I had the haziest notion of the rules of American football, I know a bit more now, but not enough, since watching the 49ers – Broncos game at Wembley stadium last Sunday.
One of the things I love about America is the razzmatazz which goes with sporting events or holidays, the way teams are celebrated with joy and fun, and, to the best of my knowledge, very little violence, unlike some sports we could mention. I love the way everyone joins in and dresses up for whatever it is. I know it’s all about marketing, but people have to make a living, and we can’t all be t.v. stars, politicians or tech experts, so some of us have to make the shirts and caps and other paraphenalia that the rest of us buy to celebrate our teams (and, yes, I know that that “some of us” are probably in China these days!) . ‘Nuff said, I just love it all, so I was going, largely, for the experience overall rather than the sport itself. When you think about it, that combination of American razzle dazzle and British organizaton was going to be a winner!
And WHAT razzmatazz there was, imported, I presume by the teams, or do soccer matches begin this way these days, with fireworks, cheerleaders and the big build up which peaks in a bubble of excitment when the game actually starts? I’d heard on t.v. that Jeff Beck was playing the National Anthem (UK one, the US one was sung by a Destiny’s Child), which had also excited me, but it wasn’t like Hendrix revamping the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock, it was just a guitar playing God Save the Queen, by then I was angsting for the game to begin.
To my surprise, I came away converted, and am still a little unsure how it happened. My impression was that it was a game which kept stopping and starting all the time, and I expected two minutes of action followed by around five minutes of boredom, but I don’t ever remember a sporting event going more quickly for me! I was lucky to have Guy explaining things all the time, and now I am trying to go over it all in my head to remember for next time!
I’d chosen the Broncos because a friend supports them, and I was glad because this counted as a home game for the 49ers, meaning all the marketing was in their favor, flags, band, cheerleaders, mascots etc, and I so love to cheer on an underdog. Not that the Broncos played like underdogs in the first half – I really thought we were going to win, and I was surprised to realize that I was on my feet cheering at one point without even remembering standing up!……and I wasn’t following Guy’s example because he was getting food at the time! The second half turned the tables, however, and the 49ers ended up winning. Pity the poor guy whose back you see in the photo above, who was a 49ers fan, shortly after half time he disappeared. I presume he’d given up and left!
Since I’ve never been to a football game before I can’t make comparisons, and I can’t say how Wembley compared in the razzmatazz stakes. It wasn’t quite the experience that my first baseball game was last year, but I think it did well. Leaving the tube station and walking up to Wembley I realize is quite an iconic kind of experience for an English person, but not one that was on my bucket list. I was more put out by the fact I couldn’t buy a Bronco’s cap than impressed by the sight in front of me!
Leaving was awesome. I have no idea how many people are accommodated in an average soccer stadium, but to be part of 84,000 people exiting a venue at the same time is a new experience for me, and I have to loudly applaud the police and organizers and maybe architects for it being a good one. Like streams running into a great river, as I looked back at the stadium, I saw people moving down the stairways and onto the main walkway. It felt like being a part of a river as we shuffled along, coming to a complete standstill every so often. After a while, we found out why we kept stopping, when we saw police horses ahead. These animals are beyond description. They stood there quietly and patiently, allowing passing people to pat them, and never flinching more than an ear. Soon after we passed, on command they turned, so that they formed a barrier between us and the people further back, halting them until the way ahead was clearer. This happened again further down the road. What a brilliant and easy way of crowd control, but I should also mention that this was a great crowd, made up mainly of Brits, but with a hefty US contingent, of course, and a smattering of other nationalities, and all good-natured and non-complaining. When we got to our train we found seats easily, although it was standing room only by the time it left a few minutes later, but not packed. I am just very, very impressed by the whole organization and preplanning for an event like this.
I also have to chose a team to cheer for now. Guy’s team is the Greenbay Packers, and I need to chose a team which has a significance for me! ….. off to check them out!