An American tradition, familiar to anyone who has ever watched films or a TV, is the Big Game. For us, it was New York Giants vs Philadelphia Eagles.
We were warned it would take up the entire day, but I had no idea. We left the apartment not long after 10 and walked to the Port Authority bus terminal, found some Irish chaps who we’re wearing blue Giants jerseys, followed them around, and got our tickets on the Meadowlands Express to the MetLife stadium. We went early. I was worried about traffic and queues (know as “lines” in Amerenglish). We got there in record time. I was then worried about how we would amuse ourselves until 1pm kickoff. I needn’t have worried at all. On arrival we wandered through the amazing tailgate parties – now THAT’s how to party! Hundreds of people barbecuing enormous T-bone steaks, playing games, drinking and partying in the parking lot.
Then, suddenly, there was a beating and hammering above the blasting stereo music as each group of people huddled around their trucks and cars competed with each other for the best tunes: the G-Line! The Giants line-drummers are pretty special. The complexity of the different beats winding up and around one another was as primal as the game we were about to watch.
Armed with cheese-steak sandwiches we climbed to the top of the stadium where we watched the match from the sky. Quite literally, we sat with our heads in the clouds, donning raincoats against the misty droplets as we gazed down at the field. I was struck by the genial atmosphere – although most of the fans were Giants supporters, the occasional Eagle sat amongst them in the eyries of the stadium, and there didn’t seem to be any tension or antagonism. Genial teasing was definitely in evidence (mostly at the Giants’ expense as they lost the game), but it was cheerful and good natured.
So, what did I learn about the game of American football? Yes, it is physical, brutal, even. But unlike rugby, the intensity comes in between long pauses. It is a stop-start game, but when it starts you could almost hear the bones crunching from a mile away (or up, in my case). I also discovered that the game does turn on the performance of the quarterback in a way I hadn’t understood from the iconic football films I’ve seen. I also found out that impossibly good-looking American guys do high five each other in between swilling beer … But only when their team is winning. If you’re far down in the last quarter, your fans will simply go home.
Although that could be because if you don’t, you get stuck in a gridlock trying to get into the Lincoln Tunnel on your way back yo Manhattan.
But another thing I learnt? However tired you are, however damp from sitting with your head in the clouds all afternoon, however weary of lines and traffic and crowded public transport, there’s nothing Jimmy’s BBQ ribs can’t fix. As they say over here, aaawesome day out.
High fives to us.