Those who know me in real life know that I was born in the state of Ohio and lived most of my life there before I moved to the United Kingdom. I've also never been to a football (American football) game. A few months ago, however, I was told that the Ohio State University Marching Band would be performing at Wembley for an NFL game - the Buffalo Bills vs the Jacksonville Jaguars. So, the bloke and I got tickets and hoped we'd be on the right side to watch.
NFL and American football is actually becoming quite popular in England and is establishing a larger fan base each year. One of my English friends started a British fan club for the Giants and watches games and has met some managers and players in NFL. Wembley stadium can take 90,000 people, and over 84,000 watched this game.
We turned up early to spend the whole day around Wembley. Hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, Krispy Kremes (the ones with vanilla cream are my favourites but they do not sell them except for special events), popcorn, American pancakes, and bacon were all on offer to cater to Americans. The area was filled with British and American fans.
Although the Jaguars were considered the 'home' team (and every seat in the stadium received a free Jaguars flag), I mainly saw Bills fans. A lot of Bills fans from New York came to see their team play, and we spoke to a couple of fans in the queue for merchandise.
We actually had decent seats. We made sure we arrived and sat in plenty of time.
The Ohio State University Marching Band were up first, performing a special "British Invasion" theme. This started with the NFL logo and then morphed into Big Ben and time travel as we were taken to various stages of British music from 1965 to the present.
This morphed into The Who, Rolling Stones, iconic London buses, Abbey Road, a guitar, a rock singer with a microphone, the Tower of London, the London Eye, and a crown before reverting back to Big Ben.
The script Ohio was also performed, and we heard many good comments about the performance around us from others watching the show.
After the performance, the players came out into the stadium as did the Jaguars' cheerleaders and two of the Jaguars' mascots.
The national anthem for America and then the UK was sung, and heroes were welcomed and remembered on top of a giant poppy. The Ohio State University Marching band performed again and transformed into the stars and stripes and the Union Jack for the anthems.
Then we watched the game.
A camera inside an NFL ball kept floating about the lower seats. We also managed quite a few Mexican waves around the whole stadium. It was a good atmosphere.
Bills scored the first goal, but the Jaguars caught up and got several in at once. Each time they scored, the flames would light up and flags waved.
At the end, the Bills were ahead and looked like they would win it, but the Jaguars got in and scored again. They won by three points.
So, this weekend was a first for me and a little bit different as I've never been to a game before. It was nice to see some other people with Ohio State shirts on in the crowds at Wembley too, and I also saw a few with Bengals shirts (another team from Ohio, and they played earlier in the year at Wembley) on. The European fans seem to wear whichever team's shirts they like to go to the game, regardless of who is playing, which made a good atmosphere with people sharing a common interest in sport.