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London Week: A retrospective

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All the excitement over the NFL game at Wembley between the Chargers and Saints has got me reminiscing about last year’s contest between the Dolphins and Giants.

Well, not about the game itself (which was the NFL equivalent of Glastonbury) but rather the occasion. As a little taster for this weekend's game, here's a quick retrospective.

Myself and my friend Paul arrived at Wembley at about half three and after spending roughly five hours to find a cash point and taking out 50 quid each, we proceeded to take the long walk down Wembley Way and into the stadium. On our way in, we passed several Giants fans that had come over from the States who were trying to get a G-I-A-N-T-S chant going. It didn’t work, and it was at this point that I started to worry that the atmosphere would be akin to one of those school trips you take to a shoddy aquarium: grim. Thankfully, my fears went unfounded.

Once we’d made it into the stadium proper, I experienced one of the highlights of the day: the Wembley toilets. For those of you who haven’t been to the new Stadium but are going this weekend, I strongly urge you to make full use of them. They’re clean, there are hundreds of them, and they actually smell really nice. Even now, one year on, I can’t stop thinking about them.

Anyway, with my head in a spin at how wonderful the restrooms were, we wandered to our seats with four beers in hand. Yes that’s right, we were allowed to take beer to our seats. It was like a dream come true. After years and years of sitting in Premier League stadiums without an alcoholic beverage, we were at a three-hour American Football game with £10 pints in our hands.

Once we’d made it into the stadium proper, I experienced one of the highlights of the day: the Wembley toilets

But it wasn’t just the booze. I was really taken with how the field and stadium had been prepared in order to create an ‘authentic’ experience (which I’ve heard will be even more impressive this year). The NFL had done a great job of turning Wembley into mini-America, and I even got goosebumps when I heard the national anthems play.

As the game progressed, we seemed to be getting through a lot more beers than we’d anticipated. It wasn’t one of those planned drinking sessions, but we just always seemed to have a beer in our hands. I think it was partly due to our sensational seats. We knew we’d struck gold when we saw them: they there were, all shiny and red… right at the end of the aisle. We could come and go as we pleased, taking it in turns to buy four pints at a time without having to ask anyone to stand up. It was wonderful.

My memory of the game is slightly hazy, but contrary to what I have read since I believe that there was a great atmosphere and that the crowd thoroughly enjoyed the event, even those that didn’t know what was going on. There was noise from the stands throughout the game, and good plays were well appreciated (even if they were in short supply). My friend, who was not an NFL fan, thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and given the fact that he's a very moody man, this was quite a success.

Of course, this year will be quite different for me. I’ll be in the press area eating as many prawn sandwiches as possible, and will be preparing an extra-special Fumble for Monday which will include a great ‘in the locker room’ feature. The press get great access to players in the NFL, and we get the chance to go down to the players post-game when they’ve just showered and annoy them as they are drying off. Great opportunity? Yes. A bit weird? Most definitely.

What are your memories of last year’s game? What will your pre-game ritual be on Sunday?

Latest 10 comments

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posted Oct 26, 2008

Well 1 game is on your not forced to watch it are you. TBH it is all money. The NFL realised this was a chance to give a mainstream audience the chance to watch a game because the rest are not on terrestrial TV so don't slate the Beeb for trying to show different sports and the hype was huge as it was in London.

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posted Oct 27, 2008

The national anthem was a bad joke,
a 1 hour game that lasts over 3 hours,
Thank god we only have to put up with this over-hyped bore only twice a year.

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posted Oct 27, 2008

Last time I checked it was a free country. No once forced you to watch it. Also you don't understand it so you say its rubbish - what a surprise. Check the ratings for it and i think you'll find the numbers were signifcantly higher than what would normally be on the channel at that time of day.

Plus West Brom fans wouldn't know what entertainment looked like even if it walked up and slapped them in the face.

