LONDON — Things certainly are different on this side of the pond.
If you’re talking about football, you had better use the prefix of “American” if you’re talking about our brand of the game. Otherwise, you’re referring to what we call soccer.
If you lose pounds, that doesn’t refer to weight.
Folks drive on the left side of the road with the steering wheels on the right side of the vehicle. And if you’re trying to cross a junction, you had better be prepared to run for it.
I haven’t seen a stop sign yet and many of the crossings seem to be without signals. There are so many roundabouts that you would think the NASCAR folks designed the road system.
It takes a little getting used to. London has a ton of parks and even more monuments. If you do things the right way, you can take in most of them in a day, even if you don’t take advantage of the “Tube or Underground.”
I was lucky enough to see many of the famous sites in one full day of just walking around town.
The Tube is the fabulous subway system here in London and you pretty much can get anywhere around town via subway, train or bus.
As for the weather, the stories you’ve probably heard are true. I found where autumn went and it’s right here in England. It’s been cloudy most of the time, although the sun did come out Saturday.
There has been rain, light sleet or even some snow flurries through my time here so far. Unfortunately, the weather hasn’t been the greatest during some of the sporting events. It rained at times during my first sporting event, the Arsenal-Queens Park Rangers (QPR) match at Emirates Stadium in London Saturday.
The folks at Arsenal were gracious enough to allow me to shoot the Barclays Premier League match.
I’m sure you’ve heard the stories of English football fans. I shot from both ends of the pitch and was able to be among supporters from both sides. At the English stadiums, the seats go right up to field level with a small track running within the perimeter of the front seats. That’s where the photographers get to do the shooting and gives security a little bit of a gap to stop any potential problems in the stands.
I didn’t see any issues. I sat in front of the QPR side in the first half and the Arsenal side in the second half. The fans seemed to be very well behaved. They sang songs, which probably is what kept them warm. The songs didn’t seem to be derogatory in any way and, in fact, were a lot more tame than many of the cheers you might hear at a high school basketball game.
As for the atmosphere, I would put it somewhere between a Cardinals game and a major college football game, but without the bands. They didn’t need the bands to generate the electricity. There was a lot of team spirit in the air from both sides.
Arsenal’s goal came after a period of prolonged pressure. Mikel Arteta scored the goal after Arsenal had a few chances in front of the net. Jack Wilshere made his Premier League return in this game after a prolonged injury which has kept him out for quite some time. He looked comfortable running the midfield for Arsenal.
In the QPR net, Julio Cesar still looks to be world class despite being sold near the start of the season by Inter Milan. Without his saves, some of them one-handed, Arsenal could have scored at least a few more goals.
The National Football League seems to fly under the radar. The NFL game hardly has been mentioned in the newspapers here. I’m sure the players could walk around town without signing any autographs. They’re pretty much anonymous in this town.
Most of the fans here for the Rams-Patriots game seem to be from the U.S. However, there are some football fans abroad who are taking advantage of having a game in London.
At the Trafalgar Square rally Saturday, the place seemed to be filled. You could find replica jerseys of just about every team there. Talking to one Rams fan, who had both Rams and Cardinals gear on, I discovered he had come down from Glasgow, Scotland, for the event. At the fan event though, it just didn’t seem to be a huge draw.
It was difficult to see the NFL merge with the legend of Nelson and other British naval heroes.
There just doesn’t seem to be a ton of interest in the NFL, unless you’re near Niketown in London, where the jerseys and T-shirts were flying off the shelves Sunday, or at Wembley Stadium.
Many of the fans seem to be curious locals. Almost every team is represented within the fan ranks. I even saw a cheesehead as the media coach drove up to the stadium.
As for the game, the person who decided to forfeit a home game in St. Louis for this should be evaluated.
For starters, this was a home game in name only. The Rams might have worn the home colors and had the cheerleaders, mascot and colors in the stadium, but that was about the extent of any advantage.
Patriots fans outnumbered Rams at least five-to-one. The light rain, which fell throughout much of the game, never happens in the Edward Jones Dome.
The Patriots made the Rams defense look like the pre-Jeff Fisher days. And penalties came at all the wrong moments, stopping drives and helping New England continue to move down the field.
Like New England needed any help.
Trailing the Patriots 28-7 at the half, Fisher should have summoned up the spirit of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his “we will fight them in the streets” speech.
But whatever was done didn’t work. The Rams lost 45-7, and never really threatened to do anything outstanding in the rain in the second half.
Isaiah Pead did some nice work running the ball later in the contest, but it wasn’t even close to enough to make a difference.
While the game wasn’t anything to celebrate, it was a good experience. Everyone spoke well of London and how they have hosted this event. Next year, they will have two games here. The talk is that maybe London would eventually get a team, but logistics just might not allow that to work at the current time.
See you back on the other side of the pond!