Crazy People – UK Fans of the NFL

The Crazy People come out in force between August and February each year. All driven by another country’s favourite sport.

Q – Alcohol aside, what makes people so passionate they are willing to regularly make themselves feel like crap the next day?

A – Being fans of American Football and living in the UK.

The UK's crazy people would love to be here
The normal way to enjoy NFL games, like in this Seattle sports bar

The Normal People

Monday night football in Seattle. The Seahawks are hosting the team everyone who isn’t from Boston loves to hate – purely through jealousy, of course – the New England Patriots. Kick-off is at 8:20 p.m. which means most people have finished work for the day and are sat down with family, friends and a cold beer to watch the game… right?

That may be the case in Boston. Even on the West Coast it still leaves time for most nine to five workers to get home and grab a McDonalds for everyone before sitting down with family and fr… you know the drill by now.

At least. that’s the ritual for the normal people who follow the NFL. Here in the UK, it’s a slightly different scenario.

The Crazy People

We have been to work all day, had family time and meals many hours before. We are now struggling with the usual game-day dilemma about our beds. As the Clash once famously sang, ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?’ Up and down the country people are wondering the same thing. “Can I watch the game and still survive tomorrow at work?”

At this point, I should probably mention to American readers that MNF kicks off at 01:20 a.m. GMT. With games lasting up to four hours in some cases, this can mean getting to bed at around 05:00 a.m. and getting up for work one bird song later.

The love of the sport has burgeoned on this side of the Pond in recent years – mainly due to the NFL’s London Games – which gives fans access to see the teams play live and sample the game-day atmosphere. The chance to see superstars like Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady has really lit a rocket under the sport and it’s only going to get more popular as the years pass by.

TV History of the NFL in the UK

Where it all began for the die hard crazy people
Super Bowl XX – This is where it all started for a lot of the longer in the tooth NFL fans

For those of a particular vintage, Channel 4 was responsible for our first taste of the NFL back in the eighties. They broadcast highlights of games from the previous week and believe it or not, we didn’t know the results. In those pre-internet days, it was still exciting to watch a show broadcasting old news.

Back then, the Chicago Bears were the big boys. Coached by the original ‘Iron Mike’ – Mike Ditka – who was given the nickname before Tyson had even stepped into a boxing ring. I remember watching Super Bowl XX back in 1986, which was broadcast live and wondering what on earth was happening. I didn’t have a clue about the rules but still loved the spectacle and the occasion.

William ‘The Refrigerator’ Perry was at his bludgeoning best and the Bears comfortably beat a New England Patriots team that was very different from the successful franchise it would become, in what was both teams’ first Super Bowl appearance.

Channel 4 cut showing the highlights in the early nineties. The NFL disappeared from most people’s thoughts along with their screens. The UK’s crazy people went back to watching the sports they knew and understood.

Introduction of the London Games

The national stadium - full of crazy people
Another sell-out crowd at Wembley Stadium in October 2016 – Washington vs Cincinnati

This remained the case until 2007 with the introduction of the International Series. This brought the game to an audience that was ready to embrace it only reluctantly for the most part. However, there were die-hard fans who had never stopped following the game from afar. slowly, the numbers swelled with each passing year and each London game. Now its popularity has grown to levels far surpassing the eighties.

Nowadays, four games are held in London each season amid much excitement. Fans who usually have to watch from over five thousand miles away, get a chance to see their heroes. Each game is sold out long before the day and the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium has even been designed to incorporate a retractable football field specifically for hosting NFL games – becoming the first outside the United States to do so.

So, the game has grown to new levels and there have been persistent rumours of a franchise even making the move to London at some stage in the future – a sure sign that the NFL can sniff out a welcoming audience – in what is already the world’s richest league.

Crazy People Like it Bad

As if the time difference wasn’t enough in its own right, British fans complete the masochistic double by supporting franchises that tend not to do very well.

According to a YouGov poll, the five most popular NFL teams in the UK right now are the Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears and New York Jets!

For my part, I am a fan-in-law of the Washington No-Names. This is because I married a lovely American lady who came pre-loaded with a ‘You will support them or starve’ message that my (burgundy and gold!) stomach didn’t like to upset.

Crazy people, out in force at Wembley each year
Wembley 2016 – Why does she always have to pull those silly faces?

Other teams I have a soft spot for – in no particular order – the Seahawks, Vikings, Steelers and Packers. (Don’t tell ‘She-Who-Feeds-Me’.) All teams from up in the snowy north for some reason?

So, here we are. Monday Night Football at 01:20. The UK’s crazy people are tired, yet excited to see Seahawks vs Patriots. We are trying not to think about a long day at work ahead of us. We log in to Twitter and the experience is made far more enjoyable by joining other passionate crazies all up and down this great sporting country of ours.

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