#NFL100Memories – 16/100

Game day with Claire Da Bear – by Jonathan Howell

Going to an NFL game with Claire is an experience. Her knowledge and passion for the sport is clear and it’s easy to be swept along with it all. What does that mean for me? It means that there’s never a dull moment.

Claire, better known in the NFL community as Claire Da Bear, introduced me to the UK NFL games back in 2008. I was lucky enough to see only the second game played at Wembley. It was not only when I started supporting the New Orleans Saints but the nail-biting end to that battle with the San Diego Chargers got me hooked. The tension as the whole of Wembley collectively held its breath was astounding.

I remember first learning about the joys of NFL from the Channel 4 round-up which managed to distill a week’s worth of highlights into an action-packed show. However, the intervening decades had erased most of the finer points of the game from my memory. Going to a game with Claire soon solved that. She managed to see my looks of confusion and instruct me as to why a yardage penalty had been given, or why possession had changed.

A game day with Claire is always a long one. It doesn’t matter if the match is early in the afternoon or in the evening, we need to be up at the stadium in the morning. There was always opportunities for signings and ever since she set up Giveaway HQ she’s been dedicated to getting those autographs. But it’s got bigger than just that.

Claire Da Bear is now recognised, famous in the NFL fan world. She’ll go dressed in an outfit that has bloomed over time. First it was just the Chicago Bears jersey. Then I found I’d become an enabler by ordering her the orange and blue Foamhead hat, which makes her practically visible from space. Year by year more gets added. The Bears trainers, the cape, and the camo trousers all appeared. Claire is now top to toe a Bears fan and it certainly gets her noticed.

Out and about on game day, there’s always a steady stream of people coming up and asking for a selfie with her or just to say “Hi, I follow you on Twitter”. It’s like being out with a celebrity. Usually Claire’s a private person and quiet with it, but not on game day. You can feel the nervous excitement from her, which only intensifies when it’s the Chicago Bears playing. I think if there was a way to sleep over at the stadium the night before then she’d take it.

Although the UK doesn’t do tailgate parties in the way that the Americans do it, there are still events to be a part of. This can include the stage where players and cheerleaders come and entertain the crowd, the array of food on offer (the queue for Po’ Boys was unsurprisingly full of Saints fans), or the signings. Claire wants to be a part of it all and it’s impossible not to be swept along with her. On the other hand, it’s easy enough to grab some quiet time by depositing her in the queue for autographs, knowing full well she’ll happily be there for hours, chatting to other fans.

Going to a game with Claire is a bit like being in the middle of a gentle storm. So many people greeting her, or the exchanges of friendly banter between opposing teams. There’s always the customary “abuse” shared back and forth between her and a Packers fan who always sits near her at Wembley. It’s all part of the atmosphere, all part of the experience, all part of what it’s like to spend a day with Claire soaking up everything an NFL game has to offer.

#NFL100Memories – 14/100

The greatest second quarter ever By Lawrence Vos @NFLFANINENGLAND


It seems like a dream now.

I was 13 years old, had been an NFL fan since 1985, and in only the second ever Super Bowl I was watching live, I was staying up in the middle of the night to watch my team, the Washington Redskins, as they took on the favourites the John Elway led Denver Broncos. It’s a game I will never forget, and over 30 years later the memories are still vivid.

This was the Super Bowl that saw the first African American starting quarterback, Doug Williams, who had endured racism, lack of faith and a career with lots more lows than highs.
Williams took the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to an NFC Championship wearing the creamsicle uniform long before he wore the burgundy and gold.

I recall having my tray of goodies with me (a Marathon bar chopped into slices, peanut M and M’s, and a can of Pepsi) and I knew that unlike the year before I would remain wide
awake to see every play of Super Bowl XXII.

I can remember Redskins head-coach Joe Gibbs running onto the field with his knitted jumper and big glasses. This was during an era where Super Bowl starting line-ups were individually announced, before the Patriots ‘one-team’ ethos ruined the ceremony and drama of the individual announcements as players ran out the tunnel.

The game began as a disaster for my Redskins, after going three and out John Elway hit rookie Ricky Nattiel on a bomb on the Broncos first play from scrimmage and boom we were 7-0 down. Then to rub it in Elway caught a pass himself, again many, many years before the Philly Special. The drive stalled but the Broncos kicked a field-goal and it was 10-0 Denver going into the second quarter.

