London Gets an NFL Game

The Miami Dolphins take on the New York Giants Sunday in London's Wembley Stadium, in the NFL's first regular-season game outside North America.

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ALISON STEWART, host:

Hey, football fans will hear something new this weekend, something like jolly good touchdown…

MIKE PESCA, host:

Good show, old man.

STEWART: …at London's Wembley Stadium as it hosts the New York Giants and the Miami Dolphins in what will be the National Football League's first ever regular-season game outside of North America. It's going to happen on Sunday. In a minute, we'll talk to an English fan who scored tickets.

But first, here's Vicki Barker with a report from the land where football means a sport you actually play with your feet.

VICKI BARKER: Ah, a crisp October day. To millions of Americans that spells football weather. To millions of Brits, it doesn't.

Unidentified Man #2: I know they play it with a funny-shaped ball.

Unidentified Woman #1: They have to wear the helmet stuff and the shoulder stuff.

Unidentified Woman #2: Are they musicians?

BARKER: No, American football players.

Unidentified Woman #2: Oh, right.

BARKER: And the Dolphins are actually playing the New York Giants at Wembley Stadium this weekend - the first regular-season NFL game ever to be held outside North America.

Unidentified Woman #2: Wow. How fantastic.

BARKER: But you didn't know anything about it, did you?

Unidentified Woman #2: No. No.

BARKER: Now, the NFL would like to see it become a top five sport here. Do you think there's a possibility?

Unidentified Woman #3: Take a lot to beat the English football for an Englishman, I think.

Unidentified Man #3: Did they not have an American football site here once…

BARKER: They tried it, yeah. It sort of died due to lack of interest.

Unidentified Man #3: So they're trying to restart it all again. That's good. Can't beat a bit of diversity.

BARKER: If it was between watching, say, a rugby match or a football game, what would it be? American football, I mean?

Unidentified Woman #3: Rugby.

BARKER: Still, this Sunday's game is a sellout, but I don't know. People here are still limping from last weekend's sporting debacles, when England lost the Rugby World Cup final and the adored Lewis Hamilton lost his bid to be Formula One's number one. The NFL is gambling that the people of Britain are ready to make a new emotional investment in yet another game they can't win.

For THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT, I'm Vicki Barker in London.

PESCA: You know, how in Europe when they're writing the date, they put the day before the month, right?

STEWART: Yes.

PESCA: So today is 10-25, but there they would say…

STEWART: 25-10.

PESCA: Correct. I'm thinking something like that might have gone on in expressing the win-loss record of the Miami Dolphins, who, in reality - or at least in America - are winless. But maybe the English think they're undefeated, because this game is sold out pretty quickly. I want to find out why. So let's talk to an English football fan.

Twenty-six-year-old Matthew Drew, an attorney - or as they say, solicitor in London - is going to the game this Sunday.

Hey, Matthew.

Mr. MATTHEW DREW (Solicitor, Football fan): Hey, you guys. How you doing?

PESCA: We're well. So for the purposes of this conversation, let us use American terms, where football means American football and soccer means football. Let's have everything mean football. Is that all right, Matthew?

Mr. DREW: That's absolutely fine.

PESCA: How'd you become a football fan, growing up and living in England?

Mr. DREW: Well, we were reasonably lucky in that it was on TV from sort of the mid-80s, and we got into it that way. And then for me, when I was at uni, the TV deal got a lot bigger, and we starting getting a lot more of it over here. And obviously, when you're a student, you perhaps got a little bit more time in your hands to going - to stay up a bit later and watch a lot of games. And then the more me and my friends watched it, the more we got into it. And hence, we were quite big fans.

PESCA: With the time difference, Sunday afternoon games would be at night there, but Monday night football would be, what, Tuesday morning football in the U.K.? Is that right?

Mr. DREW: Absolutely. I mean, I had a few bleary mornings on Tuesday having stayed up late to catch a Monday night football. ]

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DREW: So I'm not sure my university professor's weren't entirely delighted with that, but it was worth it.

PESCA: Outside of you and your circle of friends, how popular is it, do you think?

Mr. DREW: I think there's a quite considerable group of people over here to who it's quite a big deal, and it's very, very popular. I mean, some of the people you interviewed, they actually don't know a huge amount about it. But it's one of those things where I guess at the present, it's got very much a kind of cult following. But it's very much on the up and up, and the participation, I think, is since, sort of, I guess, about the year 2000, has dramatically increased…

PESCA: What…

Mr. DREW: …in line a lot with the increase of the sport on TV.

PESCA: Whatever I discuss American football with English people, they always sniff, ah, in rugby, we don't even use pads. That's a defensive and reflective thing, but is the padding and this - when you think about it - the pace of play, is that a hurdle to get over, because they reset every play as opposed to soccer or rugby, which is always in motion?

Mr. DREW: Very, very much so, I think. When you speak to people over here who aren't fans, they're the two things that they bring up most, primarily the pads thing. And they have this idea that the rugby guys are a lot tougher. And probably in the reality there, I think, is that until very recently - and rugby's got a lot more professional on the classical (unintelligible). Until recently, they were the same sizes as the guys who were playing in the NFL. And the hits weren't as big. And as the hits in rugby have got bigger, the guys in rugby have actually begun to wear a little bit of padding. And that's…

PESCA: So what are the - to sell the game to the English, what do they emphasizing? The big bombs and the athleticism, or the size of the guys and the - and how hard they hit? What's the TV showing to try to get people interested?

Mr. DREW: It's very much the big bombs. I think the NFL guys will be hankering for some kind of shootout, and…

PESCA: Hmmm, right.

Mr. DREW: …the Dolphins, they've all, they might be a bit disappointed. And - but, yes, I think they're - the TV adverts we've had here have been of people making spectacular touchdown catches and things like that, and then also I've seen some of the Dolphins guys putting some three big hits.

PESCA: Without - with the Dolphins, there might not be a shootout, just a shooting.

Mr. DREW: Yes.

PESCA: What - do you think it's weird that the teams here are named the San Diego Chargers and the New York Jets and not FC San Diego? FC New York?

Mr. DREW: I'm sorry?

PESCA: FC - Football Clubs, isn't that how the Sheffield Wednesday and so forth pick names?

Mr. DREW: Yeah, and my team, Liverpool, is Liverpool FC…

PESCA: Yes. So the naming conventions get in the way?

Mr. DREW: Oh yes, (unintelligible).

PESCA: What's a weirder name? Sheffield Wednesday or Green Bay Packers?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DREW: Well, they're both pretty strange. I think Sheffield Wednesday's probably just takes the biscuit there. I have, to be honest, no idea the origin of that. It's most bizarre. But yeah, the Packers have sealed their own quite substantial history, so I'm sure there's a justifiable reason for such a curious name.

PESCA: And this is my last very quick question. Will a Spice Girl be made available to marry Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora?

Mr. DREW: Well, since Osi was actually born in England, I'm sure one will be made available, yes.

PESCA: Matthew Drew, attorney - or solicitor - Englishman, American football fan. Have fun at the game on Sunday, Matthew.

Mr. DREW: Will do. Thanks very much, guys.

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