Time to concentrate on soccer

The New Orleans Saints lost their divisional playoff against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, in the last second of the game. I mean that literally, not metaphorically.

The Saints were rubbish in the first half in the U.S. Bank Stadium, the ground where Chelsea played AC Milan in a pre-season friendly in August 2016. They went in at the break 17-0 behind, but scored two touchdowns to bring it back to 17-14, before the Vikings converted a field goal to make it 20-14. With less than three minutes remaining the Saints ran in a touchdown to sneak into a 21-20 lead.

There were 89 seconds to go when the Vikings chalked up another field goal to retake the lead at 23-21, but 64 seconds later the Saints matched that kick and went back ahead, 24-23. Just 25 seconds left to play.

Unfortunately for the black-and-gold's from Louisiana, and fortunately for the purple-and-gold's from Minneapolis, the Vikings scored at the death, running in the game-winning points as the clock hit zero, ending up 29-24 winners.

Some aspects reminded me of watching the Blues, some were different.

The contest was more of an event than any Chelsea fixture back home. In the UK, you perhaps go to a friend’s house with a few beers to watch a big game, but here in Louisiana it’s a party. The host cooks, guests bring dishes and alcohol and it’s a feast like at Easter, Christmas and the World Cup final rolled into one.

However what was similar was the fans’ ridiculous superstitions. With the Saints taking a battering, a guest decided the way to 'turn things around' was for everyone to go to the nearby pub and watch it there. How our geographical realignment would affect a sporting contest taking place 1,200 miles away was never explained to me, but still, off we all went. It worked for a while.

What struck me about the crowd at the pub was that (almost) everyone was rooting for the Saints. I saw just two fans in Vikings’ gear among the hundreds of punters. In most cities in Britain there are multiple teams, and those rooting for one club are often tempered by those rival supporters supporting the opposition. But here the Saints are the only NFL franchise for hundreds of miles.

But their season is over and they won’t play another competitive game for more than seven months. Meanwhile Chelsea have two matches a week in three different competitions in January. At least for the next four months I can concentrate on that kind of football.