It was disappointing, but not shocking. After all, what were the chances? There are 32 teams in the NFL, and many of them – including a couple in the NFC East – are simply unwilling to give up a home game. The Eagles, I know, are no different. But against all my better judgment, I held out a little bit of hope anyway. The day the new NFL schedules came out, I took a deep breath, said a silent prayer, crossed my fingers and opened up the web page. No dice. This year, the International Series Game will once more be without the greatest team in football, instead featuring the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Chicago Bears.
So yet again I will travel the many miles from my home in the south of England to London’s Wembley Stadium– for the fifth time in five years – to watch a game involving two teams I have very little interest in. That’s the position of Eagles fans in the UK. Indeed, it looks as if we’ll never see the Eagles in an International Series game here.
There have always been reasons to hope, of course. Jeff Lurie has friends in Britain and I have to presume that he is something of an Anglophile. On the other hand, the Linc is a new stadium that really needs to be filled eight times a year, so I can reason that it doesn’t make financial sense to travel across the pond, even if Wembley receipts will come from 85,000 fans who will also buy truckloads of team merchandise.
I know too that many American fans are opposed to the International Series. After all, why should you have to fork out for air fare and hotels to avoid missing what really is a home game? But those who have made the journey these past four years have benefitted both socially and culturally. What’s to lose? I can’t promise that you’ll meet the Queen or be locked up in the Tower of London; save that for a Simpsons fantasy. But you will get to see all the sights of London, step through a time warp (I’m not saying in which direction) and enjoy a great game of football in one of the world’s iconic stadiums.
And if you look at the record of recent Wembley games, several teams have gone on from there to considerable success. For instance, the Giants beat the Dolphins in October 2007, and then went on to be World Champions that season. New Orleans took out the Chargers in 2008 before shocking the world in Super Bowl XLIV. Others, admittedly, have been less successful to date and I’m not certain if last year’s opponents – San Francisco and Denver – will see success at all in this decade.
So, for the past four years I have travelled across the country for my annual dose of live football. Many thousands also cross over from Germany, Holland and Spain. It really is a multicultural affair. Fans of all 32 teams pack the stands every year, even though only two are represented on the field; a true cosmopolitan mélange.
But wouldn’t it be so much better for all the thousands of Eagles fans in the UK if the team we follow year after year could come over, just once, to show us in person how great they are. And apart from those Philadelphia fans who aren’t allowed to cross state lines, never mind fly out of the country, we Brits would be delighted to welcome fellow enthusiasts of the greatest team never to take the big prize. Until then, I guess, we’ll just have to keep hoping.
Today’s article is courtesy of ITI’s newest staff writer, Brian Mathieson. Brian is a U.K. native currently residing in England, where he’s followed the NFL and the Eagles for more than 30 years. We consider him our “European Correspondent.”