Along Wembley Way, they've never seen anything like this American spectacular
PUBLISHED: 14:20 31 October 2007 | UPDATED: 14:37 07 September 2010
WHEN it comes to taking over entire countries, I rate the Yanks are worse than useless. As they gear up for another sensational failure in Iran, just think Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Colombia, Somalia, Iraq … Yet I can only describe America s annexation of nor
WHEN it comes to taking over entire countries, I rate the Yanks are worse than useless. As they gear up for another sensational failure in Iran, just think Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Colombia, Somalia, Iraq ...
Yet I can only describe America's annexation of north London on Sunday afternoon as a spectacularly successful invasion.
That was when American Football, a form of warfare without the tanks, came to Wembley Stadium in all its star-spangled glory.
As I discovered on Sunday, the Yanks may not know much about how to win hearts and minds, but they sure do know how to put on a show.
Who cares if the 'regular season' game between Miami Dolphins and New York Giants was among the worst ever played between professional teams in the history of the game?
Does it really matter that the 'home team' Dolphins couldn't score a point until fully 135 minutes into the three-hour event (breaks, time outs and two-minute warnings included)?
Did anyone worry that the lush Wembley turf and the relentless London rain would combine to provide the most inappropriate conditions for advertising the American game? Not really, because this was a spectacular collision of sporting cultures and the spectacle was everything for the 90,000 fans. Before the game even started, many were already patriots to the core, if the rousing reception for The Star Spangled Banner was anything to go by.
Played before the start of the game, as it is at all American events of note, the anthem was cheered to the sky-high rafters by a delirious crowd which particularly warmed to the line describing ''the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air''.
Miami brought with them 60 players, a 30-ft high mechanised model of their star player, a plane load of body armour and - in the form of the Dolphins cheerleaders - 40 of the pertest bottoms ever to have graced Wembley Way. To win over wavering neutrals, they took to the field of play behind the largest Union Jack ever carried by man, and invited the band of the Coldstream Guards to keep the crowd entertained at half time .
The organisers had cleverly showcased some familiar sporting superstars before kick-off. Standing between England football captain John Terry and rugby World Cup winner Martin Johnson, racing driver Lewis Hamilton looked like a 10-year-old, yet he drew the loudest cheer of the night before setting off down the tunnel to a new life of tax-free luxury in Switzerland.
The hapless john Terry, however, was roundly booed, and not just because he was acting as the Giants 'honorary captain' for the day.
Here at least was a perfectly British moment: one sportsman who has captained his club to back-to-back championship successes is jeered like a villain; another who squandered his championship chance by crashing his car in the pit lane, is hailed as a hero. Work it out.
Hidden somewhere out of view was a small army of statisticians, feeding the media with computer printouts containing every morsel of information we could possibly wish to know.
Thus I was able to deduce that in the very first play of the game, '(14:56) J. Chatman right end pushed ob at MIA 31 for six yards (M. Kiwanuka)'.
Roughly translated, I think this meant that after four seconds, Dolphins running back Jesse Chatman (number 28 on your team sheet) ran with the ball for six yards towards the right end position before being pushed off the field at Miami's 31-yard line by Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka.
Simple really, once you get the hang of it.
The attention to detail was awesome. An accompanying guide informed broadcasters that the aforementioned Kiwanuka is pronounced key-WAH-new-KAH, and every doubtful pronunciation was also helpfully explained.
For London journalists accustomed to dictatorial security, the access afforded by our laminated press passes was mind-boggling.
Mine took me pitch-side before and after the game and then into the locker rooms, where I was able to discuss the merits of the match with near-naked players of truly impressive stature.
Sadly, no equivalent facility was available for the Cheerleaders' dressing room - but it can only be a matter of time.
Geoff Martin is editor of the Ham&high Series.