The news dropped like bomb a couple of months ago: this year the International Series of the NFL would bring the Pittsburgh Steelers to Europe - to London's Wembley Stadium to be exact!
FANTASTIC! Finally I would not need to travel accross the big pond to see one of my teams, but the team would come over to my continent!
Practically the moment the news broke happy excited email and Facebook message threads were started to get ourselves organized before the tickets even went on sale. It was clear within hours that a nice bunch of tarveling Pittsburghers, Expat-Yinzers and European Wannabe Burghers (yes, I am making fun of myself here) would come together in London for the game - FUN TIMES AHEAD!
The day in early 2013 when the tickets went on sale was pretty stressful. Ticketmaster was busy, number of tickets limited per person and you could not choose via seating chart but only with the random "best ticket available in your price category" functionality, but I managed to get decent tickets - corner seats in the Steelers endzone.
Months and months passed by while we were making plans for the big "Steeler Nation in London" weekend, looked for accomadation and additional fun things to do. The summer came, the summer went and finally it was time for football. But well .... the Steelers had an awful start into the season and arrived in Europe on a 0:3 while we spent a significant part of our time in London starring on the MLB app on our phones watching the Pirates making their way to the playoffs. What a strange year ....
But before we even put our jerseys on most of the group arrived in London on Saturday already to enjoy another hightlight: the concert of the legendary MADNESS at the amazing Alexandra Palace on top a windy hill in the Northern part of London.
The venue is big - comparable with the Zenith in Munich, but they definitely let in at least 2,000 more people than they would have done here. We were staying at the sides but still could not move or even dance. The show was fun nevertheless and those guys have so many classic tunes to blast out that you just have to party and sing along. What a great start into the fun weekend!
The next day we dressed up for the game and slowly traveled into the rough direction of Wembley. At about half way we found ourselves a nice pub for the warm up .... beer, cider, fish & chips. The weather - despite all prejudices about London weather - was absolutely perfect: a sunny fall day, not too cold, not too warm. You could not create a better day to spend at a ball game. Like you can see at the pub the fans of the opposing Minnesota Vikings sat comfortably together with the Steelers fans. We shared tables, stories and raised the glasses. The atmosphere was great and we were off to a perfect start.
In the afternoon we then took the train for the final leg of our trip to Wembley and the whole scenario when we arrived there was very impressive. SO MANY PEOPLE in NFL jerseys and such a huge stadium (about 90k people fit in there and it was sold out)!
I have to say that once we made it to the grounds of Wembley the organization was impressive. The masses could move without trouble, there were no significant queues neither at the gates, at security, rest rooms, food & drinks counter. Everything worked perfectly fine.
We quickly found our seats and settled down.
It did not take long and the Steelers came out for the warm up. This was my very first live game and it was an amazing feeling to see the players from so close by. It turned out we had scored really, really good seats.
My man Heeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaath Miller! I was wearing his jersey and he made me proud. Even though he was just freshly recovered from a bigger injury he was one of the very few who played a decent game.
The opening ceremony was pretty impressive although of course way too violet (the game was officially a "home game" for the Vikings)
The filled up stadium looked pretty impressive, too:
Gene Simmons sang the National Anthem and looked without his famous KISS make up significantly scarier than with.
Here we go, Steelers, here we go!
Some game action
The Steelers sucked. The defense crippled, the offense produced almost nothing and we had to listen to the silly horn and pseudo nordic singing of the Vikings fans way too often. Although we had a little hope close to the end of the game this one got lost just like the first three games of the season.
All the cheering did not really help but it was fun anyway:
I know that the International Series is not popular in the US. The teams need to travel around the globe, it costs quite some money and the fans at home get a game to a weird time (Welcome to my world, folks!), but for us here in Europe and for our guests from the US it was a fantastic experience and a lot of fun!
Yesterday the Steelers finally won a game! YAY! Let's hope the rest of the season will be at least bearable!
More fun pictures from the Steelers weekend you can find in my Instagram feed!