I’ve always believed that life is not about the possessions you accumulate, it’s about the experiences you have. A couple of weeks ago I had one such experience that I won’t forget for a long time to come.
As a bit of a back story I’ve been following my local team Oxford United through good and bad, for over thirty years. From the high of winning the league cup in 1986, to the black days of the conference and then the joy of a second win at Wembley in 2010 to get us back into the football league, the love for the club runs deep.
This past Saturday I was privileged to be able to lead the two teams out for the match against AFC Wimbledon (another team with a very interesting and at times painful history) as the 12th man flag bearer. As part of being the flag bearer I was given a guided tour, with two very enthusiastic and happy mascots, around the backrooms of the Kassam. I had a chat with a few of the players and really got the vibe of what it’s like to be there behind the scenes on match day.
Before I knew it was time to grab the flag and wait at the end of the tunnel for both teams to come out. Again feeling that atmosphere of match day at close quarters, greeting the players as they came off from their warm up and getting an “alright mate” from the Mickey “Mad Dog” Lewis, Oxford’s caretaker manager was brilliant and I couldn’t stop smiling.
Then it was time to lead the teams out, with flag in hand I proudly walked ahead of the teams and stood on the centre spot soaking up the atmosphere, which compared to sitting in the stands, was 100 times louder. There was time for some photos, once again with the two bouncing by now mascots, a quick handshake with the Wimbledon captain and match officials, and a quick “good luck” to our captain Jonny Mullins and it was over. It was an experience that will live long in my memory, and what made it better is that we won a pretty close match 2-1!
So if you ever have the chance, especially if it’s a once a in a lifetime kind of thing, grab it with both hands as experiences like the one I had on Saturday are what life is worth living for.