I can write this two ways :
THE NICE HAPPY POSTCARD VERSION…
Sleepless in Seattle? I slept 14 hours before heading to Chicago.
Manchester United were brilliant yet again. I don’t think anyone will touch them during the forthcoming season. I got some great pictures including a nice picture of Nani which got published in The Sun newspaper.
It was a really sunny day and it was such a shame that I could not stay longer in this great city.
THE REAL VERSION
Home of the House of Blues I was hoping to lyrically conjure up a great blog quoting Sam and Dave songs and of course Sweet Home Chicago.
Upon arriving in Chicago late in the evening – I forgot about the 2hr time difference – I checked in to my hotel and realised that I had booked number two of my choice on Expedia, the first hotel was downtown, this was most certainly not – though to be fair equi-distant from the stadium and airport.
The plan was to sleep then get up early, park the rental car at the stadium, walk around Chicago for a while and then cover the game at 4pm.
All was going well until I thought a bomb had gone off outside. I lept up and stuck my head out of my hotel window into what only can be described as a sauna. The rain was immense. No that does not sum it up. How does 6.2 inches in 2 hours sound and 24 hours later after another hot day still puddles had not evaporated sound?
The lightening show was terrific. It was impossible to sleep. At 3am, I got my waterproofs ready for the game some 13 hours later!! The TV was not working and I could not certainly sleep with what was going on outside.
As the rain eased leaving the Shell gas station opposite me resembling a lake the next thing I knew it was 10.30am.
Nervously I looked outside – cloudy but no rain – that will do me I said!
I got in the car in anticipation of being at the stadium in 30 minutes. TomTom said 28 and the man on reception said 30. No one told me that it would take nearly three hours!
Then it started again. I should be used to it by now.
When I go to MLS games the organisation is great. Marvellous. 5 Star. Anything else is simply not.
Idiots in uniforma directing traffic with absolutely no idea on where they were directing them to. It was now 14.15, any plans of a stadium feature were gone as after lots of sighing and trying not to get angry one kind soul suggested that I head to the North Gate. The North Gate I went.
Here went my sorry story once more, like a stuck record – sorry I did not come here 2 days ago to get a car parking place. I had my ‘tournament’ credentials which NONE of the idiots even recognised. I even tried the Premier League trick and showed them my EPL card… Nah. A blank piece of paper like Dr Who shows would have meant more.
I needed to get inside the stadium. David De Gea was making his debut, if I got some early pictures of him warming up I may make the last editions of the English press. This was the first game the newspapers had actually contacted me and expressed and interest in what I was doing.
Near the North Gate I saw a turning. I just turned and decided on the looking confident as though I knew where I was going look. But a inept female who looked like she has just come off the Police Academy film set said no. She could not and would not answer any of my questions.. Where SHOULD I park? Where can I park? Ill park ANYWHERE? She just wanted to wave me on back into downtown Chicago.
Now I was blocking traffic. Suddenly a college of hers was sprinting towards me. It was another traffic cop. Was he going to arrest me with his zero tolerance attitude? WIthout ANY sweet talking, smiling or anything after he uttered the immortal words “Where do you think you are going?” I pointed to the underground car park entrance that I saw in front of me. “OK then Sir, feel free..” and with a Colgate smile he stopped the traffic and waved me through.
I so wanted to reverse over the other lady but instead I floored the Kia rental car into the depths of Soldier Field Stadium. $30 was the car park fee – I didn’t care. I was finally here.
I then found myself walking with the Manchester Untied team onto the pitch. The sun came out and I started to wonder why I had taken along a spare bag containing masses amounts of plastic bags and waterproofs.
Near 7 foot 25 stone security men who were probably NFL rejects picked on the little shrew once more. All I wanted to do was take a picture of Sir Alex. Fergie had a new Nike designed shirt on too. But no. Could I try and get the numbskull to turn his head and see 15 photographers by the dugouts awaiting the arrival of the teams and understand that it is protocol for photographers to do their jobs and be there? NO!
Some people who read this always bounce back and suggest why do I not listen to the stewards and abide by their words of wisdom. The simple reason is that these idiots do not know what they were doing. FIFA and UEFA consult me with regards to what photographers need and require and after discussions and understanding from both sides there is normally a relaxed and trusting relationship between media officers and us scruffy snappers. But when soccer comes to town the Americans simply do not have a clue. I should not get angry about it but the simple reason is that my clients, the newspapers back home and my picture library want and need pictures of one of the most successful managers in football history and its not my fault if my American colleagues with their tripods and videoing things instead of snapping are not interested thus the same old argument of stay with the other photographers always comes out.
I’m past caring.
As the postcard version went, Man U were great and easily won.
I really like Chicago but was so pleased to be going back to LA where I know the Galaxy would let me do my job.