American football in central London. Each year, the NFL comes to Old Europe to advertise the most American of all sports. Thus, it involves much more than that, namely the whole American culture. Welcome to the NFL London take over!
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What do Europeans actually think about American football? Do they think of tall men with well-developed, broad croup and bursting with energy? About everyone going crazy when running after it? Good padded torsos that clash with full force in a way that you can hear the echo in the stadium? Yes, exactly that. And a big, raucous crowd with a beer mug in the one hand and a foam finger on the other.
The NFL, which means North American Football League corresponds to almost exactly the image that most non-Americans have of U.S. sports: Big, pretentious, and so unlike as our dearly beloved sport, soccer.
However, interest is also growing on this side of the Atlantic as well. Namely, whenever the great NFL comes to the old continent to promote the sport and the teams. This year even had two appointments: Minnesota Vikings against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Jacksonville Jaguars against the San Francisco 49ers.
You recognize that it’s much more than just sports when you see the giant banners hanging in one of the most famous shopping areas that proclaim in big letters: The NFL London takes over Regent Street. In other words, the Americans are here. And Good Old England pauses for a moment.
You realize it, when Trafalgar Square transforms in Little America for a few days. And when the English throat is not crying for ale, but is guided by giant banners that invites you in huge letters to ‘grab some Bud’ – a Budweiser, probably the most American beer ever.
You notice it when the whole place is full of tall men in the most different football jerseys, with huge numbers on the back and baseball caps on their heads as colorful as Manhattans M&M Store. And next to them petite girlfriends wearing jerseys that are way too big.
You get an idea of the events size, when you notice that the queue at the burger stand is three times as long as that one at the fish and chips one. You realize it, when grown men nearly have a rumpus with others in order to get a former NFL stars’ autograph. And when you hear Bruce Springsteen’s proud voice loudly bawling: ‘Born in the USA!’ Yeah, somehow you even get the feeling that in a strange way we might all be a little bit American.
The game of the day is San Francisco 49ers against the Jacksonville Jaguars. And although it may sound funny, this is an official league game. Namely a home match for the Jaguars, in the middle of London.
On the way to the stadium, and of course we are talking about the venerable Wembley Stadium, one immediately recognizes, that the audience is not only American or English. No, this weekend whole Europe seems to be in the English capital.
Also, it is hardly a surprise that the tube is overcrowded, the merchandise shops almost sold out and the burgers and hot dogs particularly expensive. But no worries, for a true european football supporter that doesn’t matter at all.
As the NFL London was my first football game, I experienced the full force of an American sports event, organized by a nation that is known for giving every single one the wow factor, whether it’s a film, politics or sports event.
And then again, it was pretty impressing how this event turned out. May it be the live act that got extremely loud support of pyrotechnics, or the Union Flag and Stars and Stripes nearly as big as half the football field that got carried into the stadium by no less than 80 U.S. soldiers accompanied by festive fanfares.
Not to forget the anthems of both countries that were performed at the NFL London so fervently that an audience of nearly 90,000 stood up immediately from their folding chairs, putting the hand on the chest and proudly singing ‘for the land of the free and the home of the brave’. I started wondering why there is no name for the German flag. And are there always nearly 100 cheerleaders?
You almost had the impression that the NFL London game itself was relegated to a marginal position. Nevertheless, for three hours, the 49ers proved its distinct superiority almost continuously and finally celebrated a well-deserved 42-10 away win at the NFL London in Wembley. Not least thanks to their superior quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose name could be seen most often on the back of the fans.
It may be due to the character of the sport itself or the American character in general, but after this extensive football weekend of NFL London I somehow got the feeling that this was more than just sports.
Yes, I would almost say that one returns from NFL London after these days, as from a weekend trip to the United States. It was a concentrated charge of entertainment for a continent that is spoiled by a lot of good sports events: Europe.
Have you been to NFL London? What anekdotiques and tips do have from there? Leave a comment!
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This post is also available in Deutsch.