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Friday, February 6, 2009
Behind the Story: Hull City

As Guster might say, "Happy frappy."

Read the Hull City feature here.

I happened to be in London on a golf assignment the day that Windass struck his volley at Wembley and propelled Hull City to the Premier League. I watched on TV as this middle-aged man with a middle-aged physique perfectly stuttered his feet as the ball was flighted his way from Frazier Campbell. Sat there on the edge of my hotel bed as the ball rocketed toward the goal and hit the net. Jumped up and nearly screamed as I watched the City fans go crazy and Windass race around like a child.

At the moment of the goal, I had no rooting interest. In fact, I was more rooting for an equalizing goal from Bristol City. So scintillating was the action, though, that I wanted more than 90 minutes. However, when the game was over, and the story of Hull City's long wait was told, I became hooked on the story. Hooked on the Tigers. All day long, I sat in the hotel scanning the TV and surfing the internet, looking for more on this story. I saw old men crying and kids laughing and people singing, "We're going up! We're going up!"

And so, I became a fan and vowed to head to England to see Hull City play in the Premier League. So, it was off, first, to Liverpool in mid-December.

In a pub before the match, I learned a lot about the fans of Hull City, and grew to love their self-deprecating sense of humor. I asked one young fan, "What is the team's jersey sponsor, Karoo?" The fan pleaded, "Oh, please don't tell anyone in America, it's really embarrassing." The fan, who couldn't have been more than 21, explained, "Karoo is an internet service provider. An internet service provider that you can only get in Hull! So we finally make it to the Premiership, and that's our sponsor? Something no one outside of Hull can even use."

As Hull City battled Liverpool to a 2-2 draw, I heard the City supporters singing a song that sounded very much like the Beach Boys "Let Me Go Home" only with new lyrics. "Don't want to go home…Don't Want to Go Ho-oh-ome!…This is the Best Trip, I've ever been on!"

And later, when I told a bartender at my hotel that I was becoming a fan of Hull City, the young barkeep disappeared for a moment, only to emerge with a Tigers jersey.

"For you, my friend," he said. "Wear that when you go home. Bleed amber and black, mate."