28 February 2014

Supporting Orient in exile

When I was young I had two dreams: one was to meet Siobahn from Bananarama, the other was to one day appear in a Leyton Orient programme. Annoying I'm yet to achieve the first, but last week I wrote about my experience of supporting a team from afar for the Bible of Brisbane Road. This is it... 

I would do anything for Orient, but I won't do that... 
When I first met the girl who is now my wife, I had to reveal a terrible, dark secret to her: that I was a Leyton Orient season ticket holder. I explained that the one thing she could never, ever ask me to do was to miss a match. Specifically I said: "I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that." (Most of my chat-up lines in those days came from Meat Loaf songs.)

Yes, there’s nothing I hate more than missing Orient games, so when I made the decision to spend 2014 living in Berlin for work reasons (well, that and the sausages and techno), it was with something of a heavy heart.

Now, in some of Orient’s less successful seasons, the only thing more painful than having to follow the games from abroad was having to follow the games from inside Brisbane Road. (Believe me, I was living in Hong Kong for the ill-fated 1994/95 season and 6,000 miles wasn’t nearly far enough.)

This season, of course, it’s all different and supporting a promotion-challenging team from afar can be very frustrating. But there are a number of things that make it bearable. For me, Twitter is a great source of comfort. Following the tweets of hundreds of Orient fans throughout each game is a wonderful way to ride the ebb and flow of the action. Each Tweeter has their own personality, from the doom-mongers to the naysayers to the defeatists. (There are probably some positive, upbeat people on there somewhere too, I just haven't found them yet.)  

Dave Victor: Ten seconds
behind the times
Through some quirk of technology, Twitter is always about 10 seconds ahead of the commentary on Orient Player, so you’ll always see a tweet reading "GOAL TO ORIENT!!!" some moments before the man with microphone Dave Victor actually reports it. It’s like being able to see into the future.

Post-game the Orient messageboard is a great way to discover in detail who played well, who played badly and who should be sent before a firing squad. Curiously, the most detail and the strongest opinions often come from fans who – like me – weren’t actually in attendence. 

Then of course there is the army of Orient bloggers (I say army, there’s about four). I love reading these as they give a real personal flavour to the experience of each game. And lastly there are the long post-match reports via telephone I demand from my Dad. It’s probably a bit of hassle for him, but, it’s his fault I support Orient in the first place so it’s the least he can do.

So, while all of this is of course no substitute for actually being at Brisbane Road, I’m still able to feel something of a connection. And besides, Germany is an hour ahead of the UK so I actually know the result of each game 60 minutes before you lot do. But don’t worry, I won’t be tweeting any spoilers.
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