Many thanks to Papa and Mrs Lazarou, not only for all the effort they put into the weekend, but personal thanks also from Lauren for their purchase of her game ticket, and from Ed and myself for making tickets available for us out of their allocation.
Good to meet up with Kirk again (we had met at the Falcons game and again the next day at Fenway). Kirk, the amount of time you spent in Boston this year supporting both Patriots and Redsox, you were the well deserved wearer of a Superbowl ring. And Mrs Bear recalls that you managed to get beer at the Green Man about 10 times quicker than anyone else. You’re a free spirit, all the best until the next time we meet.
Also would like to mention a pleasant walk from the Green Man down to the stadium in the company of Chelseafan71. It was nice to meet you.
Friday 23rd October.
We got into Holyhead around 3:30pm, then stopped off at Llanfair PG for a short tourist visit (Ed & Lauren saw 4 of the 5 nations of the British Isles this visit, having seen the 5th on previous visits). Then the long drive down, arriving at our hotel near Heathrow just before 10pm.
Mrs Lazarou had informed us of the change of plan for Friday night, but we were all pretty tired from the journey (and from serious alcohol abuse the previous 4 nights in Ireland), so we settled in for the evening with a bottle of Famous Grouse.
Saturday 24th October.
Met up with Papa and Mrs Lazarou outside the Sports Café and went around the corner for a quiet pint (London Pride and Tim Taylors Landlord on offer). Back at the Sports Café I recognised the bouncer, who used to work at the Sports Café in Salford (since folded).
I understand that the choice of the venue was influenced/decided by the Patriots organization, but apologies in case any of the following comment causes offence to UK Patriots.
If the London Sports Café had been as extensive as the one in Salford used to be - I think the thing would have worked well : at the Salford venue there were 2 side rooms dedicated to meetings etc. and these were the ones where I used to watch playoff games on the big screen in peace whilst a full blown disco was running on the main floor (one time the game went on until 4:15 am, long after the discoers had been thrown out, and the patient bouncers, outnumbering the remaining fans, waited for the game to finish).
As it was - presentations and speeches took place in a small, sweaty disco hall. It might have been better for Robert Kraft and Troy Brown to have a side room at their disposal, laid out with seating for the fans.
The microphone volume was insane, but once most of my hearing had been numbed out, it was amusing to listen to the Cheerleader - on helium - reading out the bingo numbers.
Sunday 25th October.
Just my opinion, but I think that this is the one and only time the Patriots play a regular season game in Britain.
Why ? Other big name teams will all get a shot over the next few years and before the Patriots turn comes around again I think that the penny will drop with the NFL that nothing much is being gained by playing the game in front of an audience which largely doesn’t understand it.
(Not being elitist here - even the experts get some things wrong. An American voice in the UK Pats section shouted out in the 2nd half : “Establish the run”. Sounded like good advice, except that Tampa had the ball)
Merchandising could probably be sustained by continuing the tradition of preseason Wembley games.
The Mexican wave does not belong in the NFL. Maybe it used to happen at the Kingdome, but they are funny people over there. It just doesn’t belong, and when it happens we have to wait during an officials timeout until people wave themselves out (if I’m wrong, and the Pats do play again in the UK - head for the bar as soon as the wave starts. You won’t miss a thing.)
Now I’m certain that this will offend a number of people with this next one, but soccer style chants do not belong in the NFL either. I like soccer (congratulations Revolution) and I enjoy some of the chants, but not in NFL games.
What tailgate ? Okay, there are some NFL stadia which don’t/can’t allow tailgates. We thought of Detroit for one.
There are a good few modern stadia in the UK now - surely one of them would agree to hosting the NFL and making extensive areas of parking lot available for a proper tailgate. All they need to provide are the handy houses. You can be sure that hotdog and burger stalls will turn up if permitted.
Everything else would be provided by the fans, as it is at Foxboro tailgates.
I heard that the Green Man was actually one of the better venues and that people arriving from other venues were pleasantly surprised to find that the beer lines were only 25 minutes.
We’re pretty sure that bars in the US have a safety restriction on numbers of people and the number of people inside the Green Man would have exceeded that restriction. What if there had been a downpour on Sunday ? If the NFL considers an alternative UK stadium, and stadium parking lot tailgate is still not an option, I hope that they at least choose a stadium with more and better pub options in the immediate vicinity.