Consulting Partner Peter Clare went to Wembley this weekend to watch two American sporting greats…
Kick-off was at 6pm, we met at 9.30am
It was my first NFL game — the Minnesota Vikings vs the Pittsburgh Steelers at Wembley Stadium. My friend from Pittsburgh texted me the day before asking if we should meet at 9.30am. I couldn’t work it out; Wembley is a one-hour journey.
I’d never even watched a full NFL game on TV. I’ve watched a few Grid Iron films, seen some clips on YouTube and can just remember Channel 4’s attempt to hype up the sport in the 80s. But this didn’t prepare me for the day ahead.
We arrived at Wembley hours before kick-off, and we weren’t the only ones. Thousands of fans lined Wembley Way, and that was even before we got to the fan parks. There must have been six merchandise stores, one as big as a decent sized Tesco, all with queues a hundred deep. There were giant inflatable NFL players, giant inflatable footballs, in fact there were giant inflatable every-things.
Big screen showing the US coverage, loads of bars and people signing you up to receive a free trail of the NFL’s game pass (live streaming and highlights of all NFL games), large men throwing American footballs through holes and, of course, more hot dog and burger stands than you could shake a corn dog stick at. None of this happens on FA Cup final day.
In the stadium the hype continued. Tinie Tempah, national anthems (England’s and The Star-Spangled Banner), marching bands and lot and lots of cheer leaders. A ball was still to be thrown.
One down side was the lack of phone signal, outside or inside the stadium. I couldn’t follow the pre-match build up, tweet, post, find out when the best time to go into the stadium, share my excitement, I couldn’t even send text messages. It felt going back in time.
I have to admit, it was great fun. Everyone was in a good mood and rival fans even talk to each other. The NFL know sport, but they also know sport can be a full day of entertainment.
Maybe 9 hours at a sporting event is too long, but at £65 a ticket (I paid over £100 for an FA Cup final ticket recently) it gave me an awesome introduction to a sport I will pay more attention to in the future.