There is a moment in your life when you realize you finally are a man. Or a woman, I guess. I didn’t mean to exclude women from the conversation, I swear. I just happen to be a guy, you know? Anyway… That moment when you realize you became a man – or a woman, yeesh! – can come in all sorts of forms or shapes. For some of us, it’s holding a baby in your arms and thinking, here it is, I’m a dad. Others may have been forced to become grown-ups a little sooner than expected because of various things happening in their lives.
I’m very proud to tell you that this moment didn’t happen for me yet. I’m still a kid. But you know what? It’s okay. The Patriots make me feel like a little kid forgetting about his questions about Santa being real or not and running into the leaving room to open his Christmas presents (He IS real, kids!). I loved seeing the pregame fireworks, and the end of the show the band playing there gave us. And I’m not afraid to admit I have no idea who played those songs, it just felt right. And my heart had a chance to pound in rhythm with more than 80,000 fans in Wembley Stadium, London, as God Save the Queen was sung by everybody. I swear I would have joined my voice to theirs, except I don’t trust it since it changed. And I don’t know the lyrics. Yeah, my neighbors from behind shouldn’t have sung either, but they at least knew the lyrics. I loved seeing that they gave us a free white plastic bag with the mention "Raise the flag for the USA & GB". I like free stuff. And I loved seeing a gigantic GB flag replacing the people on the other side of the stadium. And of course, I loved watching the Patriots play their best game of the year before my eyes. This is another kind of fireworks, but I like it too.
Lights! And Smoke! And Fireworks! Love it!
Here’s what happened during the anthems, courtesy of Christophe Calvao, one of my friends, who took the video :
This article is an attempt to describe what a random French Patriot fan feels when he can witness his first game of Patriots football live.
It’s especially rewarding to see the Pats win like that, when you think that I almost didn’t attend the game. Saturday night, around 11:50 pm (French time), I’m checking my bag one last time, just to see if I’ve got the tickets for the game (check), the Eurostar tickets (check), cash in pounds (check check), and a snack for the trip (still good). Oh, and I got the reservation for a hotel in London, since the last Eurostar to come back to Paris leaves at 8:30 pm local time, and the game starts at 5 pm. Too short of a window, and it turns out I was right. Anyway, I receive a text from one of my friends who goes to the game with me: "don’t forget your ID card, I already took the Eurostar once, it’s like going to an airport. They make you strip and check if you don’t have any guns. And you need your ID to cross the border". Why you ask? Last time I checked, the UK are still part of the European Union, and we have a right to cross borders freely from a country to another. Well, everything’s complicated with the UK, and you apparently can’t do that. They have another currency too, and they drive on the left side of the street. I’ll just quote the French idiom here: "The English are crazy". No worries, I have my ID right he… Wait. Oh, I must have left it in my new apartment in Nantes, but it’s okay, since I always carry my passport with me everywhere I go… Or so I thought.
Ok, let’s not panic. I’ll just give the border guys a photocopy of my ID card that I made when I was taking exams to join a new university, I’ll give them my driver’s licence (which is a valid ID in France, just not enough to cross a border) and a little banknote… €500 for the French border, the equivalent in £ for the English one… Double that to come back… Damn it. Let’s drive then. Who needs sleep anyway? My Eurostar leaves at 11 am Paris time, it’s now midnight past thirty… I need four hours to go to Nantes, four to come back, add an hour to go to the station… Yeah, fun night.
The rest of the trip is pretty uneventful. Well, until I stepped in England, that is. The last of my friends who made the trip took a plane earlier that morning and landed in London before us (while I was driving back to Paris, haha). Since calling him in a foreign country is expensive, my brother, my friend and I decided to look for him at the station (just so you’re not lost, we were four, including my brother and I). After an hour, we gave up and gave him a call. Oh well. That game better be worth it.
We meet him, I say "what do you wanna do?", thinking, "let’s go to Wembley so at least I’m sure we’re there when it begins, because considering what just happened, I think I may break my foot trying to shoot into a wall if we are late to the game". Plus, we could attend a fan rally before the game, and begin to get hydrated. I wouldn’t want to disappoint Mr. Brady, after all. He’s counting on me.
"I’d like to do a little sightseeing". Damn it. "Don’t worry, I checked every station and what tube lines to take and I have it all written here". Why am I less confident after he said that?! Turns out he was mostly right, and we made it on time. We spent a lovely afternoon taking a bunch of silly pics of the four of us in front of, well, stuff to see in London. I can tell you that there aren’t too many tourists sporting Patriots jerseys stretching their legs on the railing of a bridge with Big Ben in the background. But we did it. And a bunch of other stuff. Like almost buying peanuts at the Tower Bridge. That is an important detail, I think. We finally opted against that with a very wise "we’ve got that in France too".
I’d like to take a little time to complain about English tube right here, though. Why do you feel the need to make up terminuses right in the middle of the line? I guess it just illustrates the differences between London’s tube and Paris’ underground. Paris is like a gigantic star, you’ve got every station available if you go to the stations in the middle of Paris. Whereas in London, it’s several overlapping circles. Thankfully, we could see what we wanted and finally headed to Wembley Stadium. We met several great fans in the train. Well, I think they were great. I was too busy trying to make my friends understand what could happen on the field, and updating them with the latest injuries. In French. After that, I don’t think the great fans took us too seriously. Eh. Too bad for them. I probably know more about the Pats than them, right? Right? Who does even care? I can’t take a Bengals fan wearing a C. Johnson #85 seriously after his stellar season in Foxboro anyway.
We didn’t have a lot of time in the stadium. I almost didn’t buy the official program (10£ ? And some Rams players on the cover? Ewwww…) But then my brother was like "A true fan would buy that...". F*** you, bro. Yeah, I'm buying that thing. I have no mental toughness whatsoever. But I needed it. Can’t you understand?
