitting next to me during a tie at the Northgate Arena in 2009 and, similarly, my fellow Jets fans and I were more than happy to watch the game with their company.
What these experiences have taught me is that British basketball fans are of a different breed. They don’t turn up every week to see their team smash the opposition. They turn up because they have a genuine love for the sport that they enjoy sharing. Long may it continue.