After the New York Giants' dramatic 17-10 victory over the Los Angeles Rams, here's five Truths related to the first NFL experience at Twickenham...
Twickenham the perfect NFL venue
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The NFL continues to experiment with different settings for its International Series games, and in the UK at least that has meant Wembley Stadium and now Twickenham with Tottenham's new stadium in Northumberland Park poised to become a third location from 2018. As a first experience of an NFL game at Twickenham, it appears it was a roaring success.
Officially declared a sell out, the game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New York Giants managed to pit two well-matched teams together with sufficient individual stars to make the contest engrossing. But from a wider fans' perspective, Twickenham hosted a packed Tailgating pre-game area with food, drink, music, on-stage interviews and fans representing all 32 NFL teams having a collective party. Easily connected from London Waterloo, for many it was a welcome break from Wembley Stadium.
Bayern Munich stars really love the NFL
Bayern stars Franck Ribery, Jerome Boateng and David Alaba were not only present at the game, they were seemingly everywhere. From having a centre-of-the-field summit with Odell Beckham Jr to constantly starring on the vast plasma screens, the footballers certainly made their presence felt. Trying to out-dress the ever-flamboyant Beckham - particularly given that he was sporting Burberry cleats - is a pretty formidable undertaking, but the trio may just have managed it by the look of their questionable attire.
England rugby stars past and present were also in attendance, indulging in somewhat awkward appearances in the end zones between plays. James Haskell and Jonathan Joseph were introduced to a warm ovation, but it was legendary World Cup-winning captain Martin Johnson who brought the whole of Twickenham to its feet with a lap of honour accompanied by 'Land of Hope and Glory' in comically-hyped fashion.
Odell Beckham Jr really is a huge global star
Everything Beckham Jr did at Twickenham was given a resounding roar; even when he was jogging up and down the touchline to keep warm between Giants defensive plays, he was given a lung-busting reception. There's no doubt that Beckham is an enormous global star, and his visit to London further confirmed the fact. The below video, posted by NFL UK on Twitter, exemplifies the point perfectly:
Yes, he was wearing Burberry cleats, which certainly gained plenty of attention, but it was his play which particularly grabbed fans who responded with near-hysterical cheers every time he touched the ball. From his entrance into Twickenham Stadium to his dancing for fans during the game, it's abundantly clear just how much of a superstar he really outside the States.
Fan engagement really is something else
Premier League clubs are constantly talking about ways to engage the fans, yet do not appear to try anything around matches barring the odd half-time penalty or pre-match raffle. Football, cricket and rugby in general do pretty little in terms of generating interest and buzz around games - and it's certainly something they could learn a lot from by observing an NFL gameweek.
The way the NFL - and both teams, in this case the Rams and the Giants - manages to ramp up anticipation and engagement amongst fans in the week prior to games is quite astonishing, and that's even before the razzmatazz of gameday itself. In London this week, for example, there have been fan rallies, huge events with legendary players, tailgate parties, merchandise giveaways, specific team open days for fans and then 10 full hours of fun organised on gameday. Rather than turn up their noses at NFL invasions, British sports should take note, because this is how you really engage and excite fans.
UK tailgating may not be tailgating, but it still works
So 'tailgating' in the UK is clearly not what it is in the US. But does that really matter? It's different; it's wildly different; but it still works pretty well for fans wanting to have fun before and after the game. Spending an hour or so prior to the pre-game show is richly rewarded if you are happy to get stuck in, walking amongst the crowds and chatting to fans of all teams. There's a lot of fun to be had if you are willing to take on loosely-related NFL challenges and embrace the general atmosphere.
A few fans from the States pointed out that this was a wildly different fan experience to the one they enjoy over the Atlantic, but that should not diminish what is on offer outside Twickenham or Wembley on a gameday. Fans in the UK only get a few opportunities each year to indulge in their love of the NFL and to see so many representing teams from across the league is a unique and very enjoyable sight. Frankly, the atmosphere could hardly be move jovial.
New York Giants fans at Twickenham
Image credit: Reuters
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