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The rise of American Football in Washington D.C.

By: Virgin Atlantic

October 2, 2015

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Image © Keith Allison

American football is one of the most popular sports in the USA, beating both the NBA and baseball. The Super Bowl is the world’s biggest sporting event, becoming the most-watched show in U.S. history in 2015 with over 114 million viewers, and America’s colleges and universities come equipped with stadiums designed to nurture heaps of sporting talent. An NFL game is an impressive feast for the senses, complete with cheerleaders, musical performances and amusing mascots, not to mention mouth-wateringly tasty snacks to devour before, in-between and during gameplay. On top of all this, the teams don’t just play – they perform. This is “˜Merica, where sport is big, bold, and truly entertaining.

With all this in mind, it perhaps comes as no surprise to learn that the British fan community is growing every day, and although it may not be the first location to spring to mind for NFL enthusiasts, Washington D.C. features at the top of the list for many fans. In fact, D.C. recently beat both LA and Detroit as the best city for sports travel.

Want to get close enough to catch American football fever first-hand? Go long, to Washington“¦

The Washington Redskins

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  Images : Top left © Keith Allison – Top right © Bernard Gagnon – Bottom © Hogs Haven

Originally known as the Boston Braves, the Washington team started out in Boston, Massachusetts, back in 1932. They didn’t relocate to Washington D.C. until 1937, and achieved their first victory in their new home against the New York Giants that same year.

The Redskins’ home stadium is FedExField in Maryland, which holds a capacity of roughly 74,000, so it’s worth getting your hands on a ticket during your visit to Washington. Read on for some more vital facts:

They’re winners

Since 1932, the Washington team have played over 1000 games and won five NFL Championships, including three Super Bowls.

They’re worth big bucks

Behind the Dallas Cowboys and the New England Patriots, they’re the third most valuable franchise in the NFL. In 2014, they were valued at around $2.4 billion.

They’re trend-setting

The Redskins were the first NFL team to have their own official marching band, plus their own fight song, which is titled “˜Hail to the Redskins’.

Catholic University Athletics

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 Images © CUA Cardinals

Football culture in D.C. is huge, so there are also plenty of local college teams. One such team is the Catholic University Athletics (CUA) Cardinals from Division III, whose roots extend as far back as 1895. We spoke to their Communications Director, Mike Gambardella, to find out more about the team.

Tell us a little about the team’s previous achievements

“This season marks the 80-year anniversary of Catholic’s Orange Bowl victory! Yes, nearly a century ago, CUA played at the Division I level and was victorious in one of the most recognisable bowl games in college football. Catholic went on to defeat Mississippi 20-19 in the second-eve Orange Bowl.”

And how’s the team looking for the new season?

“2015 marks a great season for CUA, as ten starters are returning on offense, as well as a new 3-4 defensive scheme hoping to push the Cardinals back towards the top of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC). “Senior quarterback T.J. Tutone leads the charge as his top six pass catchers from 2014 return, along with leading rusher, junior Matt Perno.”

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 Images © CUA Cardinals

What can we expect at a CUA game?

“Located in Northeast D.C., just next to Brookland, Cardinal Stadium is a great venue to watch a game, and features a brand-new press box for the 2015 season.”

How affordable are the games for visitors?

“Ticket prices are some of the lowest in D.C. Single-game tickets, available on game day at the gate, are just $5. All college students (from any institutions) are free with a valid student ID. There is also senior citizen pricing.” Just $5 a ticket? Wow. This is a whole new ball game”¦

The best sports bars to catch a Redskins game

Similar to the UK, game day is a full-fledged social event. Even if you can’t make it to the stadium, you can certainly make a day of it by setting up camp in the most atmospheric sports bar, where you can chat away with fans who share a passion for the sport.

Jimmy’s Old Town Tavern

Order a plate of chicken wings alongside your beer as you sit back to watch the game at Jimmy’s Old Town Tavern. This is a cosy, bustling bar that’s been on the go for over 18 years. There’s a feast of Washington sport on the menu, served up with plenty of friendly conversation in welcoming surroundings.

Nanny O’Briens

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 Images © Nanny O’Brien

There’s nothing like a classic Irish bar for watching some sport, even if said sport is American football. Nanny O’Brien’s features several TVs showing local sports events, and you’ll find the food and drink prices a little cheaper than the other food places nearby. Make sure you ask your server to recommend a beer to complement your meal of choice.

Grevey’s

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 Images © Grevey’s

Sample some seriously hearty food (the sandwiches are out of this world) in front of a projection screen performance of the game, or choose from 50 LCD and plasma TVs. If you hate being cooped up inside, there’s even outdoor patio viewing available. Grevey’s has been welcoming people through its doors for over thirty years.

The Greene Turtle

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 Images © The Green Turtle

Settle down at a table complete with your very own TV, indulge in happy hour and tuck into moreish American fare that’s served up in huge portions. The Greene Turtle sports bar is a US favourite – the burgers are legendary, the service is friendly and the prices will most definitely surprise you. Plus, did we mention there’s a happy hour?

The Tortoise and Hare: bringing Pittsburgh to Washington

With a tagline that urges you to “˜hop in and crawl out’, you know you’re in for a great night. The Tortoise and Hare is situated in Arlington, VA, just across the river from D.C. It’s a Pittsburgh-themed bar, with a passion for the Steelers. We caught up with this friendly bar’s owner, Brian Montgomery, to get some insider knowledge.

Tell us a little about your joint!

“We offer a hometown feel that reminds people of where they grew up. From service and food to playing songs during all Steelers touchdowns, we bring our customers back to Pittsburgh, or wherever they are from!”

What can be expected on a typical game day?

“The bar fills up about an hour and a half before kick-off and is standing room only by game time. We offer several drinks and food specials throughout the game, as well as a collaboration beer exclusively brewed for us by Three Notch’d Brewing and Oskar Blues Brewery; it’s called Black & Goldings.”

Which beer do people most tend to order?

“The most popular beer choice is Iron City Light, which comes straight from Pittsburgh.”

And the most popular food?

“That would be our Polish Pierogies with Kielbasa and our Loaded Tater Tots.”

What are the regulars like?

“Our regulars are a mix of everyone from blue collar to white collar, from young to old. We are a place where everyone feels comfortable, no matter what they’re here for.”

Do people dress up for an NFL game?

“YES! Almost everyone wears some kind of Steelers gear.”

Visit Washington

Fancy walking in the shoes of an NFL fan in the States? Book your flight to Washington today with Virgin Atlantic.

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