In a country where soccer is the number one sport, NFL fans often find themselves trying to persuade fans of the ‘other’ football why the American version is so captivating. A comment posted on our first article for TOJ got us thinking about the origins of NFL fandom for teams here in the UK. Not having a local affiliation (being on the other side of the Atlantic) makes the choice a little different. So how do UK fans choose a team and why did we choose the Jets?
Historic successesBack in the 1980s, before the dawn of theIinternet the only access to the NFL in the UK was one TV channel who were the first to show games and highlights. This, now fondly remembered, coverage garnered the first wave of UK fans who chose their teams based on the most successful teams of the day, hence many 49ers, Bears and later Cowboys fans. When TV coverage took a dip in the 1990s, so did interest in the sport beyond these fans.
Brits love a trip to the US and the affinity formed with their destinations are as close to a local allegiance as we get. Florida, New York and other East Coast cities are hugely popular, adding fans to teams such as the Redskins and even the Buccaneers. Despite the popularity of NYC, it’s the Giants, with their well-recognised (from the 1980s) brand, who gain more fans from over 1.1 million yearly British visitors.
A recent resurgenceWhile coverage from decades ago populated some NFL teams fan bases here, recently more channels showing games and analysis as well as social media allows fans much wider access. Thus the successes of the Patriots, Colts and Saints have grown their UK fan bases. The international series also brings more people to the sport, introducing other, less known, teams. Each team to cross the pond leaves having yielded many more fans. The Jacksonville Jaguars in particular have found success in London, largely due their billionaire owner Shahid Khan who also owns Fulham FC, a London soccer side. Due to the team’s frequent visits, the Jags have built a large following in the UK.
Despite all these opportunities, the Jets are still amongst the smaller fan bases here, so how did we, two Brits from completely separate parts of this green and pleasant land, come to be fans of the Green and White?
“My love of the Jets initially stemmed from my love of New York, a city I’ve been lucky enough to visit several times so it was always going to be one of the two local teams. Seeking to buy my new husband tickets for an NFL game on our honeymoon in 2010, I found that the Jets were to play the Giants in the first ever game at their new stadium just as we were in the city. Perfect. Except I had no idea how to get tickets! An email to both teams to find out was only responded to by the Jets, and with that Gang Green gained a fan for life. It only took one round of the J.E.T.S chant led by Fireman Ed to get me hooked and I’ve been Green and White since, finally returning to Met Life Stadium in 2014 for a regular season game.”Dave
“I’ve visited the US a few times, all to Disneyworld in Florida – so British right? Each time, I crossed paths with American football more and more. At first, like many Brits, I had no idea what I was watching, however I did know it was like nothing I’d seen before. I remember my initiation vividly. Whilst watching a Dallas Cowboys game away to the Jets, I thought to myself that supporting a team might aid me in learning the ropes faster. I decided there and then to support whichever team won. I realise this was quite an uninformed decisions; abruptly pinning my future allegiance to either ‘America’s team’ or the New York Jets. But that was that. The game ended in dramatic fashion with Nick Folk securing the win with 23 seconds left on the clock. Once the scoreboard read 27-24 I was a New York Jets fan and have been since!”
It’s odd to think that a slight twist of fate could have made us Cowboys and Giants fans but luckily the Gods of football guided us to the right choice. After the International Series appearance in October, there’ll hopefully be more added to our number. Exciting times are ahead!
As we said, this article was inspired by a comment from a reader. If there is anything you would like to read in future in our column, just drop us a line.