No wonder we were in search of something that could capture the imagination, “sweetness”, “Juice” (before the scandal) “Dooms Day Defense”, “Monsters of the Midway,” ” Broadway Joe”, Mean Joe Greene” and many more great nicknames. American Football had everything from dancing girls to the Good Year Blimp… style, razzamataz and those touchdown thingy’s ….
Suffice to say it really took off in Britain, which for her sins was going through a rough patch in the early 80’s. A time when the financial divide between the “have” and the “have nots” became more evident. Times were hard in Britain, in the early 80’s there were strikes by nearly everyone, street riots, and worse still: Boy George! “Karma Karma Karma Karma Chameleon”. If you thought that was bad? You should of been sat here, actually hearing me sing that? Ouch!
Yeah American Football had it all, but as a young fan it was painful. We had one game a week, and one weekly newspaper (First Down), which brought us all the news we craved. We brits wouldn’t let a little thing like the Atlantic ocean get in the way, now would we?
Back then teams started springing up locally. I lived in Birmingham (no, not Alabama) and we had the Birmingham Bulls with guys like Trevor “the ghost” Carthy RB/CB, Dave Chambers LB, Colin Nash FB, Dave Stanton QB and Russ Jenson QB. The Bulls were my first real chance to see the game live, up close and personal! As a kid I loved it!
The NFL team I followed, was of course, the Miami Dolphins! Man what a team! So much history, so much class, so many great players over the years. In the meantime, over here in the UK, things were really taking off. I got to see the Dolphins at the original Wembley, with those hallowed twin towers. The game though, only a pre season game, was great!… I can say, “I saw Dan Marino, Mark Clayton, (Mark Duper was holding out so never made it over here) Lorenzo Hampton, as well as Ron Jaworski! And of course, the game winner, David Archer! (who? you may ask) in the “American Bowl”.
It only got better for us here in the UK. Sky TV started showing more games. We got our one and only professional team, the London Monarchs. They played in the ill fated World League, ran by the NFL. To top it off, London won the first World League title with Stan Gelbaugh at QB. They even had some British players, including former hero in Trevor Carthy! Life was sweet!
But not for long. With attendances dropping, and the World League (which had changed to the European league) folded, the British game was in tatters too (due to greed and corruption… yeah i said it!) At one point our league had nationwide sponsorshipwith Budweiser, and the final had almost 20,000 fans! But almost over night it was gone.
My life had taken me away from the sport, working weekends managing a nightclub, so the game was lost to me (always kept an eye on the fins though! ).
But as the new millennium rolled into view and my working circumstances changed, I could get back into the sport I loved. About this time, the national game had started to revive itself with a new angle. Youth! (yes the senior leagues were still going). But coaches were realising that we needed youth to keep the game alive! I personally got into coaching about 4 years ago. Coaching defensive backs for my local team, the Bolton Bulldogs, 3-16 & 16 -18 years olds. Passing my BAFCA level 1 along the way! The Bulldogs are now known as the Northwestern Bulldogs (www.northwesternbulldogs.co.uk). Feel free to check us out.
This coming year, it is my third as defensive coordinator and I run the 3-5-3. We have also been asked to put a program together for Manchester Met University (the University league is probably strongest here in the UK with around 56 teams. The senior leagues have around 45 teams, with the youth having around 24 youth teams, and over 50 junior kitted and flag teams).
So as you can see, American Football is massive here in the UK! And ok, though the talent level may be several steps behind you guy’s, we have our first American Football Academy. And with the International Series being played annually, again I had a great opportunity to see my beloved Dolphins and this time it was for real! (more on this later) and with the talk of maybe two games being played a year, American Football is definitely here to stay!