Fans in the stadium, fans around the world, and me sitting on my sofa in a block of flats on a council housing estate in Surrey (yes they have council estates in Surrey) had no idea what was about to happen….the single greatest offensive explosion in a quarter of NFL football,
which happened to be in the second quarter of a Super Bowl, by a team that looked outmatched and out classed in the first fifteen minutes.

From the moment the quarter began the Redskins went absolutely wild. The first play saw Doug Williams hit Ricky Sanders on an 80-yard bomb, then on the next drive Gary Clark
caught a game-changing score. Technically the 14-10 lead was enough to win the game
there and then, but Williams and Coach Gibbs could not stop.
Absolutely unknown rookie running back Timmy Smith, who was only told he would make his first NFL start hours before the game, then scored a 50 plus yard touchdown, and
Williams then added two more scores through the air, a second to Sanders and his fourth to tight-end Clint Didier.

As this was only my second Super Bowl I thought this was normal, but I pretty soon realised that scoring 35 points in a quarter, in what turned out to be only 18 total offensive plays, was historic.
The Redskins went on to run the ball and play solid defense in the second half to win 42-10.
This game was the first time a team had come back from a 10-point deficit in a Vince Lombardi trophy contest, and Doug Williams was named an incredibly worthy MVP.

Records get broken every year, including Super Bowl specific ones, but I have a feeling this is one record that will stand the test of time.
It’s possible that Patrick Mahomes can somehow break this record one day, but he has to lead his team to the big dance first, something easier to say than do.

That incredible quarter will be my favourite fifteen minutes of NFL watching as long as I live.

#NFL100 Memories – 13/100

Part 2 – My Weekend with The Chargers – Sunday, Gameday – By Lee Wakefield

Welcome back to the second part of my weekend with the Chargers.

At this point it’s Sunday, it’s gameday, it’s a few mere hours until Chargers football. The only issue is that I’m back on the train up to London, for the second time in two days. At this point, as a commuter at the mercy of Themeslink or Southern, another train journey wasn’t exactly my idea of fun at the time.

However, I was buoyed by the previous day and also, of course, the day ahead. It was a sunny but crisp October morning and the Chargers were gathering some momentum – After a 2-2 start, the Bolts had won their last three games – And to top it all off, they were going to be wearing the greatest uniform in sports, the powder blues.

Speaking of uniforms, as a person who holds uniform aesthetics in high regard, it’s probably no surprise that I played everyones’ favorite game when going to a Wembley game – Where you have to spot all 32 team jerseys before the game.

I’m pleased to report that I was successful in doing so and even more pleased to report that I even saw the odd college football jersey.

Anyway, I’m getting slightly off topic… Back to Wembley and by now, I’d arrived (ridiculously early).

What can I say, I was eager to get there, to soak up the atmosphere and take in all that I could in what was my first, live, NFL experience.

First things first, let’s see where I’m going to be watching the game from. I do this all the time, when I’m going to watch live sport – I like to go into the stadium or arena and find my seat before I inevitably head to the bar and get a pre-match pint to settle the nerves.

In terms of seat, I don’t think I could have wished for a better seat.

The Atmosphere was good. I know the Wembley games get a little bit of a bad rap for maybe not having the most partisan crowd but I felt like the crowd was quite pro-Chargers, on the day at least.

[Insert tired joke relating to fans and the Chargers etc].

The game itself was good. Plenty of big plays from the Bolts and the Titans played their part too.

Now I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow replay but I will talk about a couple of moments that will stay with me for a long while.

Firstly, my moment of the game and the moment that literally got me jumping out of my seat; the interception by Denzel Perryman late in the first half. This was a huge moment in the game, it felt like it and it was just such an exciting moment to see live. I distinctly remember shouting, “PIIIIICCCKK!” when the ball was tipped in the air, just before Perryman gobbled it up.

A great moment just before half time that meant that L.A. went into the break with a 10-6 lead.

The other moment I want to relive is actually the final moments of the game.

It was 20-13 and the Titans drove down the field and scored a touchdown with literally seconds remaining. 20-19.

Now, at this point, I’d been dying for a pee for most of the second half…Those pre-match pints (and during match pints) had come back to haunt me.

Anyway, as soon as Tennessee scored I jumped up from my seat; I thought I’d fly to the loo and get sorted before overtime started.

I ran off and was relieving myself and I heard a cheer, “ahh well, that’s the extra point going over”, I (stupidly) though, next thing, I overheard someone talking about Tennessee going to two… 

WHAT?!