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comment by oabaga (U5976845)

posted Oct 27, 2008

what a game, loved every minute. Shame about Joss Stone ruining the national anthem. Katherine Jenkins would have been my pick. I hear they want to have a game at murrayfield, please no. It would be a mistake and kill any future international series. the reason we had so many americans come over was because it was London. Let's keep it that way.

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posted Oct 27, 2008

Magpie, no-one forced you to watch it, and I do believe in freedom of speech, but anyone who watched the game last night and declared it rubbish is either A) a closed mind, B) has no clue about the game and C) has never watched baseball.

I suspect though, you are probably all three. I got into the office and one guy, who I don't have down as an NFL fan, admitted he saw some/most of the match and thoroughly enjoyed it, because of the thrills and spills of the whole match.

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posted Oct 27, 2008

I was at the Dolphins/Giants game last year. Being a Dolphins fan, it wasn't much to shout about as a game, but then that sums up the season as a whole...

I had the e-mail from NFLUK about this game months ago but never intended to go this year as I felt the prices were way too high last year to justify going to a game where I have no vested interest.

I went to Dolphins Stadium in November 2006 and the wife and I had a couple of the best seats in the house on the 50yd line for the equivilent of £50. Last year we paid around £70 each to get tickets behind the end zone. Rip off Britain indeed.

This year I watched the game at home on TV. I have Sky Sports, but watched this game on the BBC as I can't remember the last time I saw American Football on the Beeb.

As a game this was an excellent spectacle, with a lot of the tactical thinking that makes Football what it is coming to the fore later in the game.

For me that was a good thing; I was in my early teens when the game first appeared on Channel 4 in the 80s so I'm pretty comfortable with the whole thing.

For anyone watching out of curiousity, then I think they must have found it baffling. Why would you choose to concede 2pts in the last two minutes of the game when your lead is already at risk?

In the 80s it was easy enough to find out the ins-and-outs of Football, but these days - even with vast media coverage - it seems hard to find a guide to the game to answer the common newcomer gripes of how it is that a one hour game typically runs to over three, and why players run on and off the pitch so regularly.

I felt BBC missed a trick on that yesterday, and would have liked to see a 30 minute or so programme on beforehand explaining the game for the uninitiated.

I don't want to belittle the BBC's commentary team; Carson is a veteran broadcaster and a familiar face to UK based fans. Rice in his day was as big a name as you'd find in the game and brought an extra dimension to the commentary that went well with Carson's encyclopaedic knowledge. I just felt the commentary may have assumed a knowledge of the game in it's audience that was not universal.

Given the intention of the International Series is to broaden the appeal of the game, then I think the NFL need to take some blame for that too, as I think that they forget that we aren't taught the game at a young age as with American kids.

Oh, and that Joss Stone rendition of the National Anthem was truly awful.

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comment by sean (U1577194)

posted Oct 27, 2008

ok i may have dissed it at the beggining, but i do think its the whole spectacle of american football that makes me dislike it more than the actually sport itself. the way americans sing the national i just find slighty disturbing and offputting, then there is things like cheerleading, jumboscreens, and the way they celebrate when they get a touch down.

The fact that they give the teams rediculous names like denver 'broncos' and dallas 'cowboys'. why cant they just be called dalllas and colorado, all these devices take away from the sport and make it seem more like an entertainment extravaganza like the WWF, than a sport (i know that it is quite a harsh comparison, and i appreciate that NFL isn't faked).

however having said these things i did watch the entire bbc 1 coverage and at the core of it i just don't find the game that watchable. especially with all the breaks they seem to take.

But i guess if people in britain like it and willing to watch it then the bbc has just grounds for showing it.

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posted Oct 27, 2008

When i think of the NFL coming to Wembley, I think...

Goooooooo FRIDGE!

What an absolute disgrace , rubbish, go back to Florida.

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posted Oct 27, 2008

Who's going back to Florida?

New Orleans is in Louisiana and San Diego is in California.

Clearly missing out on your Geography lessons whilst your on half term.

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comment by keliffa (U8175204)

posted Oct 28, 2008

The Fridge has not been around for like 25 plus years and he did not play or live in Florida.

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