Pretty packed stadium to see the game. 84,004 in attendance. And we were a group of 4 French fans. Coincidence?
8 beers, and 4 hotdogs later, we were off to the game. Or maybe that’s what we should have bought before sitting. If I learned one thing in my trip to the US, it’s that there are a lot of breaks in your sports, but they are very short. I knew I didn’t want to get up to get a refill (and miss one precious minute of Patriots football??), but I completely forgot to tell that to them. So when we climbed to level 5, I was trying to hide the fact I was panting because of all those steps (I should definitely get in shape), and I followed them to the seats. We would later buy something to eat and to drink, but I didn’t think about it early enough, so the queues were pretty big. But you know what, considering the £4.80 beer, and the £5.50 hotdog, maybe it wasn’t that bad that I forgot to pick up food earlier.
There’s an overlooked aspect of live sports. You finish your beer, you go to the bathroom, and the queue is so huge you wait for 15 minutes… You meet a Falcons fan, you joke with him that the queue isn’t moving forward, and where are we waiting for, the ladies’ restroom? And then you move towards the restroom from three or four steps, so you tell him "ten yards, first down!". And then he laughs, he says he’d attempt a field goal if he didn’t worry so much about the other dudes on the queue who might not be pleased to see him try that (it’s a long shot from 50y away anyway). And then when you see a guy using the seat in the bathroom you say "oh he’s definitely going for two". Then you hear the stadium shaking, you know something happened, and you hate yourself because you’re still there joking about those bathrooms… And you decide that you might just use that time to buy more beer, which leads you to go back to the bathroom, and so on and so forth. Turns out I missed Lloyd’s second TD. Damn it.
Offense is at work, be quiet... I said be quiet, damn you, Rams fans!
The game itself was great. Well, not at the beginning. First down, Rams. A couple of runs… 50 yard TD. Where did I see that play again? Oh, that’s right, I know that #27 jersey trailing a defender. Seahawks game, right? Yup, that’s it. And my friends who look at me and are like "It’s a Touchdown, right?" Sigh. Yes. Yes it is. "So you were right when you said the Pats D sucks on the back end…" Sigh. Yes, yes I was. But then Tommy decided to show London how the New England Patriots play in England. Something with the name, I think. Here’s a video taken by my friend (Alexandre Daché, all credit belongs to him) of the first drive from a certain key third down to Lloyd’s grab in the endzone.
I gotta give the fans in Wembley that: they tried their best to give the Rams a home field advantage. The Pats fans were a lot more represented, but every fan wearing NFL gear from another team was rooting for the Rams. Nice sportsmanship. That I didn’t follow, since I was booing and clapping my hands and screaming during the Rams possessions. Sportsmanship is nice and all, but I made the trip to root for MY team in a very selfish way. It’s been difficult to speak out loud the following day, but since we’re on Tuesday and I almost recovered, I’m pretty disappointed in myself. I could have been much more effective on third down. I may or may not have been distracted.
Thanks for making the breaks so unbearable, ladies. I hate when I have to get some beer when you're, hum, entertaining us... between quarters.
The Pats silenced the stadium very quickly, though. I could sense the atmosphere shifting after the first drive. Three third down conversions, including a TD… Yeah, it’s tough. Especially when it’s followed by a quick defensive stop ("ahem, are they… punting?" "Yes they are, and I’m also shocked") and another TD, plus a 4th down conversion for the TD (Shane Vereen, where have you been? I was waiting for you!)…
I don’t know what happened at what point, it gets a little confusing, watching live. Just like that botched FG / fake FG pass. Was it done on purpose? It didn’t look that way to me live, but I may be wrong. I was too busy jumping and yelling "YEEEEEEEEES !!!!" to bother watching the replay. In the row just in front of us were 4 grandmas attending the game. They were easily 60 years old. But they had some fire in them. And some beer too. I loved it. When they saw we were screaming and jumping following the Pats big plays, they smiled. Then one of them turned around and raised her hand. How awesome is that? High-fiving a white-haired, English lady in Wembley Stadium as the Pats scored (another) touchdown? I loved it.
I also want to thank the very very hydrated Rams fan a few rows behind us. He made the second half of this game hilarious. Let me explain.
Announcer : "Touchdown, Brady to Gronkowski. Flag on the play".
Rams fan : "Let’s go the Raaaa-aaaams!"
Announcer : "Steven Ridley the ball carrier. Ball on the 29 yards line. Run of 20 yards. Patriots first down".
Rams fan : "Raaaa-aaaams! Let’s go!"
Announcer : And it’s a Raaaams… FIRST DOWN !
Rams fan : "Yeaaah! Let’s go the Raaa-aaams!"
I also loved how the announcer was the only pro-Rams guy in the stadium at the end of the game. At the beginning, you could hear a little life coming from the "TOUCHDOWN RAAAAAAAAAAAAMS!" (well, a lot of noise, actually). But then you could hear the fans didn’t believe in it anymore. Even the "Make some noise!!!" "Louder!!!" signs didn’t help. The announcer was still there, though, and while the Patriots celebrated in the endzone, the stadium showed little life, even after another "And it’s a RAAAMS… FIRST DOWN!". The Patriots fans took over, even if it still wasn’t that loud (how could it be, the Pats are the away team here…). I’m curious to know what you guys thought about the noise, looking at the game on TV. Could you comment on that, please?
Oh I love that Mallet time.
Overall, it was a great experience. I finally got the chance to see the Pats, and they dominated. It was truly amazing to witness. I’ve got lots of memories, and lots of pics to show to my grandsons. You know, for when I grow up.