Miami Dolphins v Jacksonville Jaguars: The NFL in London

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Article by 5D writer, Maria Robertson

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Each year there are two NFL, American football, games in London. Previously played in Wembley, the games now take place at the fantastic new Tottenham Hotspur stadium. Check out the video online of them changing it from a NFL to football pitch, it’s quite fascinating! (Link: https://youtu.be/JmeljNpIV1k ).
On Sunday 17th October the Miami Dolphins took on the Jacksonville Jaguars. It was classed as a home game for the Jaguars even though it was in London; so their name was written on the grass and their cheerleaders were dancing throughout the game.

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It was my first time at such an event, although I’m used to “normal” football matches. Outside the stadium were various photo opportunities: a giant NFL ball, the Jaguars mascot and cheerleaders, and headless mannequins of some key players that you could mount from behind to add your head to! Pepsi Max cans were being handed out, with recycling bins inviting you to vote for the winner by putting your empty in the appropriate side. NFL staff were dotted along the road up with welcoming signs and offers to help with any questions. There were official game scarves and programs to buy, and then there was the shop and a massive queue with 10 minute interval markers as you snaked along the street.

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The shop was an experience in itself with a DJ playing bouncing beats and a massive LED screen wall with footage to get you in the mood. There were commemorative items for the specific game of the day. Every team was represented with jerseys, masks, beanie hats, baseball caps and balls (although of course the youngest member of my group seems to support an under represented team so we had to search a bit to find him the relevant merchandise!).  
That was a key aspect of the whole day actually: every team was represented. Traveling to the game it’s customary to try and spot jerseys from every team in the league. The shop had items for every different team. Looking around the stadium you saw fans of all the different teams. And there was no bad feeling between any of them. Obviously there were a few more jerseys for the Dolphins and the Jaguars, and they got more screen time when the crowd cams were showing the fans on the big screens around the stadium.

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Different to our football though, in American football the audience isn’t split up, you all sit together. We had Dolphins fans in front and to the right and Jaguar fans behind us. They did cheer and boo at different times, but there was no agro between them. Can you imagine Celtic and Rangers fans doing that? Or at a Manchester Derby? Nope, they need different halves! Even two days later someone in a lift gave appreciation for my son’s hoodie, with a parting shot of “it’s the wrong team, but still!”. I loved that aspect, everyone was there for the game, yes they supported whatever team they supported for whatever reason they chose them, but they just wanted to watch the game.

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As we went to our seats there were players warming up on the pitch below. I managed to use my foam finger (thanks for the freebie Cinch!) to point our Trevor Lawrence and we got the traditional beers. Tottenham has its own brewery and they have special cups that fill up from a hole in the bottom!

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The Jaguars mascot Jaxson de Ville appeared at the very highest point of the stadium, way above the crowd and pitch up by the Tottenham Hotspur emblem. The crowd gasped as he bungee jumped off and then seemed to zip wire across, and down to land on the far end of the pitch. It was quite a spectacle! He does have a reputation of crazy stunts apparently!
The cheerleaders did a great performance and then some military from each country came out and displayed the American and British flags and an amazing voice from each sang their national anthem.

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That’s Trevor Lawrence being pointed at….honest!

Finally it was time for the actual game – Jaguars won the toss and got to kick off. This is a review of the experience of seeing a game so obviously I will not provide sports commentary; but we clapped and cheered, we boo-ed, the men ran around with the oblong ball, the men fell on the floor with the ball thing and we cheered more. Every now and then a player would be featured on the big screens with statistics that made the boys discuss numbers with great animation. When teams took time out (they are allowed 3 each in a match – see I listened!) there were crowd cams for our entertainment. Just for Men’s beard-cam was amusing when it added beards to unsuspecting victims on screen. Clinch’s car cam matched cars to faces, rather less amusingly. If you used certain hashtags your pictures could appear on the screens and my son was thrilled to appear in his picture with the cheerleaders!

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Halftime entertainment was provided by Rudimental, who went down a lot better than the previous week’s performance by Aitch!
Back to the sports-ball-action.. Twice we had an official review and had to wait whilst the referees discussed whether someone had actually touched the ball or not. Everything was up on the screen and scores were displayed around the stadium at all times, so even I kept up with the game! 
As we reached the end of the final quarter the score was 20-20 and there were mutterings of extra time, and then in literally the final second the Jaguars scored a field goal and took the game!! Again there were cheers, and sighs, but again no aggravation.

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There had been an announcement that there was a record capacity of over 60k at the game, and all those people had to leave at the same time. It certainly wasn’t a quick procedure but it felt safe and orderly. There was even still toilet roll for that last essential visit before the journey.
Tottenham Hotspur have a well designed and run stadium (with tasty nachos), and my first experience of an NFL game was most enjoyable. Really amazing atmosphere and carefully organised event – that I would happily be dragged to again!

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Maria Robertson is the newly anointed Chief Music & Theatre Writer for the 5D Pop Culture Website and provides reviews & coverage of local Aberdeen music & theatre gigs. She’s an experienced writer for numerous sources and is a self-confessed live gig addict ever since seeing The Counting Crows at the Barrowlands in 1994.

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