Chattanooga v Bay Cities, Saturday 28th May 2022, 7.30pm

A trip to the US had been in my diary for over a year as there were a couple of family celebrations going on that fitted nicely into a month or so driving around. We were meant to start and finish in New York but as Jen had been stuck in the South since January waiting for a UK visa I decided to head out early and add another couple of weeks to the front end.

We met up in New Orleans and spent a couple of nights in and around the French Quarter. The days were reasonably quiet whilst the evenings, as you might expect, were a lot livelier. There weren’t any sporting activities going on, but I did drive past the Superdome where Ali fought Spinks in ’78.

After New Orleans we travelled on to Mississippi and stayed at Jen’s Dad’s house for a few days. It’s out in the country and I didn’t do a great deal other than lounge about and walk the dog, Roscoe. I hope he is named after the Dukes of Hazard character.

The parts of the trip that had already been booked meant that we had to be up in New York a couple of weeks after I arrived to pick up a hire car and begin the original itinerary. The first stop on the way there was Bryant, Alabama, which is around half an hour from Chattanooga. It had been partly selected because of a game in Chattanooga at the Finley Stadium.

Parking initially seemed difficult until I realised that the metered spots only charged up until 6pm. That saved me from having to download and register Apps that invariably asked me for details that I couldn’t supply.

There was a lengthy queue for tickets, but I found a small window where a fella printed them for me without any fuss. I think that they were just under fifteen dollars each once the various taxes and fees had been added.

Getting into the ground proved to be slightly more problematic, or at least it did for Jen. She had a small handbag with her that apparently contravened the requirements to either be see-through or as small as an ‘index-card’. I went in whilst she nipped back to the car to drop it off.

Finley Stadium has large open seated stands down each side of the pitch. There’s some sort of hospitality area behind one goal and a grassy bank behind the other, complete with a couple of ice cream vans for whenever the small kids needed a break from rolling down the hill. Only one stand was open, and I found a space towards the back well away from most of the other people there.

The stadium is shared with an American football team and so both sets of markings were present on the artificial turf. I hadn’t realised before how narrow an American football pitch is and it easily fitted inside the real football markings.

Directly ahead of us was the singing section of the stand. There were around a hundred or so supporters standing, jumping and twirling their scarves to the beat of three or four drums. There was also a trombone in there although it seemed to be more waved in the air than played.

Proceedings were directed by what I’ve recently learned is known as a ‘Capo’ who spent the game facing his fellow supporters rather than the pitch and making sure that the noise levels didn’t drop. There was one song, as you might expect, about a Chattanooga Choo Choo, complete with railroad tooting arm signals.

The game was in the third tier NISA League with Chattanooga in dark blue and opponents Bay Cities in white. The home side had most of the possession in the first half and took the lead early on. They looked to have added a second just before half-time but the header was ruled out.

I’d forgotten how much of a big deal a caution is over here, with each one being greeted with glee by the stadium announcer. There were also lengthy adverts during play where the announcer would extol the merits of a local car dealership or a brand of hot sauce. It’s something that is creeping in at the Boro with substitutions sponsored by someone or other. I’m not a fan, but then again I don’t have to fund the club to the same extent as Gibbo does.

At half-time I popped downstairs for a coke. There were plenty of options for eating and drinking, meaning that nobody had to queue for too long. Although maybe the low attendance of just under three thousand helped with that too.

Chattanooga doubled their lead five minutes into the second half from a penalty and then added a third soon after. At that point the game looked to be over with Bay Cities dead and buried.

The visitors were back in the game on the hour with a shot that crept into the corner and should probably have been kept out. They scored a second a few minutes later and with twenty minutes to go I was hoping for a frantic finish.

Chattanooga killed the game off with their fourth though ten minutes from time to take the points. There was a firework display to conclude the evening, but we left them to it and watched from a distance as we headed along the highway back to Bryant.

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