Football Replacement Service
The end of the football season is a dark time for many of us, but especially for Half-life.
‘What are we supposed to do?’ he laments, annually. ‘Talk about feelings?’
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) normally affects people in winter as the days shorten and temperatures dip. But for Half-life it’s the summer that hurts, particularly if there is no international football tournament to wrest him from his despond.
It’s suspected the lack of sunlight is the cause of SAD, but for some it’s the lack of light from a television, in a dark pub.
The symptoms include a persistent low mood, a loss of pleasure or interest in everyday activities, irritability, feelings of guilt, despair and worthlessness, an overwhelming lethargy and an irresistible longing for a nap. Actually Half-life’s like that most of the year, but at least during the footy season he has distractions.
But Half-life isn’t alone. Many of us wonder what to do with our eyes in June and July. There are, of course, many other sports that deserve attention that just can’t get a look in when the beautiful game is on. Below is a guide to some of the best summer options and where to enjoy them.
The British and Irish Lions
Like the Olympics, the World Cup, or Half-life’s round, a Lions’ tour only takes place once every four years, making it special and rare. This year it’s is in New Zealand, so with kick-off around 8.30am, it’s perfectly acceptable to have a pint with breakfast. After all, it’s the very apex of your fifth favourite sport.
The Lions are selected from the best players the Home Nations have to offer, a bit like The Avengers, and face the All Blacks in three Test matches. The All Blacks are the best team in the world so every match is a major sporting event and therefore best enjoyed with mood-enhancing booze.
You’ll feel a small tingle on setting an alarm in order to rise in time for the pub. And a little smile may find its way to your face as you drift off to sleep.
‘You’re up early,’ the missus may note.
‘Got to get to the boozer for 8am, my love,’ I’ll say, hurriedly and unsuccessfully searching for a Polo shirt for that collar-up style so beloved of egg-chasing types.
‘Is it time we had that talk?’ she’ll says with concern.
‘Oh no,’ I’ll say. ‘For I am supporting my fellow Britons and Irelanders in their noble quest to defeat the mightiest of the mighty while I have a bacon sandwich and a lovely pint.’
I imagine she’ll give me a big kiss and a cuddle at this point, relieved that seated sporting endeavour has triumphed over alcoholism, even if they bear quite a resemblance.
Having said that, if you’ve had four pints by 10am, the path of your day has already been set – and it’s a long and winding one.
When: June 24, July 1, July 8. Kick-off 8.35am.
Where: The Actress, East Dulwich is our pick. She’ll be open from 8am and serving breakfast.
This sport of the time-rich is a boon to the summer Deserter. Imagine, five days is a pub with a load of stats and incomprehensible feats with a leather ball.
Kick-off is at 11am and it goes on for anything up to eight hours, with breaks for lunch, tea and possibly elevenses. You don’t even have to pay much attention until you hear the crowd cheer. And then, if it gets all climactic, you’re perfectly placed to absorb the drama – at the bar and three sheets to silly mid-on.
This summer England play a Test series against a tough South Africa side. When my littl’un asked what I would be if I could be any animal, I said: ‘Ben Stokes’ – a monster with bat and ball and spearhead of an exciting, young, England team. Still, if it goes tits up, you’re perfectly placed to console yourself – at the bar etc.
When: 1st Test July 6-10, 2nd Test July 14-18, 3rd Test July 27-31, 4th Test August 4-8.
Where: If you’re lucky enough to get tickets, the 3rd Test is in South London, at The Oval. Otherwise, we like The Sheaf, partly because it’s below street level and sometimes, if you’re spending all day in a pub, you don’t want to be reminded it’s summer. Also, don’t we all want to get behind Borough right now?
To get the full willow-on-leather experience you could repair to The Cricketers in Richmond where you might be lucky enough to catch a live game on the green outside. A lovely experience, especially if England are getting stuffed.
Plus, if you’re up for county cricket, you can catch Surrey for a fab day out at the The Oval or, if you’re a bit of a Kent, like me, the County Ground at Beckenham hosts a couple of first XI games each summer.
Tour De France
Another sporting event that requires at least the afternoon off, this one is gruelling to compete in, but relaxing to watch, as half the time you’re taking in the extraordinary French countryside with a beer and a baguette, just as Dieu intended.
And while your attendance may not be required until 2pm, the Tour goes on for three weeks, so you may get saddle sore, if you haven’t prepared properly by spending weeks in a bar beforehand.
Remember the cyclists are not allowed drugs but there’s no law against you taking some (though we should point out we’re not actually legal professionals).
When: July 1-23.
Where: It’s got to be the Look Mum No Hands! pop-up at London Bridge, isn’t it? Not only do they serve a fine selection of lovely London craft brews and jugs of Pimm’s, they’ve got a big screen by the river with that chilled atmos that seems to surround Lycra enthusiasts. You’ll even have commentary from Deserter aficionado, Ned Boulting.
Alternatively, London Velo in Deptford will project the race on the wall if you’re looking for cafe-bar vibes.
Many of us are only tennis fans once a year, during Wimbledon. It is a special tournament. It’s in South London and it’s on grass – just like us.
Andy Murray is the defending champion and while not everyone loves him, you’d best make your peace and enjoy him while he’s here, as you’ll be extremely fortunate to see another Brit as good as him in your lifetime.
Johanna Konta even gives us a shout in the women’s. Roxy is not happy about this, as she thinks Johanna has come to prominence from nowhere, which is a bit harsh on Australia. The Raider agrees with her, but I suspect this is because of his deep, abiding love for Heather Watson, now the British No.2.
When: July 3-16.
Where: Tons of pubs will have it on as it’s on the Beeb, so you can probably watch it at your local if you ask nicely. But for an outdoor deckchair experience it’s hard to beat the big screen outside The Refinery in Bankside.
Another outdoor option is General Gordon Square in Woolwich but you are no longer allowed to drink there, tragically. It might look like only the middle class are trusted with booze in the open air, but they’ve had problems with anti-social drinking in Woolwich town centre, so there’s a blanket ban, widely supported by locals. Still, it’s a shame, particularly as there’s a lovely pub on the square.
It’s a very exciting sport to watch, once you get the hang of it: Fierce, fast and physical, with plenty of skill and strength. 15-a-side, three points for kicking or punching the ball into the net, and one for kicking it over the bar.
33 teams compete in the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship. That’s 31 of Ireland’s 32 counties, plus London and New York. It was a surprise to find out London had a team and even more so that South London does. The Dulwich Harps field men and women’s teams on Peckham Rye Park.
Understanding what’s going on is not essential as you can be guaranteed a good time in any pub showing GAA.
When: Quarter-finals, July 29, 30 and Aug 5.
Where: The Blythe HIll Tavern, Catford, is the natural choice, being one of finest pubs in the free world.
All the above Irish pubs are also fine places for watching your investments at the horse racing, as is the Lord Clyde, in Borough, a dedicated friend of the turf. But there are few better days out than going to the course itself. Take the Racing Post and a few tinnies on the train from Waterloo to Windsor & Eton Riverside and catch the (licensed) boat to Windsor Races‘ Monday evening meet to get rich and pished at the same time.
Running, jumping, throwing stuff
Remember the London Olympics, when the world loved us and we loved the world? I can’t promise the IAAF World Championships are going to engender the same feels, but it is the biggest global sports event of 2017 and it’s taking place in London this August, for the first time. Also, we may need something to get to the start of the football season and it will help us avoid the deeply unsatisfying friendlies. It’s on the Beeb so you can watch heroic acts of athletic achievement from the safety of the bar.
And there’s more on summer hijinx in our podcast:
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