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An American in Britain

With the lineup across the pond, I might not return

Posted: Wednesday June 15, 2005 1:30PM; Updated: Wednesday June 15, 2005 1:30PM
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Malcom Glazer
With Malcom Glazer in town, there's plenty of sports gossip across the pond.
Elliot J. Schecter/Getty Images

MANCHESTER, England -- Greetings from Great Britain, where sunshine is a myth. I'm in the northern city of Manchester, chasing around the semi-defunct band The La's (There She Goes) as it performs three shows this week -- its first together in more than a decade.

The timing could have been better. First, last Saturday Roxy Music played together at the Isle of Wight Festival for the first time in 22 years. On Monday, the day of the first La's show, Pink Floyd announced it would be performing together at the upcoming Live 8 in London's Hyde Park for the first time in 24 years. That kind of stole The La's thunder.

About the show in Sheffield -- its first together in more than a dozen years -- brilliant, as my mates here would say. Eighteen pop confections in just over an hour. You know what I was hoping for? I was hoping that it would NOT play There She Goes. As in, "Yeah, we know why you're here, and we know you've been waiting for a dozen years to hear us play it live. Well, bollocks to you!" That would have made Blender's next 50 Greatest Moments in Rock to be sure.

As for tonight, The La's play in Manchester. Across town at another venue another band will be performing simultaneously. Perhaps you've heard of them? U2 (and Snow Patrol is opening).

Despite the soupy clime, Britain is great right about now. To begin with, there's the onslaught of music festivals criss-crossing with the U2 tour as well as Bob Geldof's 20th anniversary Live Aid tribute. Just some of the bands that will perform in the UK this month: U2, REM, Coldplay, The Killers, Oasis (whose Lyla is getting huge airplay), Pink Floyd, System of a Down, Snow Patrol, Weezer, Green Day,The White Stripes, Kings of Leon and Franz Ferdinand. Oh, and of course, The La's. As Roger Waters (or was it David Gilmour?) once sang, "Wish you were here."

And the sports news is nearly as big. Just a hundred miles or so from where I type, munching on crisps (potato chips), the Royal Ascot races are getting underway in York. To us Yanks, Ascot is best known as a scene from My Fair Lady, when Eliza Doolittle implores the horse to "move yer bloomin' arse!" Ascot is being held in the City of York for the first time (the Berkshire course is undergoing renovation), which inspired this typical-British sports lede in yesterday's edition of The Independent: "The Yorkshire capital is braced for its biggest invasion since Ivar the Boneless and his Viking hordes stormed the city in 867."

I mean, I'm sorry, but against that type of history, what chance does an American sportswriter have?

Surely I am not the first Yank to discover and be awed by the wonders of the U.K. My colleague and friend Steve Rushin has been an avowed Anglophile for years. Still, it's fun to be here. It's fun to read about the perils of Eamonn McManus, chairman of the St. Helens Rugby Club, who "is to be the subject of an official complaint for allegedly dropping his trousers in Saffords' VIP lounge after the match last Friday." Apparently, McManus has dropped trou before, purportedly to show off a wound in his thigh he allegedly received while jumping over a rusty fence following a recent St. Helens victory.

In America right now, everyone is talking about Manu (Ginobili). Here, the talk is of Man U. (i.e., Manchester United). Despite the hostile takeover of England's most famous football club by Malcolm Glazer (he now owns 97.3 percent of the team) and the promises of a boycott of both the team and its sponsors by protesters, Manchester United announced today that season ticket sales are proceeding at a record pace. The club has already surpassed last year's sale of 40,072 season tickets (capacity is 42,500) -- this despite a 10 percent increase in ticket prices.

It goes to show you that no matter what side of the pond you are on, fan boycotts are futile. Nothing succeeds like success, no matter how onerous the owner. Doesn't matter if you're George Steinbrenner or Glazer.

Must go now. It's time to queue up for La's tickets.

Cheers, mates.