#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.

#NFL100 Memories – 7/100

Why I am a Chargers Fan – By Lee Wakefield (@Wakefield90)

I started watching football in around 2006 or 2007, I was at college and I was starting to experience the phenomenon known as the Sunday Fear for the first time in my life. I was no longer in the comfort zone of going to school and being around all my mates every day as I went to a different college to a lot of my school friends, so I’ll be honest it wasn’t the easiest time of my life.

On a Sunday afternoon, my family and I would settle down for Sunday tea – or “dinner” if you’re a southerner – big roast, lots of yorkshire puds and gravy, magical. I’d then have a few hours to myself before having to prep for college the next day, then bed… However, one Sunday, I was flicking through the sports channels and came across the NFL on Sky Sports.

I kept it on for a bit – I’ve always been sports mad, I still am and will give most things a watch for 5 minutes at least.

I kept it on for way longer than 5 minutes and even though I’ll tell the truth and say, I can’t remember who the game was between or at the time, even what was going on half of the time but I was hooked and watching the NFL became my Sunday evening pastime and still is!

At some point in my very early days of being an NFL fan, there was a game involving the San Diego Chargers, again, I couldn’t tell you who it was against but I do distinctly remember the guy wearing the #21 jersey for San Diego and how much the broadcast team were talking about him.

This, of course, was none other than LaDainian Tomlinson. 

LT was electric, he did it all, he was a superstar and he was my first NFL love. He was also just coming off his record breaking season, where he rushed for 28 touchdowns (he also caught 3 more) and he was almost always the best player on the field.

He just seemed faster than everyone else. Stronger too. He would do things that were just really, really impressive and in a time when there weren’t as many do-it-all running backs as there are now, LT did do it all.

I guess as a novice and a British novice at that, I would guess that running back is the easiest position to understand when you’re first getting to know the sport… I mean, the clue is in the name, “running” back, right?

I guess LT just captured my imagination more than any player at the time, to a point where, outside of a few QB’s who were big at the time, I can’t remember any other player I really liked when I first started watching the sport – I was all about LT.

Obviously, time goes on and I’m sat there thinking, “yeah, I’m into this now”, and with that, as a sports junkie, comes to selection of a team to root for and that was obviously an easy one for me.

LaDainian Tomlinson is the reason I’m a Chargers fan. LT made me an NFL fan but in true Chargers fashion, there simply had to be some kind of heartbreak around the corner… So in 2010 when Tomlinson left for the Jets, he also gave me my first NFL heartbreak too.

They say that you shouldn’t meet your heroes but last year when the Chargers played the Titans at Wembley, I was lucky enough to be invited to a small, NFL UK event where LT was speaking, I said hello, as did everyone and he just seemed like the most normal guy. No airs and graces, just a guy who would talk football and about the Chargers all day if you could.

A true gent.

So here’s to you LT, thanks for making me a Charger.

Podcast 7 – #MyTeamMyThoughts – LA Chargers

Good friend of the show Lee Wakefield joins us to talk about his beloved Chargers.

We discuss the ups and downs of being a Charger’s fan and Hunter Henry’s ACL tear was still a bit too sore a subject (for both of us!)…