It is now just hours before the New York Jets make the journey across the Atlantic to England to face the Miami Dolphins at Wembley Stadium. The opinion of different groups of fans on the International Series of course is varied. The dislike of the concept amongst some US fans is understandable but equally there are many who embrace the opportunity to travel to one of the most exciting cities in the world; combining sport and tourism! For us British fans, we of course relish these games as this is often our only opportunity to witness live NFL let alone our own teams. Let’s just say there is a fair amount of excitement! Whether you are traveling or not, here is an insight to what can be expected from an International Series game.
The Team ExperienceAs Todd Bowles has pointed out, no team likes to travel and the Jets have been anticipating the logistical & technical issues posed by a trip overseas for some time, taking advice from colleagues who have done this in the past and making information seeking trips to the UK. Interestingly, 20 out of the 32 teams will have played in an international series game by the end of the season so there are plenty of brains to pick. In reality, the length of journey is much similar to a trip to play Oakland, San Fran or San Diego and holds many of the same issues; except for the requirement of a passport.
One bigger difference however is the 5 hour time difference and the impact on sleep, something we’ve experienced more than once on return trips from the US to the UK. In order to counter this, the Jets have chosen the best possible solutions, flying overnight and spending as much time as possible prepping in the States. This should diminish the impact of jet lag/ sleep deprivation as well as many strategies they’ve created from working with a sleep specialist. Let’s not forget, both teams will be facing this issue. Once they’ve arrived in London on Friday morning, the team will be practising in the London area on and have a walk through on Saturday; pretty standard. Only a few players will have ‘extra’ commitments throughout the weekend.
Aside from endless sightseeing opportunities, to celebrate the uniqueness of the International Series game and enhance the experience of fans both local and visiting, the NFL as well as the individual teams run several special events. These aim to rally the fans as well as boost the awareness of the sport in the UK, not just on game day, but from the time the team arrive. So far the Jets schedule looks like this:Friday – Jets Play 60 event with British school children
Friday/Saturday- ‘Jets pub’ will be open in The Admiralty Pub, Trafalgar Square. This will be similar to Jets House in New York during the Super Bowl. This London pub is intended as a base for the fans all weekend and serves traditional English fare including fish and chips of course!
Saturday – NFL fan rally in Trafalgar Square, Central London. Thousands of fans pack out one of London’s most famous landmarks to celebrate the NFL. There is a wide range of entertainment including, for the Jets, appearances from Coach Bowles, Revis & Fitz.
An Away Game?
Although many of the above events, especially on game day, are similar to those available at Met Life stadium for Jets fans, in London they contrast as they are focused on both teams playing and the wider NFL. They are also attended by fans of all 32 teams. The latter is probably the biggest difference for both fans and players. The Dolphins are of course the home team and they do have a large following in the UK (the Dan Marino era coinciding with the first coverage of the game over here) and will probably be the largest single group of fans in the stadium. However, they’re unlikely to be in the majority unlike at home. The Jets, have a smaller, but still passionate European following who will be complemented by the hoards of traveling fans, all who are keen to make plenty of noise but they’ll be fans wearing jerseys of every team! It’s hard to describe the atmosphere created by fans from all 32 teams together in one stadium: it’s obviously colourful but it also goes someway to neutralising the crowd.
Wembley has not yet managed to create a true home team atmosphere in any of the games we’ve attended and this could be to our advantage and the disadvantage of Miami. We’ll be trying our best to convince the neutrals to go Green.
What not to expect:
- Tailgating is an alien concept to the British sports fan: it simply does not happen. British fans tend to congregate in pubs near the stadium on match days prior to a game of soccer or rugby. At Wembley this will be a similar experience but the white shirts of England will be replaced by a rainbow of NFL jerseys.
- Judging by what we’ve seen so far, Jets merchandise availability will be poor. Sadly Bills fans have more jersey options than Jets in Nike Town London’s NFL pop up store. For British fans this is hugely frustrating!
- American football has a large and well informed UK fan base but it’s still far from being a commonly popular sport and so NFL / College football is not shown in every pub or bar. The Hippodrome in Leicester Square is one of a few places to catch the rest of the games.
- A wide range of food and drink options in the stadium is not available. Each concession stand tends to serve the same rather limited menu of burgers, pizza and chips (fries!). We’ve certainly got a ways to go to catch up with the wide range of choices available in sports stadiums across America.
Whether you are watching the game at 9.30am ET from across the Atlantic or in the stadium at Wembley, it should be business as usual on the field. Hopefully we’ll see a rejuvenated Jets fly back home with another win in the bag… with a British twist.