By Jason Hayes
Most NFL fans on this side of the pond have managed to make their way to the International Series
in London at one time or another, but attending a game on the other side isn’t quite as easy. I’ve
been fortunate enough to have made three trips to the U.S., which included five NFL games and two
CFB games. Having just returned from my third trip, I thought it could be useful to relay my
experiences for others contemplating the 5,000+ km journey to the home of the pigskin.
Picking your games
Each of my trips has involved at least two games. I’ve previously done three days in a row with CFB
on Saturday, NFL on Sunday and Monday Night Football, or most recently a Thursday night game
and a Sunday game separated by 10 days to allow for some non-NFL related travel in between. That
part is really up to yourself.
In terms of game selection, as soon as the schedule is released in May I get to work. My planning
resembles Charlie Kelly trying to crack the Pepe Silvia case in Always Sunny, trying to find the perfect
combination of location, timing and matchup. I’ve always erred on the side of early season games, as
I have a fear that the game I’m attending could be rendered meaningless if it’s in the latter half. As a
Cardinals fan this caution is warranted, but if you follow a good team, or if you’re a gambler, go for a
later season game by all means.
When it comes to selecting seats, I’ve sat in nosebleeds and field-level, halfway line and endzone. All
have their perks. This time round I chose field-level, endzone seats for both games as I hadn’t done
so before. There are obvious drawbacks, such as having to use the jumbotron when the action is on
the opposite side, but the positives of seeing a DeAndre Hopkins one handed TD catch or a Zach Ertz
dive for the pylon mere feet away is something I won’t soon forget. You might get on TV too, if that’s
Tailgates, do ‘em
It won’t be a true gameday experience unless you immerse yourself in the pre-match buzz of a
tailgate. This is where you will find the local, die-hard fans who attend games week in, week out. If
you have a Twitter account, use it. I received countless invites by putting out a simple tweet - people
are more than accommodating. If not, don’t worry. Wander aimlessly around the stadium and you
can be sure someone will soon offer you a beer and a burger (and those offers will multiply as soon
as they hear that charming Irish accent).
This also applies to away games. As I strolled around US Bank stadium in my Cardinals red last
Sunday, the Vikings fans couldn’t have been nicer. We did ski shots (this is where five individuals
take a shot off a ski by lifting it up simultaneously - I didn’t know either), more beers, and I had
yellow penalty flags thrown at me - all playful of course. If deciding between a tailgate and a bar
before the game, tailgate all the way.
Get in early
This was the first year where I made a point of entering the stadium early for each game. Having
purchased those lower-level tickets, I was determined to make sure I didn’t miss a second. So I
entered the grounds 90 minutes early to watch the team warm-ups (okay, it probably ended up
being about 60 when I was offered that extra beer).
I couldn’t recommend this enough. Once the kick-off starts, it’s easy to get lost in the action and in
the scoreboard. The pre-game warmups is really the time where you can let your jaw drop at the
sheer size and athleticism of the players. Also, it’ll never really feel normal seeing the players you’ve
followed for years up close, like JJ Watt throwing a ball into the crowd in my direction (a ten year old
kid beat me to, b******). Of course, the team entrances and anthem aren’t to be missed either. The
Americans know how to put on a spectacle.
So enter early, buy another beer (they’re like $14 though, be warned), sit back and enjoy the calm
before the storm.
Win or lose, enjoy the experience
Alright, this one is easier said than done. I was fortunate enough to witness a TNF win over the
Saints for my first game – that one was fun. Surrounded by home fans, high fiving and cheering
every play – it was basically a three hour party and my voice was in tatters the next morning. It’s not
hard to enjoy a game like that.
I wasn’t so lucky the second time, however, as the Cardinals lost a close game with significant
importance to the Vikings. That one hurt. Walking out after the game, one Vikings fan, with the most
pitiful and sincere look in her eyes, said to me “I’m sorry for your loss”. I looked so sour and
disheartened that this individual used an expression normally withheld for those in mourning to
I knew then that I was perhaps too invested in the result. I had witnessed an exciting game, some
ridiculous plays and a ground-shaking atmosphere. It was the experience of a lifetime either way. So
do your best to embrace the moment and accept that losing is possible.
Hopefully these tips aid you on your way to the States, writing about it has made me hungry for
*googles schedule release date for 2023*