I finished by business and I actually just found the nearest TV on the concourse to finish off watching the game. The cheer I’d actually heard was the crowds’ reaction to the Titans first attempt!

Oh my god, they’ve gone for it!

Well, thank god for Adrian Phillips. Phillips made the play, with 31 seconds remaining in the game to seal the victory for the Chargers and send me home very happy indeed.

What a game, what a day… What a weekend. Buzzing.

Now for the queue for the tube…

#NFL 100 Memories 12/100

Part 1 – My Weekend with The Chargers – Saturday – By Lee Wakefield

Quite possibly my NFL favourite memory to date, when it comes to the NFL and the Chargers – Last year I was lucky enough to spend a weekend in London which revolved almost completely around the Los Angeles Chargers.

When the Chargers made the transatlantic to London last year, I was lucky enough to get myself a ticket for the game against the Titans, which going off of the Facebook threads and comments each year, is a miracle in itself! Not only that, I was lucky enough to be invited to be a part of an exclusive group of UK based Chargers fans who got to make up audience of a live Q&A session with Chargers players and a couple of ex-players, which took place on the Saturday.

What a dream!

The ex-players involved were Donnie Edwards and none other than, my hero, LaDainian Tomlinson.

Like I said, this was a dream Saturday.

The current players who were involved were, Melvin Ingram, Melvin Gordon, Russell Okung, Philip Rivers and to keep all the boys in check was the main man, Anthony Lynn.

During the Q&A

As someone who is involved in the media at an amateur level when it comes to the NFL, it was also a fantastic experience to see how Neil Reynolds works and how he hosts and plays to a room, especially considering this was a live event that was going out on the uncompromising airwaves of Facebook and the internet in general.

The event was an incredible thing to be a part of, it was a privilege to be a part of. Everyone aside from Coach Lynn stayed around for photos and to sign autographs once the event had finished which was first class from all of them, and I’m not hating on Coach there… He had to get away to prep for the W that was to follow the next day.

Russell Okung was thrilled to meet me and insisted on taking a photo with me. He must listen to the pod… On a serious note, he was awesome, he is a really funny guy.

Me with a fan.

Philip Rivers was also incredible with the fans. The rest of the players had departed and the production crew were packing up, Philip was still holding court. There were around ten of us, just huddled round firing questions and just chewing the fat with OUR starting QB for around 20 minutes after everyone had left. At the time I was working in London despite living in Brighton and we actually shared commuting stories – Many of the fans were interested in Philip’s custom minivan which he uses to travel between his home in San Diego and the Chargers’ practice facility.

I guess the only downer on this was that I didn’t get to tell LT how much I love him.

Check in tomorrow for part 2 of my weekend tomorrow, when I’ll be getting into what was the first and only time, although definitely not the last time, I saw the Chargers in action.

#NFL100Memories – 11/100

Choosing teams! – By James (&Cathy) Fotheringham – @NFLHypeTrain

So my moment is more of a story of how me and my Wife finally solidified which teams we would support as we grew to live the game. It wasn’t a direct route, in fact, we started with two totally different teams and two totally different reasons.

The journey starts in January 2013. I had just got into the NHL and was following the Penguins but had only just discovered the NFL on Sky. I don’t go out much but an a night owl so I end up getting interested. Having looked into hockey fantasy leagues I stumble on a playoff team selector. I have no idea about anyone but it’s a way of learning, right? I have a fantasy team of sorts and that’s me sucked in for what has now been 6 years. At this point I pick of the 10 teams to support in the playoffs and I choose the 49ers since I enjoy Mythbusters and that’s based in SF. I also like trolley cars and think the Golden Gate is comparable to the Humber Bridge (I’m from North Lincolnshire, it’s one of the better features of the place). It’s shaky logic but when you look at the other 9 teams and know no players it was all I had!

Meanwhile my wife Cath chooses the Ravens because of The Blind Side and Michael Oher. Much more logical than me and of course you know what happens in that Super Bowl… When both teams win their championship games I send in a message to the legendary Kevin Cadle (Rest in peace) and the Sky team to say my team is playing my wife’s team in the Super Bowl… I still remember Jeff Reinbold and Neil Reynold wishing us luck to still be together.

Of course on February 3rd 2013, Cath is the one who prevails as the Ravens win 34-31 in New Orleans. This is the game where the lights go out in the Superdome and the 49ers almost come back from 28-6 down but a missed 2 point try with 10 mins to go and a Justin Tucker Field goal for the Ravens on their next possession is the difference. It’s a blow and I go back to Hockey while football hits the off season.

