10 days away from NFL history in London
We are now just over a week away from the first regular season NFL game to have been played in Europe. It only seems like yesterday when the worst-kept secret about the game was officially released to the press, and the announcment of the two teams being the Miami Dolphins and the New York Giants.
But at this pre-game and pre-media hype stage of proceedings, what can we look forward to from the game? And more than just the game, what will the actual three-day event of the teams' arrival and practice sessions entail?
The main story of the summer has been the allocation of tickets for the game itself. The 500,000 number of application for tickets was about as believable as an Iraqi election turnout poll, and included a bunch of pre-pubsecent schoolkids logging on-line and requesting 4-6 tickets each.
Ultimately, via separate "lucky dips", the NFL offered NFLUK registered "fans", tickets for the game. All the 70,000-odd normal tickets have hence been sold, albeit quite possibly at the expense of some real fans who never had a chance to buy tickets for the game. Of course the NFL simply want to sell out every ticket - the make-up of the people who are actually in the seats is secondary to the aim of the project.
Naturally over the last month, everyone and their dog have been offered "club seat packages" at prices that would pay for your own seven-day trip to see the Dolphins play in Miami. But that is Wembley Stadium trying to make some money back on the massive over-spend that the new stadium cost based on its original estimate.
The two teams themselves are also somewhat secondary to the event. Whether it be the Dolphins, Giants or any of the other 30 teams, it is the fact that a regular season game is being played is the primary attraction. Miami were selected based on their inability to sell out their own stadium. Ultimately every team will lose a home game in this international series, but the Dolphins were the obvious choice.
The national media hype will start in the UK in the immediate days leading up to the game. "Aren't the players big?" and "Could Johnny Wilkinson kick for the Dolphins" stories will be evident in the tabloid press - just accept it's going to happen and pity the idiot reporters writing them. I personally thought Frank Lampard would be a better bet based on his ability to knock the ball over the bar from 30 yards out in every one of Chelsea's games this season.
And talking of Chelsea, John Terry and Didier Drogba have been named honorary captains for the Giants. You just know some other pair of sporting Z-listers will be named for the Dolphins sometime this week.
The game itself will see some interesting characters wandering around Wembley sporting NFL team shirts of differing colours and eras. You can only hope that most of the moronic dweebs who post on the NFLUK forum will not be allowed out to the game by their Mummys and Daddys (based on it finishing after their bedtimes). It is simply a chance for NFL fans to support the game irrespective of the teams.
So if you are a real fan of the NFL, and if you are reading this, then you almost definitely are, then count to ten when the media hype for the game borders on the ridiculous, and appreciate that October 28th is going to be a day that goes down in history for British gridiron.
Paul Stewart, October 2007