NFL International Series
Wembley Stadium, London
Attendance: 76, 981
Match Rating: 4
Despite not really having any understanding of the game, nor in all honesty having had much interest in the game, the lure of witnessing a different sporting occasion and the associated razzmatazz of American Football inspired me to book a ticket - despite the high price - for the one NFL game of the season to be played outside of North America, at the home of Association Football, Wembley Stadium.
Part of the attraction of attending the Tailgate Party, for which I arrived at Wembley a couple of hours earlier. Unfortunately, long queues to get in followed by long queues to each stand of interest meant I was not able to fully enjoy everything the Party had to offer, however it was still an enjoyable experience to walk around the various demonstrations and have-a-go stands. Before entering the stadium, I purchased a programme, eye-wateringly expensive - as everything else was at this event - at £10.00, however it must be said it was an excellent publication. A4 sized consisting of 116 glossy, full-colour pages, and certainly contains everything one needs to know about both teams and the NFL season in general, plus numerous interviews. An excellent publication for enthusiasts this side of the water, as well as novices to the game like myself.
This evening's match, which would be the fifth "International Series" match played in London, would be between two fairly evenly matched teams, for which technically was a home game for Tampa Bay. Tonight would be the first time that a team, Tampa Bay, will have played twice in London, and they would be hoping for a better result than last time, when they lost 7-39 to the New England Patriots. Tampa Bay were considered the slight favourites for this evening's match, and they had won four and lost two of their matches so far, whilst the Chicago Bears had won three and lost three of their matches.
After a predictably glitzy and extravagant build up to the game, which included performances by the Goo Goo Dolls, performances by the Tampa Bay cheerleaders and Katherin Jenkins singing the English national anthem, it was the Chicago Bears who started off much the better side, and opened up a 7-2 lead by the end of the first quarter. The second quarter was much of the same, as Chicago opened their lead up to 14-5 with half of the game played.
Things hardly seemed to improve for the Bucaneers in the third quarter, as the Bears soon scored another touchline and had another one disallowed by the time I returned to my seat after a refreshment break. By the end of the third quarter, there really did only look to be one winner, with the Bears leading 21-5. Finally, in the final quarter, the Bucaneers made more of a game of it, and threatened to make a remarkable comeback, as they got within a converted touchdown of victory, as they won the final quarter by 13 points to 3, however the Bears held on for an overall victory of 24-18, to keep them in the hunt of making the end of season play-offs. This result completed a thoroughly miserable day for Tampa Bay owner Malcolm Glazer, who earlier in the day had witnessed his other club, Manchester United, humbled 1-6 at home by city rivals Manchester City.
In all honesty, I did not really understand much of what was going on, struggling even to follow the ball at times, probably not helped by my distant vantage point from right at the top row of the stadium, although this also gave an excellent panaromic view of the stadium to really soak up the occasion.