When August 2013 hits I make a decision which will affect the rest of my life. I get into fantasy football. My first full leagues are just public leagues as it’s still very niche in the UK but I find some leagues and pick some teams purely on guess work. In terms of the NFL as a whole I’m hooked and get two tickets for the Wembley game between the 49ers and the Jaguars in October. To date it’s the only game I’ve seen live in person but it was an epic experience. Colin Kaepernick has a quiet game, Frank Gore got 2 TDs and was in my fantasy team while MJD was the one player Cath had heard of on the Jags.

Cath really got into it and was flying the flag for the “Home” team Jags. This seems to have an effect because when the season ends and Michael Oher is released by the Ravens and isn’t looking quite so elite, she pins her colours on the Jaguars. She liked the underdog story, wanted a team in Florida (since we love Orlando) and with them coming to the UK often she felt they would be easy to support. I decide my logic with the 49ers doesn’t hold up to a loyalty and now I have all 32 teams open to me I look at changing my allegiance.

Jan 2014 I attend my 2nd live hockey game at the Sheffield Steelers in the EIHL. I’m now tied to the Steelers title. My fantasy teams are the Ironowl Steelers (Iron for Scunthorpe United, Owl for Sheffield Wednesday and Steelers for Sheffield Steelers and now…). This is where my allegiance in NFL swaps to Pittsburgh and that becomes “My city”. Sheffield and Pittsburgh are both quite industrial and Steel driven and with a shared name it was an easy swap to make. I was already massively into the Penguins while Cath went back to her “anything Disney or film based” logic and chose the Anaheim Ducks.

August 2014 comes around and I’m hooked on Fantasy Football; I won a title! My first full season playing and now knew the key players for most of the league. There was no going back now! I’m now solidly a Steelers fan and Cath is allied to the Jags. She gets interested in fantasy too (but not to the same level) and the rest as they say is history.

It’s a strange tale but the day my email was read out was my most fun NFL moment while my favourite playing moment is probably a Frank Gore 2 yard TD which happens at our end of Wembley. Even though Fantasy is my main love and the platform for so many of my favourite moments, it’s telling that my highlight comes at the time when I was literally the closest I could be to the action. I really need to get back to a game soon.

#NFL100Memories – 10/100

My First Game: Saints vs Chargers – By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)

Date: 26th October 2008

Venue: Wembley Stadium

Your first ever experience of live NFL action. You never forget it.

Despite what was the washout between the Dolphins and the Giants in it’s inaugural year, the International series returned in year 2 with the then San Diego Chargers taking on the New Orleans Saints.

At this point, i was still in the early days of following this great sport to the point where i still didn’t really have a team. I ended plumping for the Dallas Cowboys and the rest is history (check out NFL100Memories #3 for more on that).

I mention this as there were plenty of people, and there still are, that go to these International Series games and don’t support a team. Primarily because they are new to the sport and trying something new. Wembley is not known for partisan crowds or hostile atmospheres, it’s a more of a celebration about a sport that is growing and will continue to do so, even if they do send the Dolphins over anytime in the next few years.

Does it add to the experience? In some ways, yes. There’s nothing like turning up to a game and getting heckled for wearing a Tony Romo Dallas throwback jersey (Jacksonville vs Philadelphia last year) . But if you are a fan of either of the two teams in the fixture, it probably doesn’t…purely because you aren’t surrounded amongst you fellow tribe.

To this particular game, the tailgate was #OK. It’s one of those that because you’ve not been there or seen it before, it passed as something more than acceptable to the whole experience; You didn’t mind queueing up 45 minutes to see if they had any International Series game balls left or just ending up having to get a measly lanyard or a scarf.

After the tailgate, popped in to the local bookies as you do, with all the “regulars” befuddled at the invasion of weird looking sports goers who weren’t wearing England football tops. Placed a bet on winning margin, first TD scorer. The usual. Went for New Orleans to win by 7-12 points at 7/2. more signifigance to that later.

Game itself was very entertaining. Stereophonics had the honour of opening the entertainment, just so happen to be a band I was listening to at the time so happy days.

Image Credit: Getty Images

A few magical plays by Brees saw my winning margin bet currently towards the end of the game. I thought my bet was in when a late Philip River’s drive ended in an interception Jonathan Vilma. Saints could not get a first down, it was 4th and 2 from the New Orleans 26. 14 seconds left on the clock. Surely this is all over… but wait, WHY ARE THEY NOT PUNTING?!?! Drew Brees stays on the field and the 4th down play is in the history books as a Drew Brees run “up the middle” for -26yards. Safety. A bloody Safety.

