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Sunday, July 22, 2012
My soccer confession from Manchester ...

By Marc Stein

BARCELONA, Spain -- Since I believe in full disclosure, I am compelled to confess something about my recent four-day stay in Manchester, England, to cover the U.S. men's basketball lead-up to the London Olympics:

I went to Old Trafford.

And this is significant because one of the credos I live by, as a Manchester City supporter since the age of 11, is that Old Trafford is a place you visit only when there's a Manchester derby at the stadium.

My only previous trip there was for City's crushing 4-3 defeat in an absolute classic of a Manchester derby in September 2009. To emphasize how strongly I believe in this stuff, I once turned down a free ticket to a United-Chelsea game (which happened to be the managerial debut of my pal Avram Grant for the visitors) and went to Bolton that day instead ... pre-Stu Holden Bolton. But that's precisely the sort of head case I am.

However ...

I felt like I had no choice but to violate my own code last Thursday morning when longtime ESPN.com contributor Ian Whittell, dean of English basketball writers, got word that Olympic media credentials could be validated at Old Trafford, an official venue for Olympic soccer, with a wait of less than an hour. Or roughly six hours less than it would reportedly take at the Main Press Center in London on July 26 or 27 when I finally get back to the UK after Team USA's tour of Spain.

So you can see that I had no choice but to violate a lifelong code for the good of my work productivity/sanity. Don't feel great about it. Talking about it does help, though.

A little.