We planned to honeymoon in London before settling into our city in the north end of the country. It'd been 10 years since I'd been to London with our high school senior trip and I was looking forward to going back. A few months earlier, I'd found that my home NFL team, the Atlanta Falcons, would be playing in London the very same weekend we were there. Firstly, I love American football. Secondly, I've never actually been to a Falcons game, or any other NFL game. (Disclaimer: I live in the South and everyone supports their university teams so going to University of Georgia games always trumped the Falcons.) Thirdly, what are the chances that the weekend you go to London your team is playing an NFL game there?
This was an opportunity too good to miss. Several years back, the NFL recognized the fan potential they had in the UK and decided to partner with London to host a rotation of NFL games every season. It has been quite a success and last year four NFL games were held in London's Wembley Stadium. I figured it might be some time before the Falcons get asked back to play in London. Plus, as I was moving to England, my future chances to see live American football were slim.
The dilemma: my Spanish husband neither understands nor appreciates American football (oh, the horror). I have tried in vain to teach him the ways of the glorious game we have invented, but it just never caught. To a person raised in the soccer (or should I say fútbol) capital of the world, any game where you pick up the ball in your hands is sacrilege.
You can only imagine his surprise when I wanted to see a football game during our honeymoon. I think at first he thought I was joking. But he shouldn't have been surprised, I used to get him to stream UGA football games on his computer from some Chinese provider so I could watch my team from Spain. So he agreed and when we arrived in London after the wedding, the whole city was in a hype over the big game. US and NFL flags hung down Regent Street, and we caught just the tail end of the Falcons fan rally in Trafalgar Square.
Making our way to Wembley Stadium, home to the English national football team and the biggest stadium in the UK, I was getting pretty excited. Falcons gear was everywhere and fans from all over Europe were showing their support. I heard a variety of languages being spoken amongst the crowd, just going to show that the love of American football reaches far beyond our borders. I of course had my Falcons shirt on and picked up a "Rise Up" flag on the way in. The Falcons were the designated 'home team' so all the stadium was decorated in red and black and the rallying cries were always for our team.
I loved the whole thing. Well, except for the fact that the Detroit Lions managed to come back from behind to beat us by one point. One. My husband observed the game with about the same amount of interest I would show toward a game of cricket. I suppose I did enough cheering for the both of us. Although I failed to convert my husband to American football, and despite the heart-breaking loss, being in Wembley Stadium with Atlanta and foreign fans alike was an unforgettable experience.
The rest of our days in London we spent doing the usual sightseeing circuit and relaxing from a few crazy days of getting married and moving abroad.
Other pictures from our trip: