Today was the NFL Fan Rally, an event held in London's Trafalgar Square, to drum up some excitement for the International Series Game between the Patriots and the Rams at Wembley Stadium tomorrow.
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I had the pleasure of going to this, enjoying the various different forms of entertainment provided for us UK based NFL fans for the wonderful price of nothing.
Included in the activities was live music courtesy of UK artist Wretch 32, team drumlines, cheerleaders, Gatorade sponsored games, Madden 13, US 'food' and US 'beer' (aka water).
In and amongst all this entertainment were on stage interviews with current NFL players from the Rams, Patriots and Bills, as well as several revered legends, with the Rams particularly well represented in this department.
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When the Rams players were coming on stage I geeked out to extraordinary levels and got personal waves from Sam Bradford, Danny Amendola (that shoulder is FINE, send him out there!), Cortland Finnegan and James Laurinaitis. Being given an opportunity to interact with the players in even such a worthless capacity to them means the world to fans over here who cannot go to open practices in the offseason, or even have the fortune of bumping into players on the streets.
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The Rams seemed very at ease on stage, confident and assured. Jeff Fisher looked like a badass with his sunglasses on, despite the overcast weather. When asked about the low expectations for this team prior to this season he replied "No one said to us we can't win football games." The players responded very well to this and his manner definitely set the tone for the type of interview they gave. It was very relaxed, charming but also strictly business. This team seems to have come to London with some purpose and narrow mindedness but aren't boring with it. (unfortunately so were the Pats)
Sam Bradford mentioned, when asked about the increased role the passing game has taken in the Rams offense in the last few games, that this was due to the great work done by the run game and that this sets up the playaction which is so key to this offense.
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Harvey Dahl was absolutely hilarious, giving one word answers and playing up to his tough guy persona, which had everyone in stitches.
Cortland Finnegan shrugged off a heckler who said that Welker was gonna kick his ass or something along those lines, and it was this interplay between heckling fans, be it positive or negative stuff, that really gave this fan rally an edge that you probably don't get in other meet and greet situations.
Here is my flickr set from todays festivities and I will try and get some of the images into this post for your perusal, however I am forseeing a very long process and will publish this with just the link for now until the pictures come through.
In the autograph tent we were not allowed to take pictures with the players unfortunately, which was a pain, however they did have lots of memorabilia on display that we could photograph and I had the great fortune to get a picture of Tory Holt as he was signing some stuff. (Unfortunately the only light came from the glass displays and my slow shutter speed trying to accommodate the low light meant I could only get blurry shots, with Isaac Bruce in the background - you can still tell though.)
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Tory Holt and Isaac Bruce were the stars of the show for me. Both signed a very rubbish football, and they were the most relaxed and talkative of Rams legends today. They both gave off an incredibly positive energy and seemed genuinely touched by the eagerness and dedication of fans over here in the UK. I mentioned to Tory Holt that we'd 'conversed' over twitter several times and he asked "did I reply?" which was a really honest response, and when I said he did he seemed relieved! He then said keep up the contact and that its all about the interaction. (I tweeted my thanks and got a response again which really made my day) Not only was he very warm to me, but he was to everyone, even telling the story behind his gnarly finger.
IMG_3178 (via infemous)Isaac Bruce in the background! (Is that Curtis Martin taking the seat between them?)
Isaac Bruce exuded a calm confidence and general cool that was almost awe inspiring to be around, and he joked with my friend about the quality of the balls we'd asked him to sign. He wasn't the shy guy I was expecting, and to meet him was a huge pleasure too.
When onstage they mentioned that Mike Martz used to assign a player each quarter to dominate the opponents, such was the confidence of and in the offense back in the Greatest Show on Turf. Bruce, Holt and Faulk spoke eagerly and enthusiastically about the Greatest Show on Turf, almost like a child or old flame, always expressing the passion they have for the sport and how privileged they felt to be a part of such a groundbreaking part of the sport's history.
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Jackie Slater was sat in glasses and seemed like he knew that the majority of fans who came through were there for the man to his right... Marshall Faulk. I thanked Jackie for being there, but I was slightly intimidated by the sunglasses and the lack of knowledge I had about him. It seemed he was very aware that most people weren't too sure quite who he was, but was still polite and in no way unfriendly.
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Marshall Faulk was very talkative to some girls dressed in all Dolphins everything in front of me, however he seemed embarrassed for me by my inelegant attempts at trying to express my thanks and awe at being in his presence... it seemed he was used to it but was still very courteous and shook my hand as well as signed an autograph.
PS. I forgot to take pictures of my signed ball... will post pics on twitter though so hit me a follow @infemousss and you can see my new pride and glory!
Note on Patriots:
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Bill Belicheck is the most hilarious person... he wore his traditional headband and hoody with cut off sleeves on stage, over a pinkish smart shirt. Robert Kraft looks like a retired drug dealer slash pimp who produces porn on the side from the 70s with his gold rim glasses. Zoltan Mesko is apparent 6,5 but he looked about 6,2 next to Gronk and Brady... Those Cheatriots have been lying again!
Gronkowski is still hilarious. When asked some questions a chant erupted saying "Spike the mic" which he dutifully did.
Notes on Bills:
All three Bills (Dareus, Sheppard and Johnson) expressed their support for the Rams vs the Patriots, although Stevie Johnson's prediction of 89-3 was a bit overzealous in anyone's estimation (he later admitted to thinking New England would win). He also asked for a UK specific celebration for when he scores a Touchdown next week, to which the crowd responded with the 'Mobot' - made famous by GB double Olympic long distance running champion Mo Farah.
IMG_3287 (via infemous)Mobot!
The defensive players also said that it is key for the Rams to stay focussed when playing the Patriots offense, and that a lot of responsibility falls on Laurinaitis to keep up with Brady in the no huddle. He also said that with Brady and the Patriots offense it is more about slowing down than completely stopping them, which, while common knowledge, is as much of a soundbyte I'd get with relation to tomorrow's game in such a situation.
Due to some technical difficulties I failed to upload my picture of Tony Softli, wich was posibly easely percieved to appeal somewhat stalkeresh due to the unknowingness of the subject when the image was being taken.
Some pictures were just of screens because I was queuing for autographs or buying merch or doing some activity when the person came on stage, so apologies for that.
Overall, it was a fantastic day!
Hit me any questions in the comments and I'll try and fill you in!