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Ditching the day job: From the sports desk to UK band Sports Team

Henry Young used to be an aspiring sports journalist with CNN, interviewing Pele and Pep Guardiola, but his other love came calling and he joined a different Sports Team.

Posted: Jun 5, 2020 6:41 PM
Updated: Jun 5, 2020 6:41 PM

I won't forget the moment I informed my boss at CNN of my intention to leave sports journalism for a career in music.

"Remind me what the band's called again," he asked, eyebrows raised, probably wondering why I'd forsake a job in a competitive industry for pub stages in London.

"Sports Team," I replied through gritted teeth. The irony of the name was not lost.

The six of us had formed as a bunch of friends at university with few expectations and still less musical ability.

We had no issue with getting home from our respective jobs at 6 p.m., rehearsing until midnight then getting up at 7 a.m. to do it all again.

It had simply become untenable to claim yet another dentist appointment in order to get to soundcheck on time.

I'd already missed the band's first show on foreign shores to cover, of all things, the Judo World Championships in Paris. The offer of a five-week European support tour with Spanish band Hinds was the "now or never" moment that forced a decision.

READ: From footballer to Netflix star -- How Jesus Mosquera became one of Spain's top actors

Two years and over 200 shows later, with our debut album out this week on Island Records, there are no regrets.

Traveling around with your mates in an unreliable van, meeting all sorts of wonderful people, is the best thing in the world and something we're very lucky to be able to do.

I'd loved my time in the newsroom -- from the highs of interviewing Pele and Pep Guardiola to a feature about a race horse in a three-piece tweed suit -- but the opportunity to be in a full-time band wasn't going to come knocking again.

Having once considered Cambridge's Portland Arms to be the pinnacle of our live aspirations, it's slightly surreal to have played legendary festivals like Glastonbury and headline shows as far afield as Los Angeles.

That's not to say it's been a glamorous job switch -- as any touring musician whose diet has consisted chiefly of service station sandwiches for weeks at a time can attest.

No longer able to afford London rent, four of us spent the better part of 18 months sharing a room that also doubled up as our rehearsal space.

An ill-fated "commuter belt tour" memorably culminated in a gig in the small market town of Bishop's Stortford where there were more people on stage than in the audience.

Waking up with banging headaches the morning after supporting Two Door Cinema Club at the O2 Arena, we found our van had been broken into in broad daylight and all our equipment stolen.

READ: The death-defying jumps that caught the attention of Hollywood

And yet it's all worth it.

I know a lot of bands get jaded by life on the road, but there's really few things quite like the crackle of anticipation before a show -- whether on a festival main stage to 10,000 people or at your local pub to a few hundred kids.

To that end, the journey since packing in the day jobs is probably best illustrated by a series of increasingly ambitious London headlines, from the 800-capacity Scala in September 2018 (where we infamously had less Twitter followers than the venue's capacity but somehow sold it out) to the 2,300-capacity O2 Forum a year later.

Such gigs are what it's all about for us -- making the night an event worth booking the next day off work for -- and it's encouraging to note a decent contingent of former colleagues have attended not just the first out of duty but kept coming back. (And subsequently not made it into the office in the morning).

Plans for the next big one in 2021 were curtailed because apparently you can't simply ring up and book Wembley.

READ: Oscar-winning director on risking it all for the perfect shot

To this day, I'm still not sure why we settled on "Sports Team" -- all I know is that with "Comfort," "Lady Mandolin" and "Tony Blair Witch Project" among the suggested contenders, it could have been worse.

Still, despite no discernible sporting prowess for the most part, the band has lived up to its name on occasion.

In May 2019, we somehow ended up playing an intimate show for the England cricket team ahead of their victorious World Cup campaign -- much to the bemusement of the players who had no idea who we were.

A few months later, the six of us appeared in the football and culture magazine Gaffer dressed like a Renaissance five-a-side team, thanks to designer Sophie Hird.

And, appropriately enough, our live television debut was made on Soccer AM. Though the only one to emerge with a shred of credibility from the "John Arne Riise Arena" -- where guests aim to volley a ball into the top corner -- was our drummer, Al.

READ: Meet the Manchester United fanatic opening a 33,000-piece museum

Lockdown has provided an all new set of challenges -- from the cancellation of an entire summer of festivals to the delay of our debut album, originally scheduled for an April release.

As I write this, we should be halfway through a five-week tour of the US, Canada and Mexico with Bombay Bicycle Club. Instead I am back home with my mum.

Live shows are the lifeblood of almost all bands in 2020; without them, we find ourselves in the shoes of the sports journalist without any sport to cover.

Virtual concerts can only bridge the gap so far, just as World Cup reruns and the latest "alternative sport" to go viral on Twitter can't hold your attention forever.

Meanwhile, as many as 80% of the UK's small to mid-sized music venues face the threat of permanent closure -- something that puts the debate about whether to finish the Premier League season in perspective.

We've been left with no recourse but to announce the postponement of already postponed shows and begin working on the second record before the first is even out.

READ: Liverpool's agonizing wait for English football's biggest prize

The six of us rent a house together now in Camberwell -- a situation not dissimilar to getting home from work to find your colleagues sitting around the dinner table. It can be hectic at times, but in truth just having our own rooms again feels like a luxury.

We've also set up our own record label, Holm Front, putting on a series of madcap events (including an annual bus trip for fans to Margate), while releasing great new bands like Walt Disco, Ugly and Personal Trainer. It's something we want to continue to build as our own platform grows.

Perhaps I'll even tempt my old boss to pick up a guitar.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 293542

Reported Deaths: 6638
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19560229
Hinds18674385
Harrison16512276
Rankin12595262
Jackson12451217
Lee9663160
Madison9400195
Jones7891145
Forrest7140136
Lauderdale6784225
Lowndes6008137
Lamar584480
Lafayette5707113
Washington5159128
Bolivar4594120
Oktibbeha439991
Panola426892
Pearl River4116128
Warren4114113
Pontotoc407368
Marshall399492
Monroe3980126
Union392873
Neshoba3767166
Lincoln3464100
Hancock339973
Leflore3358118
Sunflower317185
Tate300874
Pike298393
Scott292567
Alcorn290360
Itawamba288871
Yazoo283862
Tippah275665
Copiah274557
Coahoma272766
Simpson271778
Prentiss268658
Leake251770
Wayne251340
Marion250778
Covington247878
Grenada245876
Adams233277
George230645
Newton224751
Winston220275
Jasper211844
Tishomingo211765
Attala206269
Chickasaw200650
Holmes181670
Clay178149
Stone171429
Tallahatchie169839
Clarke168671
Calhoun156428
Smith151831
Yalobusha142936
Greene126833
Walthall123540
Noxubee122729
Perry121434
Montgomery121237
Lawrence119321
Carroll117623
Amite110832
Webster109929
Jefferson Davis100531
Tunica98623
Claiborne97729
Benton93124
Humphreys91626
Kemper89522
Quitman77014
Franklin75519
Choctaw69516
Wilkinson62226
Jefferson61427
Sharkey48817
Issaquena1676
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 491110

Reported Deaths: 9831
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson706291356
Mobile35894721
Madison32255442
Tuscaloosa23996409
Montgomery22462494
Shelby21820215
Baldwin19670274
Lee14900150
Morgan13599249
Calhoun13175285
Etowah13143319
Marshall11226206
Houston10048259
Elmore9337183
Limestone9335134
Cullman8869179
St. Clair8783220
Lauderdale8581210
DeKalb8429174
Talladega7481163
Walker6504251
Jackson6477102
Autauga620389
Blount6086125
Colbert5978118
Coffee5230102
Dale4621106
Russell401831
Franklin397876
Covington3956106
Chilton384298
Escambia377172
Tallapoosa3572141
Clarke342949
Dallas3397141
Chambers3392108
Pike293071
Lawrence281384
Marion280894
Winston246166
Bibb244260
Geneva238670
Marengo233354
Pickens223954
Barbour209951
Hale208868
Fayette199756
Butler195165
Henry182041
Cherokee176438
Monroe165938
Randolph163140
Washington156634
Crenshaw143554
Clay143354
Macon140943
Cleburne136839
Lamar131732
Lowndes130648
Wilcox120825
Bullock116336
Conecuh106523
Perry105327
Sumter98431
Coosa87823
Greene87032
Choctaw54823
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