It’s officially September, the month that brings with it cooler mornings, pumpkin spice lattes, and the beginning of autumn for my northern hemisphere friends, and more importantly for the vast majority of my friends and family on Facebook, the beginning of American football season. (My feed basically turned into an ESPN sports news ticker overnight.)
I grew up in an extended family who celebrated football season with gusto. Everyone had their favorite team they would support and defend as if they themselves were playing on it, and then there was me. So we’re, like, not going to watch anything else on TV for the next three months? …awesome. It’s not that I don’t like football or sports in general (okay, maybe it is that a little bit), it’s just that my brain can only hold so much information, and knowing things about sports ranks somewhere just above being well-informed on the lifespan and mating habits of dung beetles. So, it should really come as no surprise that I made it into my 30’s without having been to an NFL game before; what is surprising is that my first one was actually in London.
I had no idea the NFL even held international games in London until we were invited to one with some of Cory’s friends from work. (FYI – I’m married to a man who would play or watch sports every waking moment of his life if he could. I thought that “opposites attract” saying was a load of crap until I met him. Firm believer now.) Anyway, when we got invited to the NFL game in London, I tried to pull my usual, but won’t you have so much more fun if you just go with your friends? line, but everyone was bringing their families, so first NFL game for me it was.
At that time, NFL games in London were held at Wembley Stadium, so if nothing else, I was at least excited to go inside Wembley for the first time. The stadium is enormous, but what shocked me more than anything else was how packed it was. I would have expected a massive turn-out for English football or cricket, but had no idea Brits had any interest in American football until then. And I swear, if it weren’t for the fact that we’d taken the tube to get to Wembley, you probably could have convinced me I was watching a football game in America, because everyone was so into it!
Just like at my first English football game earlier in the year, I had to wait for cues from everyone else to know what to do. Quick, cheer now! Now, make disappointed sounds, throw hands up in air, and yell curses at refs! (It is seriously pathetic how little I know about football given the sheer number of games I was forced to watch as a kid.) The Kansas City Chiefs were playing the Detroit Lions, so since my sister used to live in KC, that’s how I decided who I was going for. (This is how I always decide who to root for in sports, by the way. If I don’t know anyone from either city or state, then the choice comes down to something super scientific like, Justin Timberlake is from Tennessee. Go Tennessee!)
Maybe it was the excitement of the crowd rubbing off on me, or maybe it was just the fact that I was experiencing something so incredibly American outside of America (this becomes a thing when you’re an expat), but I loved every minute of the game. The Chiefs ended up killing the Lions, but the win didn’t really matter, it was just fun to watch something so revered in my home country be celebrated in my adopted country, too. The current NFL season in London starts this month. The first game will be held on 24 September with three more to follow in October. This year, games will be held at both Wembley and Twickenham stadiums. For more info or to buy tickets, check out the official NFL UK website!