If by chance you keep abreast of international soccer you might have caught wind of all the racket from Manchester, England.
Manchester United, the 18-time league champions who are also the biggest sports club in the world (even bigger than the Yankees) are currently fighting for their lives to retain supremacy. They have been battling all season against their noisy neighbors, Manchester City, a previously hapless laughing stock of a team that (historically at least) resembles the Chicago Cubs in many ways.
The two clubs have had a contentious rivalry and played for the third time this year just yesterday. The two crosstown clubs have not ever competed directly for the trophy, simply because City were never near good enough.
But now City are the top team, with world class players. And ever since October 23, when City demolished United 6-1 on their home ground --handing the Red Devils their most humiliating loss in 83 years-- things have heated up.
Better yet, the players themselves have histories that add to the history, with their own keepsakes. And recent tussles matter.
Boys in blue: Manchester City, United's noisy neighbors.
Two summers ago, a falling star of English Football named Michael Owen was a free agent. Around the world Owen had been famous for over a decade as a goalscoring machine for England and also as the teenage wunderkind who scored his first strike for Liverpool at age 17.
But after a few broken bones and five years with other clubs, it seemed Owen wasn't such a hot commodity anymore. He'd done well with some endorsement deals including his pitchman role for Tissot Watches, but wasn't thought to have much verve left.
Someone besides Tissot knew the value of Owen, luckily. Manchester United's boss Sir Alex Ferguson supposedly met him for breakfast one day that summer and said to Owen, "I'd like to sign you." Owen, surprised, thought the idea was brilliant and when the deal was made public the sports media followed suit over-reporting the story.
Owen was given the number 7 shirt previously worn by United legends Eric Cantona, George Best, Cristiano Ronaldo, and David Beckham, but wouldn't likely start every game like the other 7s had.
Beckham: Another notable #7 at United
As it turns out, the Manchester derby in the Fall of 2009 would also be a contentious fight; and one in which Owen would find his place.
United took the lead in the first few minutes of the game, but after 90 minutes of slugging back and forth, the score was 3-3, with City coming back to tie the game right before the end of regular time.
As is typical in international football, 3 minutes were added to the game for stoppage time. However, for no explainable reason, the referee let the game go on and on. Instead of ending after 93 minutes at a 3-3 draw, the official let clock tick to 94, then 95, and well past 96 minutes. Just into the 97th minute of the game, Owen broke away in front with the ball to score an injury-time winner for Manchester United.
After seven goals, City coach Mark Hughes (at 2:31) bemoans the ref's timekeeping and the almost 4 extra minutes.
Within seconds, the whistle blew, ending the game in United's favor 4-3. To much pain and chagrin of City fans, it appeared the game had gone too long unfairly, as if the official had waited for United to score before calling it. Essentially, the game should have ended at 93 minutes, but ended 7 minutes past normal time.
Right about the same time as the Manchester derby, Tissot had put out its newest print ads featuring Michael Owen donning a new model watch in the ad. The ads had, that week, started appearing in magazines across the world and on billboards all over the UK.
Besides the normal look and function of a luxury watch, there is one eery detail about the ad, seen above. Owen's Tissot watch is set at approximately seven minutes past the hour.
Andy Frye keeps the time on both the trivial and important parts of sports here, and via Twitter at @MySportsComplex.
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