Thought I would write this as it’s still fresh in the memory.
Travelled down the m8 for 45 minutes, went past Hampden Park, the home of Scottish Football (busy for the Ed Sheeran Concert which is on apparently tonight, ironic) and just south of Glasgow to a place called Merrylee, the home of the East Kilbride Pirates.
Going in, I didn’t really know what to expect about the whole experience.
Crowd size, slickness of the operation, officiating and quality of play were all things I pondered as I made my way down the motorway.
I got there as the teams finished warming up and sat down in the only stand. There were a good 50-60 people in attendance, separate from the teams and officials.
I started tweeting (can be found on my account @full10yards) and found myself covering the first few drives of each team, with some live streaming of some of the big plays in the 1st quarter. I managed to capture an endzone interception along with a touchdown. Great timing, you could say. I found a new friend in the Manchester Titans Twitter account, who retweeted pretty much everything I did (appreciate the exposure!).
The 1st quarter was very competitive and I was very impressed by the competitiveness of the two teams. The stands were also starting to fill up too, with easily over 100 people now in attendance.
A couple of things that stuck out to me whilst watching the game;
-The officiating was very sound and did not take over the game. The players were respectful of the officiating and there was nothing in the way of confrontation, challenging of calls or ball placements and it was just played in a great spirit.
-Sidelines of both teams hold up boards (or bits of paper with emojis) to signify the play call, which made me smile. A lot of hand signals and motions to add context to their play calls and the teams were well drilled and seemed to have their playbooks drilled in to their heads.
-The gameflow/operations of the offences and defences are just exactly what you would expect from the game in the USA, with motions, shovel passes and hard counts to fool the defence in to drawing offside flags.
-I did not see anything which pertained to the time of the game or play clock type system or how long was left in the quarter. I couldn’t tell at what point in the game we were and how long was left. The referee’s whistles were easily identifiable for the end of the quarter and the 2 minute warning. Maybe I missed this and hopefully if anyone reading this knows, please get in touch!. The announcer over the PA system who was calling the game also did a great job of keeping everyone in attendance informed.
-Both teams played in a great spirit; hard but fair. The tackling was actually pretty well executed and you certainly earned the yards on offence. The players were not built like machines and I even thought to myself that I could probably slot in somewhere in a team if I was willing to put in the requisite time and effort.
-No field goals were attempted in the game and it was quite common to go for it on 4th down. Not sure if this is commonplace in the BAFA game or whether there was a reason why this particular game had no attempts. The PATs where fine (4 from 5) so whether it’s just the way our game is, then that’s fine.
As the game drew to a close and the scoreline got a bit out of hand (bit flattering if you asked me, but there was a clear winner on the day), I was engrossed in the game and kind of fell in love with American Football all over again. It was also nice to be spotted by a fan who said “you’re that full10yards guy!”, something that I could get used to.
Like soccer, all players shook hands at the end of the game, showing the great spirit that this game was played in, despite the blowout result at the end.
The Manchester Titans deserved their win, perhaps not by 41 points though as a few plays here or there going the Pirates way would have seen a classic. The Titans were much more effective in their execution, more imaginative on offence and had a few more tricks up their sleeve whilst the Pirates were a bit more predictable and static in their play calling.
I will definitely be going to more games now that I have a taste for it and loved every second of it. I felt like I was in a time warp and that time had stopped and that I was firmly in the American Football bubble and I loved it (may have been a play clock thing too but I literally had no concept of time).
I am now off to go and get some merchandise but thanks for reading and if you, like me had never been to a local game of American Football and are unsure whether to go…GO!!! You’ll be supporting grassroots and helping to make the game better.
Hopefully if anyone from the game is reading this and want to come on the podcast to talk about the game and British American Football in general, please get in touch!!!