The NFL in London: A Multimedia Essay
I went to London for the Giants-Dolphins NFL game (You may remember the problems me and my friend had getting tickets). Here's a few impressions of the first NFL regular season game to ever be played overseas...
Giant Jason Taylor
Godzilla? Or Questionable Marketing Strategy?
I know the NFL was trying to hype up the game... but a giant Jason Taylor robot? That's what they came up with?? The NFL's bizarre choice made limited appearances across London, and ended its reign of terror in a cordoned off section of the parking lot reserved for people who paid big money to sit in the rain for a soggy tailgate party. Could the money have been better spent on multiple, simultaneous events around the city, to better capture the attention of the locals? Perhaps a dozen NFL-themed tea parties? I think so.
Otherwise Known As The "Mud Bowl"
Wembley is a great stadium. Although it was pouring outside, I was covered by the roof that extends over the seats. Down by the field, the first few rows are exposed, and these emptied quickly when the rain really started dumping down. But the rest of us were nice and dry (except for the Dolphins fan in front of me, whom I accidentally spilled beer on).
He Didn't Even Notice
However, the field isn't covered in Wembley. And that caused problems with the game, which I'll get to in a moment.
I found the concession stands pretty easy to navigate, although some complained about long lines. I guess I was lucky. I got myself some beers and a pot pie (they love pot pies in England).
Nothing Like A Spot Of Ale And Pie
The Pre-Game Show
Whoa boy. The NFL went all out on this one. Continuing the theme of oversized NFL players, the field was graced by two giant football jerseys, rotating in time with the music, "I Love It When You Call," provided by British pop group The Feeling. The song is actually really catchy, by which I mean it will annoyingly stick in your head until the end of time. You've been warned. Check it out here.
Cheer Girls, I Salute You
These girls were the real stars of the show. If it's anything that brings the NFL back to London again after this slop fest, its the beauty, grace, and very soaked breasts of Miami's 40 or so cheerleaders, who braved the rain jacketless for nearly three quarters, and did it all with a smile on their faces. It's a shame they didn't have much to root for.
Was this a joke? A marching band? A small marching band? Playing Rocky?? The crowd that hadn't headed to the concession stands laughed them off the field.
The Real Halftime Show
Now That's Halftime Entertainment
Just before the kickoff to start the second half, a referee, heading towards midfield, stripped off his clothes. He wasn't a ref. He was a streaker. He ran to the middle of the field, stark naked, as everyone else watched. First, he did a jig. Then, he began doing push-ups.
Oh, Those Crazy Brits
It took a good minute before security even acknowledged something was happening. Perhaps they realized this was more of a halftime show than the actual halftime show. I heard that on TV, they refused to say what was going on. Well, my friends, it was quite entertaining. Watch the video here... if you want to see what you missed on TV.
Drops, Flops and Mud-slops Defined London's First NFL Game
Well. You probably watched it on TV, and saw for yourself. The field was a bloody mess (bloody in the British sense of the word). The passing game never got going for either team, with drops galore.
One odd thing was that the stadium atmosphere was very subdued at points. While the crowd did start "the wave," and chanted "That's Another Dolphins FIRST DOWN" with the announcer, the stadium lacked the sort of "pump up the crowd" devices we're so used to in the states. No Jumbotron prompt for De-Fense!! De-Fence!! No blaring rock anthems during timeouts and instant replay reviews. No "Charge" or things like that. After Dolphins scores, they did play an annoying Dolphins song, but that was about it. Since this was a British crowd not familiar with traditional football cheers, you'd think the NFL would do more to get them involved.
The most exciting plays were Eli Manning's touchdown run, and Cleo Lemon's touchdown pass to Ted Ginn Jr. The crowd actually got back into the game after that touchdown pass... but booed lustily when the Giants ran out the clock to end the game.
Eli's TD Run, As Captured By My Cell Phone Camera:
High quality, I know. The running white smudge is Eli.
He Looks Better In This Reuters Photo
Wembley At Night
The crowd was huge, but moved along quickly. We were back to the hostel in a little more than half an hour. Better than Giants Stadium transportation, that's for sure.
Tube 'n It Up
All in all, an unforgettable experience. I'm glad I got to go. We met a lot of die hard football fans from across the pond... people who had loved the Giants and Dolphins for years but never seen them in person. For them, this game was evidence that the NFL cares about their dedication. Despite a few missteps, I think the NFL showed it has potential to expand beyond American borders.
I had a great time. And I miss the tea and crumpets already.
Goodbye To London, For Now