I couldn’t believe what I had just seen! On a side note, imagine having that on your fantasy team!

A return from Darren Sproles on the ensuing kick saw Philip Rivers have a Hail Mary chance to sneak the win. But unfortunately Vincent jackson and the boys couldn’t haul it in and give the Saints what they deserved for ruining the ultimate game day!

#NFL100Memories – 9/100

Today we have another guest piece by an NFL and Chicago Bears Super Fan who resides at GiveawayHQ!

Make sure you give her a follow on Twitter @clairedabear85. Definitely worth it folks!

Sharing my passion – By Claire Ball (aka Clairedabear)

I have been very lucky, I could of picked to tell a story about going to the states to see games both home and away, also watching here in the UK at home or at venues but I have chosen something different… so here goes.

Still to this day 11 years on this memory of a game still gives me a physical reaction when I tell it. Having been an American Football fan since 1986, I’ve always loved the sport and been very passionate about it.

One of my favourite things to do is to introduce other people around me to the sport with the hope that I can ignite the passion in them. So I’d like to tell the story of how I hooked one of my friends….

It all started 2008 the second game in the London international series (I attended the first game on my own) I decided to book an extra ticket for a friend as their birthday present, the tickets were of course the Club Wembley Seats this time round.

Back then the tailgates were much more exclusive and a raffle was held to allocate tickets and I was lucky enough to be a winner and get a pair. So my friend and I travelled to Wembley and how wonderful to see lots of different teams fans travelling peacefully and friendly to the same event. I know of no other sport of where this would happen, really friendly and all inclusive.

We had a great time at the tailgate and talked to some wonderful Saints fans who had traveled from New Orleans despite what had happened with hurricane Katrina and not only themselves but their team being made homeless (now that’s commitment). So I encourage Jon to support a team and told him there was five teams that were strictly off limits anything other than these were fine. Since this was a Saints game Jon said as it’s his first experience it would only be right to support them. He bought a Colston jersey and still has and wears it to this day.

We then get to go through and enter through the George Best doors for Club Wembley. We have some nice food, sitting in nice seats with great views and drink some pricey drinks. I explained the rules of the game to Jon in very simple terms and how the scoring works, but forget to talk about safety’s as these rarely happen in the game and didn’t want to overload him and give him to much to digest what with it being his first experience (and don’t you know it a safety is one of the scores, doh!).

We get flags on our seats, then proceed to get into the game. He quite enjoyed the cheerleaders “for some unknown reason” so a good game is put on by both teams, but this is the part that gives me goosebumps… it was last few minutes of the game and the Saints were behind, Drew Brees pulls off what can only be described as a Miracle:

He hefts the ball down the field with moments to spare as the crowd of 80 thousand plus spectators watch on… (our seats were as far away from this happening as possible in fact right down the other end of the field) each and every spectator appears to hold their breath and stand on their feet… by some miracle it is caught in the corner of the end zone. By this time no matter who you supported the crowd went wild, an utter eruption, new fan or old, big or small, home, away or neutral, the feeling was electric JON WAS HOOKED. He becomes a newly passionate NFL and Saints fan forever more.

To this day we continue to go to the International series games in our team colours and are proud to rep them here in the UK.

The following season, the Saints win the Super Bowl and to get there they had beaten the bears in a gritty game….. (I’m not bitter at all on this matter) .

He only had to wait a season and a half to see his team win the Super Bowl. I’m still waiting 33 years on DAMMIT (again, not bitter at all)!

But hope springs eternal.

#NFL100Memories – 8/100

Today’s guest memory is none other than Mr Nat Coombs as he recalls how he had to navigate the multitude of technologies in order to get his NFL fix. There is no doubt that things have changed a fair deal since then and he has a fabulous podcast “The Nat Coombs Show” which you should go and check out below:

Twitter/Instagram/Facebook: @thencshow

I remember as a kid, tuning into my old transistor radio (which admittedly sounds like the start of a Springsteen song) freshly turned onto this new, technicolour sport I’d followed all season long via the channel 4 highlights and the wonderful First Down newspaper, to super Bowl XXIII on American forces radio, cracklings medium wave in and out broadcast, in the dark in my room (it was a school night) listening to these pictures of Montana and Rice Boomer and Ickey Woods and many more – magical

Nat Coombs – @natcoombs