In an age where technology dominates many people’s free time, fun activities for a Sunday afternoon where you can go out with a group of friends or family do not spring to mind too easily. Therefore I would encourage other countries to take a page out of America’s book and join in on the show of NFL matches. If you think that attending ‘game day’ stateside is just the same as rocking up to a Premier League soccer game in the UK, think again. It is more than just a match. For fans on both sides, it is a day of absolute bliss. American Football may not be a sport for every demographic (perhaps some of you reading this may be about to click off this article, but instead of doing that, I would urge you to read on), but going to a game is about so much more than what is occurring in the centre of the stadium—it is about the spectacle that surrounds the sport.
While staying in Jacksonville, a city with its own NFL team, I was encouraged to get tickets to the weekend’s big game – Oakland Raiders vs Jacksonville Jaguars – despite barely having a clue of what was happening between the men running around in their helmets and padding.
After a leisurely brunch, I then headed over to a Tailgate outside the stadium, dressed in my Jaguars jersey, ready to get excited for the afternoon’s events. Now, the concept of a Tailgate may be rather alien to most people outside of America, but picture large groups of fans parked outside the stadium since morning, dancing merrily to music. On the journey to the car park are ithe great waves of people washing over the streets in a concoction of their favorite team’s merchandise as they pile into the stadium side by side and smiling. As fans find their allocated seat within the stadium, a unifying rendition of the United States national anthem sweeps through the arena. Then, the seemingly all-conquering music halts to a stop with the explosions of daytime fireworks.
Image credit: http://media.nj.com/south-jersey-times/photo/2014/09/07/15790622-standard.jpg
Even as play is underway; the entertainment never stops. The big screens at either end of the field display images as relentless as the players on the field, from videos of the home team’s mascot or players encouraging fans to keep cheering. One touching possibility includes the presentation of awards such as Veteran of the Game, during which the full stadium hears the story of a fan in the stadium and shows their appreciation, regardless of which team’s merchandise they are wearing. At each quarter time break, the cheerleaders, who have fiercely supported the players throughout the play, take centre stage and begin a flawless routine as the athletes refuel and are often joined by other entertainers like a reggae band. The NFL does not confine entertainment to official breaks, however, as touchdowns by the home team result in 4 flag carriers running to the centre of the pitch in a sensational fashion, waving their flags to celebrate. Despite this flurry of entertainment surrounding the action of the game, half- time catalyses the biggest spectacle of the game. During half-time, a marching band takes its position on the pitch to perform a perfectly executed sequence that could well be the work of professionals. The more simple entertainment, such as music playing through the speakers, continues, with a wave from the cheerleaders. The music seems to serenade everyone in the stadium down the ramps and out of the grounds as fans from both sides walk back to their cars, side by side and (mostly) still smiling.
Image Credit: http://www.eseats.com/sports%20images/JaguarsStadium.jpg