1 November 2010

NFL International Series

Wow.  Feeling pretty tired this morning.  It was a bit cold last night so I didn't sleep too well.  On Saturday night we changed the clocks in the UK which causes me problems - bit like jet lag.  But the best part of yesterday was going to Wembley for the NFL International Series between San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos.

This is the third time on four years that we've attended the International Series.  We missed out on the San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints, but have managed all the others, however this is going to be our last unless the Miami Dolphins return.

Anyway, back to yesterday.  Luckily I work near a station with a direct connection to Waterloo, so we drove up to the office and parked in the car park there.  The train arrived pretty soon afterwards and the connections at Waterloo and Marylebone were also on time so by around 2:30pm we were inside the ground.

I've been to a number of other events at the old Wembley and I've always found that the entertainment provided is a bit hit and miss.  At all the games we've been to, entertainment of one sort or another has been provided from the moment the doors opened.  Yesterday this included a performance by My Chemical Romance, a performance by the 49ers Noise (a drum band) and a display by the 49ers cheerleaders.

Eventually the players came out for a warm up and received a great welcome.  It was amazing just seeing how many people are around when the warm up is happening.  After a few players had their own little sessions, the full teams came out and presented us with 'synchronized aerobics'.  It was an amazing sight to see 100 people all exercising together.

At 5pm the game kicked off.  To be honest, the first quarter was rather slow, but I'm guessing with the relative positions of the two teams in their divisons it's not that surprising.  San Francisco did managed to get a field goal to put some points on the board, but that was it.  The second quarter didn't really improve, so at the end of the half, the scores were Denver Broncos 0 - San Francisco 49ers 3.

Half time went fairly quickly.  Once again I can only compare against football matches I've been to, but I've always felt that you're left wondering whats going on.  Half time last night had things going on, and there was also a countdown clock running showing how much longer until play resumed.

Denver came back into the game in the third quarter and scored a touchdown.  Luckily it was at the end we were sitting as had been the 49ers field goal in the first quarter.  The feeling at the time is that the Broncos looked to be more likely to retain the lead, but unfortunately we weren't going to see any more points in what was left of the third quarter.

At the end of the third quarter, we decided to make a move for home.  The main reason being that I'm not very good in crowd situations (bit surprising when I've been with another 84,000 people watching the game, but that doesn't affect me), and the other reason being that we had to get home and didn't have the Monday off work so needed our sleep.

In previous years its been like DisneyWorld at Wembley Stadium station.  There have been barriers configured to herd everyone through but this time there were none.  Getting down onto the platform we had apparently just missed a train, and the next one would be 30 minutes away.  Daft situation considering the game may only have lasted another 15/20 minutes but Chiltern Railways obviously had their plans (including engineering work on the line).

We weren't the only people planning on leaving early, and slowly but surely the station was filling up.  Eventually the train appeared and we could then head off to Marylebone.  Once there, we moved down to the Bakerloo line and took a southbound service to London Waterloo.  A quick dash up the station and we caught the train back to the office about a minute before it was due to leave.

All in all I think the whole experience of attending a regular season NFL game in London is amazing.  The razamatazz of everything going on.  The excitement and buzz inside the stadium.  The number of fans all wearing their team shirts without any fear of violence.  It was a great evening.  Even the waiting on the platform didn't deteriorate from the enjoyment.

However, I think we're getting a bit long in the tooth now for all the travelling.  It's a bit much when you end up travelling for 5 hours in total to experience the situation.  So I think next year (unless the Dolphins return) will be spent on the sofa at home having a mini-American football party with beer and snacks.

FOOTNOTE: The American football players get paid enormous sums of money, and there is a lot riding on each result, however all of them obey the rulings of the officials on the pitch.  Maybe it's about time the overpaid prima-donnas in our football leagues looked at how they react and make a few changes.  The whole situation in the Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur game on Saturday was disgusting.  How could the wrong decision be made so badly, and then the situation made worse by the inept officials.  FIFA need to pull their heads out of the sand and get into the modern world.  It's no longer a game for the working man, it's now big business with a lot involved so grow and and smell the flowers.