Saturday 7 November 2015

Event Review: NFL International Series - Detroit Lions @ Kansas City Chiefs

As a British woman, I'm not exactly your typical NFL fan. But ever since my boyfriend got into the sport several years ago, I tried to show an interest (admittedly begrudgingly at first!) After some late night games and lots of one-sided football conversations, I finally figured out the basics of the game.

So when he asked me to go to one of the 2015 International Series games with him, I said yes. We selected the game we wanted, and after an extremely stressful morning back in early Spring trying to book tickets, we were in.

Fast forward nine months, and we're on our way to Wembley Stadium on 1st November. We must have looked a contradictory couple, him in all his Patriots gear and me in my Bears stuff (yes, I'm a Bears fan), but it seemed everywhere you looked in London there was a jersey-wearing fan. Aside from a mean glance from a Vikings fan on the tube (we were due to play them later that day) and being silently judged by a pack of Dolphins fans while waiting for my train, everyone was sharing in the game day atmosphere, regardless of what team they were supporting.

That's the thing about the International Series games. Fans of all 32 teams come along just to watch the sport and share in their love of the game. That's why even frankly mediocre teams are managing to sell out the International Series games - and it bodes well for the future of international football.

But that's a whole other story.

We arrived early to Wembley, which was just as well as it was already starting to get busy. In fact, after a detour to the frankly disappointing on-site shop and a long search for a seemingly non-existent  rubbish bin, we were sitting in our seats almost 2 hours before the game was due to start.

Seats which were, incidentally, far better than I was expecting. We were in the top tier of the stadium's three tiers, but we weren't too far back, giving us a perfect bird's eye view of the action. This was made even better by the fact that we were almost perfectly aligned with the centre of the sideline.

A photo posted by Lorna Holland (@themaxdog) on

Because we were so early, we watched the players warming up down on the field below. As we got closer and closer to kick-off and the stadium filled up, the atmosphere just got better and better.

We were treated to pre-game entertainment in the form of classic English band Madness. They only played a handful of songs, yet managed to squeeze in their biggest hits 'Baggy Trousers' and 'Our House' nonetheless. Followed by a performance from the Chiefs cheerleaders (much to the delight of all the male fans in the crowd), by this point the 83,624 strong audience were more than ready for some football.

On paper, this looked to be a pretty evenly-matched game. Going into week 8, the Lions were 1-6 and the Chiefs were 2-5. Neither team have been having a particularly great season. So as we kicked-off, it's fair to say it was anyone's game.

However, football is an unpredictable sport, and this game really proved that. Detroit were off to a good start with a field goal resulting in the first points of the game. Unfortunately, things could only go downhill from there. Kansas rallied, and by half-time the score was 24 to the Lions' lonely 3.

By this point the crowd were starting to get restless. Football games can last a long time when the play isn't great. But we stuck with it - after all, teams have come back from worse.

Unfortunately, the game continued in the same fashion during the third quarter. A further Chiefs touchdown added 7 more points to Detroit's misery. At the end of the third quarter, the Lions were getting desperate and the crowd were getting fed-up. Even further performances from the KC cheerleaders weren't helping. A lot of people started to leave.

Then, in the fourth quarter, just as everyone had given up, the Lions managed to score a touchdown at last. Even Chiefs fans cheered because everyone just felt sorry for them. Unfortunately, another couple of Kansas touchdowns meant their last hurrah was in vain. The final score was 45-10. Ouch.

The biggest problem was Detroit's complete lack of an offensive line. We joked that they might as well have had a bunch of cardboard cut-outs surrounding the QB, because they would have done the same job. I also heard one of the commentators was saying Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was Jay Cutler in disguise for Halloween...

The Chiefs, on the other hand, did a great job. Alex Smith proved his worth as a mobile quarterback, and rookie RB Charcandrick West did brilliantly stepping in for the injured Jamaal Charles.

Despite the fact it turned out to be a very one-sided game in the end, it was a fantastic experience. With the announcement of the extension of the International Series, we'll be sure to be back next year!

Are you an NFL fan? Let me know in the comments below!

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