I know it’s a little late, but the story needs to be told of the day Darren Hall and I – two big NFL fans – got ourselves up to Wembley in London for the annual NFL game last Halloween. It was one hell of a day…
Now, young Mr Hall has comtemplated writing a blog for a while, and so – one very drunken night as he rolled in at 2am – he wrote a blog about our little adventure and how we ended up at The Plaza Hotel with the 49ers photographer and his entourage… but he felt a lack of drive and confidence to put it ‘out there’.
Shouldn’t have sent it to me then, should he?
Sunday morning and my head is split with a hangover enough to make the mother Teresa herself curse the lord’s name in vain.[Darren was best man at a wedding the day before - JR] I shake it off and travel home to pack my green number four jersey (Go Pack Go) for the big trip to London’s Wembley stadium. Even though the Green Bay Packers are not in attendance for the big game, I feel I must represent, like half the crowd present when we eventually arrive. It was a game of spot the team and I successfully identified 30 of 32 mainstream teams with a few odd ones thrown in to stir the pot.
I travel north of the Wight isle with my older sister’s boyfriend, Jody, who is a man wiser then he looks [he's young. He'll learn] with great insight into all his surroundings. I feel a friendship blossom with every quip and comment about passing landmarks and passing ladies on our arduous extended train journey to London.
We hit London Waterloo and I take charge of the situation, having had limited experience of inner city travel and probably still filled with the Dutch courage of the night prior, I lead a man of at least
a decade my senior into the treacheries of London’s underground subway system. This is a grand step up from the simple Island-Line rail system on the Isle of Wight consisting of seven stops down its east coast. We descend the escalators many feet below ground level wowed by the electronic advertisements flogging us west-end musical tickets at a disgraceful price to see pantomime performances of the likes of Dale Winton or Bobby Davro in drag which I quickly avert my eyes from to save myself the embarrassment of evacuating my guts in the confined spaces of London’s underground.
As we venture on through odd temperatures for Halloween below the earth’s crust, we encounter several characters across the metropolitan line and northern line including Asian tourists, over-aged, under dressed ‘schoolgirls’ (God bless Halloween) and NFL jerseys in their abundance pumping up for the big game. We travel on past our ultimate destination with less than a half hour before it all kicks off. As we see comrades bound for the same goal as ourselves we bow our heads in disappointment as we travel on to check in to out mediocre hotel and then double back to Wembley Way.
After we check in, there is confusion over which the only ordered taxi belongs to, we persuade our way on board as we are apparently the only ones attending the hotels facilities, bar the chap in the reception arm chair stealing free Wi-Fi from its unobservant providers. We pay a pleasant Asian
chap a generous fee due to loose change in our pockets for our speedy delivery to the colossal arch that is Wembley Stadium. Within minutes we are in our seats and they are pretty good. Top marks to Jody for scoring great seats with no traffic in front of us [for £111, they fucking wanted to be], apart from a disabled gentleman who appears wheelchair bound, until it was time to leave where he was first to spring loose of the ensuing traffic exiting Wembley. There was also the gentleman with arm paralysis who Jody propositioned a high-five only discover the guy ‘can’t move my arm’. I share the embarrassment as I feel it is too much for one mortal to endure.
Prior to this ludicrous event were many happenings including a tame first half of American Football consisting of only three points and countless attempts to claim ‘dibs’ on San Francisco cheerleaders as they paraded past [I won, through virtue of being older and 'wiser' *ahem*], pom-poms in hand and choreographed to perfection expressing their jovial manner and pleasant appearance. I’m still convinced that of the 38 dancers present, they were at least one third synthetic material. However we don’t complain, we soldier on and boast about who has the best chance of bagging said treasures. Half time approaches and as we venture into the back rooms for over-priced and over cooked burgers and we miss the games first major event, a touchdown to the Denver Broncos [Tim Tebow 1yd run]. Luckily for us this doesn’t register until we return to our seats and I realised I am situated next to the continent’s tallest man. As I feel like a field mouse next to Goliath, I munch
on my burger and the game finally gets going. This is enough to partially redirect our attention toward actual events on the field that we paid to see, although ultimately we lose the battle and succumb to the cheerleading talents of the San Francisco Gold Rush. (Later recognisance reveals one is a history teacher, surely a paradox as no one could focus on past events when those hooters exist in the present.)
Post game drinking leads the pair of us to the Green Man pub around the corner from the stadium. It is somewhat under populated then I expected it to be but we continue with our consumption of alcohol and participation of America’s game in London whilst it is still here.
As the night draws to a close somewhat earlier than advertised by the powers of Facebook, Jody and I come into contact with none other than an official 49ers photographer who claims he has had free-roam of the event and has snapped in excess of 3000 photographs of today’s feature. We immediately cling to our new best friend in an attempt to continue the nights drinking into the early hours of Monday morning. As luck would have it, twenty minutes later we find ourselves inside the Wembley Plaza Hotel with best mate Roger King (the photo king) after eluding his colleague Bi-Bi, who is somewhat suspicious of Roger’s company, the moustache-clad photo man escorts us onto the premises and it is on. Cue several hours or drinks, bull-shitting about American culture, and a motivational, inspirational talk by a Colorado senior the night draws to a close and Jody and I must travel to north London to return to our rented quarters for the night. Our initial goal of a midday return to the Isle looks in jeopardy as it is half past four in the morrow before our heads touch pillow.
The morning comes around in an elderly state and we are awoken by attempts of the cleaning staff to enter our room near on 11 am, albeit at their own risk of the pungent odour of male body, and the risk of deafening due to Jody’s impressive decibel-accumulating snoring. I take the plunge and ask the 1950’s shower to shed my layer of skin belonging to the previous day’s activities in a mixed assault of burns of scolding water and tirades of freezing blasts of water, cleansing my soul and reminding me that everything comes at a price. I awake the beast and we travel Island-bound via Waterloo’s Burger King which neatly fills a whole and sedates the pair of us on the journey home.
As piss-poor as I feel returning to the homeland, I cannot help but smile due to the previous 48 hours activities and escapades, which fortunately came at a difficult time for me. It just shows what openness and friendship in combination can do to uplift your spirit if you just let go and get involved.
As I return to university the following day I have a few good stories under my belt that recurrent reiteration cannot do justice as it was one of those weekends in which you simply had to be there.
There’s not much else I can add to the above, except…
The MVP was Troy Smith – the back-up QB for the 49ers;
I must be better-looking than Darren because I got my food and beer cheaper than he did;
I said the words: “If Roger King wants lasagna, Roger King gets lasagna” to the very posh people at the Plaza’s reception… and got lasagna;
US Gary – when asked if he would like a drink – said “Sure, I’ll take a shot!” which in turn led us to hitting different shots and getting very, very wrecked;
…and then we had to try and flag down a taxi at 4am. Well, Darren did while I sat on the curb and tried not to pass out…
In fact, that’s the easiest damn blog I’ve ever written! Must drag Darren around with me more often…