A Scottish Viking in London Part 2
Sunday, decided to go to Tower Bridge and the Tower of London in the morning before the game. The weather was good, which it had been for most of the 3 days, some of the other London games have been pretty wet but they had all been in October so being a month earlier made a big difference. After we had a walk around choose to take a boat back to central London before heading to Wembley. While waiting for the boat we got talking to a tourist from India who spent a few years at college in Minnesota and had been to see the Vikes in the Dome! He wasn't a big fan though as he didn't know they were playing in London that day.
By the time the boat got back and we grabbed a bite to eat we were running a bit later than anticipated so when we reached Wembley decided to head to a pub for a few drinks instead of going to the tailgate party. The pub was full of NFL fans though but I reckoned it would be quicker getting served there than outside the stadium which probably proved to be correct. I also had it in mind not to overdo the drinking as I wanted to be able to focus on the game without the beer goggles. I should also put some context here with alcohol restrictions at soccer games vs the Wembley game. I've been a regular supporter of Scotland at home over the last decade, where no alcohol is sold at the stadium, it's also not allowed to be drunk on the streets outside the stadium. Not only that, the Police can come on board supporters buses on the way to the stadium and remove ANY alcohol on the bus, even when it's not being drunk. The only place where it's alright to drink is pubs and clubs outside the stadium, which the Scottish fans certainly make sure they do. I've been to games with a 5 o'clock start where the bus arrives at opening time (11am) outside the pub. Scotland fans like a drink (and if you see the quality of the football you'd know why) but there is very rarely any trouble as they have built up a good reputation for behavior that is practically self policed if someone steps out of line. At Wembley for soccer matches you can drink on the concourses but you aren't allowed to take into the grandstands whilst watching the game. For most other sports there are no restrictions with buying a pint and taking it to your seat which is the case for the International Series games.
I had decided to go old school with a Cris Carter jersey instead of the new Peterson top, I guess i wanted to show I'd been a fan for a while rather than just grabbing something from the merchandise stand to fit in. I was glad i did because a few people were liking the look of the number 80, in fact one guy in the pub grabbed a photo with me because of it. Made our way along to the Stadium with plenty time to spare, the tailgate was still busy but was starting to finish up so we just went straight in to Wembley.
The biggest stadium I'd been in before this holds around 60,000 so to have almost 50% more on top was an impressive sight. We were situated near the back of the lower level in the endzone right behind the posts....
Watched the players warming up before the pre game show and anthems..
Looking at the crowd, there was more Steelers fans than Vikes. I think this was to be expected but there was a lot more people wearing purple than I expected and luckily we were sitting next to some. The majority of the crowd were wearing the jerseys of every other team in the league but each seat had a purple Viking flag on it to try and at least give some sort of home feel. To be fair most of the neutrals seemed to be favoring the Vikings as far as making noise was concerned. It wasn't like everybody was up on their feet stomping about every time Roethlisberger came out the huddle but the noise levels were definitely higher, i certainly booed the **** out of them every time they lined up.
I didn't actually take many photos during the game, I prefer to watch something through my eyes rather than a screen, anyway the TV cameras always tend to do a better job than a guy 100yds away with a £200 camera!
Speaking of the game, the first half went a lot better than I expected, I feared for Cassel having seen the O-Line struggle to protect Ponder in the first 3 games so to see him looking confident in the pocket was a surprise. Now what's happened with Freeman almost makes this a moot point but Cassel also had luck that Ponder never seemed to get, in the first drive Ike Taylor has a pick in the endzone before Patterson breaks it up then later when Cassel fumbles around 3 Steelers miss before it drops into purple hands. Until we can sort out the secondary though the QB issue is a sideshow, it's tough when you lose Winfield and have injuries but at some point someone has to step up.
I don't want to get too analytically though, here i was after 25+years watching the team I love playing live for the first time. Someone said in one of the forums how we should cherish AD because he is a once in a lifetime player, which is so true. I'm smiling now thinking about him breaking that 60 yarder, the guy is special and I'm glad I got to see him do it live. JA is a guy you cant fail to like, in the first half seeing him run amok was also something i'm delighted to have to witnessed. Seeing Jennings start to turn it on in Purple arguably for the first time was another highlight. It almost seemed too easy especially with the big lead in the 3rd quarter, I wasn't wanting the game to peter out I was wanting us to score 50 but then I really should know by now life as a Vikes fan is never that easy.
Although during the 17 point lead Mexican waves were being started, a sign that people were losing interest, to be fair the noise levels stayed the same when the Steelers had the ball. I thought people would quieten down as they wanted to see a close game, but it got loudest during their last drive. We had been lucky with most of the action taking place at the end we were at and that continued in the last few seconds of the 4th quarter. By this point I was convinced the Steelers were going to score, force OT and then go on and win. That would have been the Vikings in a nutshell, a lot of the time mediocre, occasionally brilliant but just when you think everything's looking good, something happens to screw it up. This time however they pulled it out of the hat and to be honest it felt better to win like that than with a big lead and 2 teams playing garbage time as the game fizzles out.
All that was left was to wallow in the warm glow of victory and head off for the biggest queue for a tube train that I'd ever seen.