Pilgrims - A British NFL Experience

Americans may ask themselves: “why would a British Chargers fan see Denver v Jacksonville in London?” The answer is rather cryptic.

The concept of spectator sports is more deep-rooted in human culture than one may think. Cave paintings in the French caves depict wrestling and sprinting ~15, 300 years ago. Ancient Egyptians spectated fishing, long-jumping, rowing, archery and many more around 3000 BC as told by monuments to important Pharoah figures.

While it was the Greeks who formalized sport with the first Olympic Games held in Olympia in 776 BC. Since then, spectator sports have only evolved at lightning speed.

Since the first game played in 1869, American football has become a worldwide sensation. With international games played in Mexico, the UK and now Germany, fans flock from all over to watch a game which sees players use combinations of brute force, nimble feet and unbelievably quick situational analysis to win games.

Most people in the United States will support one of two teams when going to see a match in their own country. Some will travel between states to see their favorite team play. But the situation across the pond couldn’t be more different.

For us Brits, it’s not just an opportunity to have a (relatively extortionate and crowded) tailgate experience, but to watch the sport we love, regardless of fandom. Fans from across the country, and neighboring countries, will don their favorite jerseys to see an NFL game, despite who’s playing, resulting in an explosion of color in the stands.

To see a game in our home city is not only a chance to spend time with friends and family, but to feel engaged with the sport we watch religiously every week during the chillier, darker months of the year. A reboot in our sense of belonging in an otherwise isolated world of sports on this side of the Atlantic.

Seeing the Broncos take on the Jaguars at Wembley stadium wasn’t what excited me about 30th October. It was being immersed in the swarm of fans which share the same passion at such a burning intensity while watching an event that occupies much of our lives. Thoughts, conversations, food, joy, dismay, much is shared over and because of American football.

For a Chargers fan, seeing Denver secure a win over Jacksonville wasn’t on my priority list at all for that day. Despite the result, that sense of belonging was restored. Many UK fans organize watch parties for when their team plays. But given the size of the country, and the lower concentration of fans compared to the States, attending one of the London games can do just as much, if not more.

The nods of approval from fellow Chargers fans on my choice of Jersey (powder blue Herbert), the looks of dissent from Raiders fans who appear to have just left Wandsworth (prison), and the care-free blind-drunk Bears fan just happy to be watching a game live again, all of it adds to the experience – the atmosphere we all feel so at home with.

Some fans who attend the London games, when asked why they attend may say “it’s a chance to watch a game live, innit?” or “booze, burgers and Broncos…. What’s not to like?” but really, it feels like a homecoming. It just feels… right.

“After serious matters, let us indulge in a season of sport” – Horace.


About the Author:

Nick is a writer, PhD student and drummer living in Reading, England. He is Staff Writer and Yachtsman-At-Large of the Rivers Lake Yacht Club. Reach him on Twitter @drdefensehuge.

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