Fighting the crowds

It’s a hard time of year to be a Chelsea fan in New Orleans – and not because of any doing on the pitch.

This is Mardi Gras week, though strictly speaking ‘Fat Tuesday’ is February 13 this year. The celebrations from Twelfth Night onwards are more accurately known as ‘carnival,’ but when we talk about Mardi Gras, we mean a longer timeframe than one particular day.

From February 2 up until February 11, we have dozens of street parades. The vast majority take place only a couple of blocks from my house, which means I’m just minutes from the action: the drawback, however, is nearly every day and/or night the streets are blocked off. You can’t drive anywhere, public transport grinds to a halt, spectators choke the sidewalks and clog the pavement.

As far as Chelsea games go, I hit it lucky this season. Last Monday’s game against Watford was one of only two days in the 13-day stretch when there were no parades. I was able to drive to the pub, although our result had me thinking it may have been more enjoyable to have been gridlocked among floats, marching bands and dancing groups.

In contrast, yesterday’s fixture with West Bromwich Albion was on the same day as the Krewe of Orpheus, one of the most anticipated parades of all (in case you were wondering, Orpheus derives its name from the mortal Orpheus, son of the god Apollo and the muse Calliope, and was started by actor and musician Harry Connick Jr in 1993). The first parade rolled in at 5.15pm, and as the contest with the Baggies finished at 4pm our time, it would have meant fighting my way home around an hour before it all kicked off.

But I had Mardi Gras house guests in from Texas - my friend, his wife, and their four-year-old twin daughters. He has a subscription to the digital cable channel that was showing the match, so he logged onto his iPad, streamed it onto the TV, and I was able to watch the game without arguing over parking spots while battling irate, tetchy, frustrated drivers careering the wrong way down one-way streets.

Carnival will be over by the time of our fifth round FA Cup tie against Hull on Friday. It starts at 2pm Central time, so now I just need to find an excuse to get out of work that afternoon and I’ll be good…