I am a born and bred Devon boy and I have supported Somerset for nearly as long as I have followed cricket. I live in Warwick and have a young family so I rarely get to attend matches for any of the teams I support, so I am what some people might refer to as a ‘plastic fan.’
Alongside my summer passion for Somerset I follow two ‘winter teams’; Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club (my dad supports them and he encouraged me to follow suit) and Leicester Tigers at Rugby (for whom my Grandad played). My main passion is cricket and I am sure it always will be.
My first memory of watching Somerset nearly drove me to tears BECAUSE Somerset won. I was a ten year old boy and the match was at Torquay in 1990; Somerset thrashed my home county, Devon. It was the match that Graham Rose set the record (which I believe still stands) for the fastest List A hundred. I soon realised that as my local first-class county Somerset had to be the team for me.
During the summer months of the 90’s, my first job getting home from school was to turn on the TV, press the teletext button and enter the numbers all people of a certain age will remember – 340. Teletext was a marvel as you could sit and watch the end of tight games and somehow not be too irritated when it went to the wrong page. You remember? Getting page 1/4 when you needed 4/4. There was no other way to follow Somerset ‘live’ as a young lad growing up in a small Devon village.
Following cricket by Teletext was stressful, but fun as you had no real idea what was going on. Your imagination ran wild. Were Somerset bowling well? Was Mushtaq Ahmed turning it square? Was Caddick getting it to rise sharply from a length? Sometimes your mind went into overdrive and you imagined a 95mph thunderbolt from Andre Van Troost actually hitting the cut strip.
Following cricket from afar became much easier during my university years when Cricinfo arrived into my life. I dread to think how many hours I have spent hitting refresh to keep up to date with the latest scores. We all knew what it meant when Cricinfo was not refreshing quickly – it MUST mean a wicket. We all remember the pain of then realising it was your dial-up internet playing up. This is further evidence that following cricket from afar is stressful.
Now we have the phenomenon that is Twitter. I follow a small but select bunch of Somerset supporting accounts, so as soon as a wicket falls it is a race between the official county feed, the Incider and the excellent Steve Cotton to inform me. Sitting on your sofa refreshing Twitter is like a modern form of self-torture. It is much easier to listen to Anthony Gibson on Tune in.
It is the same for all sports. When you are in the ground you can see what is going on, get a feel for the atmosphere and understand what is causing a pause in the action. Sat at home in-front of a screen of some description it is hard, really hard not to panic and fear the worst. You hear cricketers say that at the end of a tight match it is easier to be out in the middle than to watch. I can relate to this as an observer; it is easier to watch a game live than to try and follow it remotely.
The secret to avoiding the stress of following sport from afar is to attend in person. This year I made it my goal to attend more. I am pleased to have managed this and seen Brighton a couple of times, the Tigers once and my beloved Somerset twice.
En route for my first visit to Taunton this year I did wonder whether I should have stayed as a supporter from afar. I was attending the second day versus Sussex – who were 9 down overnight – so the trip was all about seeing Tres bat. I got caught in traffic on the M5 and as I parked near the ground I saw the scoreboard reading 1 for 1. Gutted. Three hours in a car and I missed the great man. For the first session our innings was in tatters, but for some reason it felt so much easier being sat in the ground watching Magoffin play skittles than it is from a distance.
The moral of the story is to watch sport live. With modern technology it is easy to stay in touch with the score; but you can’t beat the sounds and atmosphere of live sport. If like me you rarely or never get to Taunton then do try, you won’t regret it. Hopefully you will even get to see the great man cream one through the covers.