Showing a smidgeon more enthusiasm for the NFL’s grand experiment than the Star-Ledger’s Paul Needell-Of-Death (“the league couldn’t make sure the field was better equipped to handle rain yesterday? ‘Cause, you know, it does rain a bit in England”), the Guardian’s Tom Lutz contends, “it can’t be denied that it’s been a great show, if not a great game.”
As kick-off approaches, things aren’t going swimmingly in the stadium either. The Americans in the crowd spring to their feet as the Star Spangled Banner is played, the English rise a little more slowly with a few groans, although in their defence it must be the first time in Wembley’s history that a foreign national anthem isn’t booed. God Save the Queen doesn’t get a much better reception, perhaps because the guest singer is Paul Potts, the bloke with bad teeth who won Britain’s Got Talent.
But slowly, the crowd is won over. Anybody who’s ever seen an episode of Jerry Springer will know Americans cheer anything – a wife-beater, a punch-up, even an advert break. Anybody who’s ever seen The Jeremy Kyle Show will know that English fans take a bit more convincing before they roar their approval – an actual murder on air, perhaps. But today, the mainly English crowd cheer everything – the cheerleaders, the first tackle of the game, the appearance of Lewis Hamilton and John Terry (okay, maybe not John Terry), even The Feeling are given a warm reception and they don’t even play Sewn.
It’s all a bit strange. English fans don’t usually like all this showy stuff. Sky tried it when they first began broadcasting the Premier League and it was a disaster. Sulky 14-year-old cheerleaders take to the field before the game and jog up and down the spot (usually to stop their legs dropping off with the cold) while Europe’s Final Countdown is played through a tinny PA system. Sky pulled the plug on the whole sorry business fairly quickly. But the NFL organisers whip up the fans brilliantly. The whole thing is just so damned professional. The cheerleaders are uniformly six-feet tall, with thousands of dollars worth of dentistry blazing out of their mouths and when the music pounds out of the speakers, the bass is powerful enough to send shivers down the spine.
It’s a shame then that the game is a bit of a stinker until the Dolphins stage a late rally that almost sees them sneak a win. The pitch cuts up early in the game and gets worse (England now have a ready-made excuse if they lose against Croatia next month) meaning the game turns into trench warfare – it’s a war the Giants win 13-10. Some Dolphins fans have complained that they’ve been deprived of a home game, but judging by their team’s inept performance, the NFL has done them a favour.
“It was a fantastic spectacle,” said one NFL virgin, Rachel Beard, as she left the ground. “I’d definitely come again. If only to see Paul Potts.”
So there you go, the evening ends with another small miracle: Paul Potts, the future of the NFL in Europe.