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London 2012 – Day 2, Glasgow

As of tonight, I am officially a soccer writer. Sure, in the past, I’ve written about soccer, and about soccer players. But I’d never covered a soccer match. So what better time to start than at the Olympics, on sports’ biggest stage? Seemed like as good a time as any.

The opening game between USA-France was a lot of fun to cover. But after the game, and once my story was turned in [You can read it HERE.], I felt like I’d played in a soccer match (without all the calorie-burning benefits). For six hours, my brain was on orange alert; I didn’t even realize I was hungry and hadn’t eaten since lunch until I hit “send” on my story at nearly 11 p.m. local time. Saturday will be easier.

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The calm before the storm at Glasgow’s Hampden Park.

Today–another beautiful, bluebird, sunny day, it must be noted–I thought about what I will like about following the U.S. women’s national team on their Olympic journey these next few weeks.

1. I will have the chance to follow a group of athletes on their Olympic journey. Usually, I drop into a new sport each day or, at the most, spend a few days with the same athlete. It will be fun to watch this team progress over the next three weeks and to ride the roller coaster with them.

2. As I did today, I will have the opportunity to visit several iconic European soccer stadiums. In the 1960s and 70s, Hampden Park held more than 100,000 fans–many in standing-room only areas–but after a renovation, today holds a modest 52,000. The stadium was maybe 1/3 full today. I hope attendance improves in the coming weeks.

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This was possibly the most red-white-and-blue game of all time. USA vs. France in this stadium!

3. While I would love to be in London with my friends and colleagues, it is nice to ease into the Olympics here in Glasgow. Traffic to the stadium was nonexistent, the lines to enter the game were short and the media areas are uncrowded. While the mix zone in London will be akin to interviewing athletes while they stand in the middle of a subway car on the 7 train headed to Yankee Stadium on game day, the Hampden Park mix zone was like, “being on vacation,” a direct quote from my colleague Michael Lewis. (For those of you who don’t know what a “mix zone” is, it’s sort of like a corral where athletes “mix” with the media. In the way water “mixes” with oil.)

I also learned I have much to learn about the local fare. For instance, “black pudding,” is not, in fact, pudding at all. It is a type of sausage made from pork fat, onions and — my favorite ingredient — blood. Yum! Thank goodness for Google and for taking tiny bites.

At the stadium, you can choose from steak pies, chicken curry pies and cheesy bean pies (all to be eaten with your hands, of course). But my favorite menu item is Beefy Drink. No, that’s not cute slang for Really Big Drink. It is, in fact, a warm drink made of beef.

Saturday, I’ll be packing a lunch.

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The concession collection at Hampden Park. Beefy Drink. Refreshing!

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