|NFL in London|
That Sunday after getting a good night sleep, I got to enjoy a great breakfast at the Grantly Hotel where I was staying. When I got done, I was refreshed & ready to tackle the adventure of getting to Wembley Stadium on my own. My pal Sean MacDonald wound up going to a football match if you will. As people here in the States say, he saw soccer. He also went to see a Rugby World Cup match between Italy & Ireland as well that day. He decided to pass on the NFL game because he went to one last year when he was here. He saw the Jacksonville Jaguars host the Dallas Cowboys. Like myself, he prefers to see a variety of different sporting events.
for me that day, I walked out of the hotel & I proceeded to head
over to the Shepherd's Bush Underground station. I took a train on the
Central line to Oxford Circus then I wound up taking the Metropolitan
line one stop to Baker Street where I picked up the Bakerloo line that
did eventually take me to Wembley Park which is the tube stop that's
within walking distance of Wembley Stadium in the West suburbs. While I was waiting for the train at Baker Street I noticed a young man wearing a Jets
jersey. His name was Cam Harper. He assured me I was indeed going the
right way. Once we got on the train, he let me look at his phone so I could see what the baseball
scores were that I missed since I had a lot of trouble using my phone
due to the lack of WiFi while I was there. When I looked I almost got
sick to my stomach when I saw the Mets got no hit again. This time by
Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals in the second game of the doubleheader
they played on Saturday night. It was his second one of the season.
Ironically I wound up missing both of them. I did notice it was a cold
nasty windy day & night at Citi Field. In that regard, I was glad that I wasn't there. They wound playing a day
night doubleheader since the Friday night game when I left for London
got rained out. The weather that weekend was awful in NYC. After I
gathered myself from an emotional out burst of disbelief, Cam & I
spoke to each other the rest of the ride. He told me he adopted the Jets as his NFL team. We wound up exchanging contact
information. He told me he plans to visit the States for the first time
hopefully next year at some point with his friends. He said he's still
going to school. I wished him the best of luck. He said he hopes to work
to save up enough money to make the journey. I told him to let me know
if & when that happens. When we got off the train we said our
goodbyes. He told me he was meeting his girlfriend who was joining him
for the game.
|Cam Harper & I on the Underground|
I proceeded to walk out of the station. When I did I could see Wembley Stadium in the distance ahead. I purposely arrived early so I could take in the pre game experience which consisted of interactive areas as well as different food stands that were set up along the way. It made for a festive atmosphere as I saw many different people wearing different NFL jerseys as I made my way towards the Stadium. The most popular jerseys I remember seeing were the Patriots, Colts & Packers among those of course wearing the Jets & Dolphins. As I walked around the outside of the Stadium, I saw a guy from London who was wearing a Jet jersey & a Met hat. I stopped & I started a conversation with him. We both were hoping for the best for our teams. I was upset about the way the Mets finished the last week of the season. I'm an old school thinker. I believe you always want to put yourself or your team in the best position to succeed. By resting players & not wanting to risk getting players hurt, I thought the Mets were foolish in their approach. In retrospect, it turned out not to be a big deal. In that regard, I'm glad I was wrong.
|The Great British Hog Roast|
When I finished walking to the other side of the Stadium, I decided to go inside. That was the side where my seat was located. Unlike most venues here in the States, you have to enter the gate that's written on your ticket. As a result, your movement is restricted once you get in the Stadium. Since my seat was located on the upper level, I wasn't able to go downstairs to the lower level even to see what the seats or concourses looked like. It is what it is. They do hold other football matches there if you will. With that being said, it made more sense why they do what they do. People in Europe are notorious for behaving unruly so it forces them to limit people from straying too far during a match. If not, all hell may break loose.
When I finally made it to the upper level I proceeded to go to my seat to see how the view was. When I got there, I saw my pal Ira Lieberfarb who was there with his lovely wife, Linda. It should be noted that Ira has seen all the Jets home & away games every year since 2006. That even includes all the preseason games as well going to see them practice at their training camp facility during the summer. Ira bleeds green through & through. In addition, he's known for calling the local sports radio talk shows here in NYC. He prefers to lay low but when he does call in to a show, he goes by the name Ira from Staten Island. I always try my best to see him when I'm at a game home or away. We've met up many times over the years. He always sits quietly in his seat as he roots for his team. He doesn't want to draw attention to himself. For the most part, he's met many good people who have sat around him. In that regard, he's been very fortunate. Like me, it was their first time in Europe. It was great to see them there. As for getting tickets for the game, since we're Jet season ticket holders, we were able to secure them on a pre sale that they gave us access to back in May. They bought a pair of tickets & I bought a single one for myself. They didn't tell us the exact seat location at that time. They just told us they were in the upper sideline behind the Jets bench. Ironically I wound up sitting right on the 50 yard line in row 16 if you will. It was really the second row that was right above the press box. It was a perfect seat for my liking. Ira & Linda were just over my shoulder in the row behind me & a few seats to my right. The best part was that we were surrounded by a good number of Jet fans who either made the journey across the Pond or people who like the gentleman who sat next to me with his son who told me he was from England but he just moved back there from Brooklyn, NY in June where he lived for seven years. It wound up being an amazing experience. However since it was a so called Dolphin "home" game they treated it as such by playing the Dolphin theme song & they did other in house type promotions that were related to them. As a result, Dolphin fans outnumbered us Jet fans.
As for the game we saw, the Jets got the ball first & in three plays they found the end zone when quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick connected on a bomb to wide receiver Brandon Marshall for 58 yards on the first play from scrimmage which set the Jets up to take an early 7-0 lead. It seemed too easy. The Jets continued to dominate as they lead, 20-7 at halftime. Thanks to a few pass interference calls against the Jets on a drive in the second quarter, the Dolphins were able to break the shutout. In the second half, the Jets did their best to blow the game but thankfully they didn't. Running back Chris Ivory finished the game with 166 yards on the ground as they wound up winning, 27-14. With the victory, Ira & I got to see the Jets win a game in three different countries. We both saw them win in Toronto back in December 2009 at the Rogers Centre.
After the game, I wound up taking the Underground back to Central London. I decided to go to King's Cross/St. Pancras which is their main train station for commuting before I returned to my hotel to call it a day. I did so because I wanted to get familiar with that station since I told Sean I would meet him there Monday night. By doing so, I was finally able to get access to WiFi. With that being said, I spent a few hours getting in contact with people who are near & dear to my heart. After doing so, I went to eat dinner since I was starving. I found a restaurant a few blocks away called Eddie's Fish Bar & Best Turkish Kebab. Since I was in the mood for fish & chips, it worked out perfectly for me. I had a nice size piece of haddock. It actually tasted really good & I enjoyed it. When I finished I proceeded to go back to my hotel. I found my way back there without too much difficulty.
Stay tuned for a special post that will recap how I spent that Monday before I eventually met up with Sean again.
Thank you for reading & following along.