We invited New York sports blogger Phil DeMeo to come over and report on the NFL games in London. Here’s his report:
The NFL has wrapped up its 10th year of playing games in London, England. The last game to take place in London in 2016 ended with a similar outcome as many of London’s authentic “football” games – a tie.
The Bengals-Redskins matchup concluded the NFL’s three-game set in London this season, with the Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars kicking it off, and the New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams wrapping things up with the first NFL game at Twickenham Stadium, London’s premier rugby venue. The product may have been sloppy, but the London fans were delighted with three close games. The average score of these games was 24-21, with all of them coming down to the wire in one possession games.
I was fortunate enough to be a guest of Virgin Atlantic to cover the Giants-Rams game. My voyage started at Newark’s Clubhouse, where I enjoyed cocktails and a three-course meal before my flight. The Clubhouse felt like an upscale lounge in Manhattan and set the tempo for the rest of the trip. I flew out on Virgin’s fantastic and comfortable Boeing 787 Dreamliner in their luxurious Upper Class. I enjoyed the option to choose between over 50 movies, 80 TV shows, and 280 music albums. I couldn’t resist watching Independence Day II before resting my eyes for a couple of hours, only to be woken up to a hot breakfast.
This trip would mark my first visit to Europe, so I was expecting a little bit of a culture shock. Surprisingly, this wasn’t the case. London and New York are very similar in how they operate. Besides the much bigger buildings in New York compared to the older Victorian style architecture in London, there’s not too much of a difference. Both cities are fast-paced, retail-driven, rely on the subway system, and don’t stop for anyone.
After experiencing the NFL Tailgate and the Giants 17-10 victory over the Rams, I came away with two takeaways. My first takeaway is that there will undoubtedly be a NFL team in London sooner rather than later. Commissioner Goodell spoke to the crowd at the tailgate and sounded like a man who is dedicated to bring more and more games to London. After the game, Goodell was pretty blunt about the NFL’s future in London saying, “I expect we’ll see more games here (at Twickenham) and, who knows, maybe a franchise someday.”
This year marked the 10th anniversary of the NFL’s International Series, and it was once again an overwhelming success. The game between the Redskins and Bengals broke an NFL record in London with an attendance of 84,488. In total, the three games drew 242,373 fans. The question that has to be answered is if the NFL still a novelty in London or has it become well-accepted and part of the sports culture?
At the Giants-Rams game, every single team was represented by jerseys or other team apparel, which is good news for the NFL since not all teams have played across the pond. Eight teams have not played in London: Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks, and the Tennessee Titans. From these eight teams, the Packers and Seahawks were well represented by the fans, which comes as no surprise to anyone since these are two of the most popular and successful teams in the league.
Once the NFL figures out a plan to please all teams when it comes to traveling and logistics, it’s a foregone conclusion that London will be the home of an NFL team. Also, if they travel with Virgin Atlantic, there won’t be much to worry about with the travel experience!
My second takeaway is actually a prediction which will only happens after a team is in London. A Super Bowl will be hosted in London within 5-10 years of a team moving there. Once the NFL weathers the storm when it comes to the backlash of taking America’s biggest event overseas, they seem to be headed in that direction.
London fans had the luxury of watching some of the biggest names in the sport compete this season. Odell Beckham, Todd Gurley, A.J. Green, Josh Norman, Andrew Luck, and Eli Manning all played in front of the sold-out crowds. With the lack of great NFL games here on Sunday, London fans were treated to three close games. Fans were delighted to 28 combined fourth quarter points between the Jaguars and Colts in a near Andrew Luck comeback. The Rams may have played a sloppy game with four interceptions thrown by Case Keenum, but the game still came down to the last minute in the fourth quarter against the Giants. The Redskins and Bengals showed a totally different and unpredicted side of the sport, the lunacy of a tie.
Overall, I would highly recommend the NFL London experience to any fan who is able to go. It was eye-opening to see both the passion and curiosity that the fans have for the sport. You can check out my full recap of my London experience for the Giant-Rams game here. Here is also my recap of the trip told with just pictures.