Following a summer covering the strongest D2 Conference in the South, Double Coverage correspondent Patrick McAleer’s strong summer of predictions earned him a behind the scenes look at the big league from a media perspective as he headed to the Wembley Stadium press box on Sunday, as the Los Angeles Chargers hosted the Tennessee Titans in what might be the most competitive of the London games this year!
While the SFC 2 South was one helluva conference this past season – providing both finalists and promotees out of the South this year – covering an NFL fixture in the UK’s most famous sporting venue was something of a step up for Patrick – and so he shares his experience with the wider Britball community!
Each year DC gives its a number of its contributors access to great opportunities like this one, so if you’re a talented creator and passionate about the growth of the game? Check out if there’s something you’re interested in at DblCoverage.com/Apply.
I rubbed shoulders with journalists, team beat writers, Chargers and Titans match commentators, and even bumped into BAFA Age Groups Commission lead, Russ Hewitt, who has a long history assisting the NFL in their trips to our side of the pond.
As I long time fan of the sport, and regular International Series attendee, I’d long wondered what it’s like to watch the game from the press box… And now I was finally getting that chance!
My first experience of this type, I couldn’t help but feel a bit out of place. Many of the journalists attending clearly knew each other well and had spent much of the past few days in one another’s company attending the build-up events. You could sense that with most reporters the novelty had rubbed off, after I’m assuming many assignments at Wembley, and it was just another day at the office.
I, on the other hand, was embracing the experience for what it was – potentially a once in a lifetime look behind the scenes!
I took some mandatory photos, getting as close as I could to the pitch, and then headed back up to the media room and hit the buffet, tucking into some lasagne before the game started. It’s not quite the same as some Nashville BBQ or a classic tailgate food from the States, but it beats paying Wembley food prices!
I headed to my seat, stocking up on free popcorn and Pepsi, and got ready for kick-off!
Each press seat has a clear glass cover in front, to prevent your notes getting wet or blowing away, although this wasn’t needed with the Chargers bringing the LA sun with them to Wembley.
The awkward bit about this is that it’s kind of in your eye-line, so you have the decision of looking under or over it to see the action, but I survived and wasn’t complaining at my great view. You do have the benefit of TV screen next to you showing the game on BBC, allowing you to get quicker replays, which you could hear the commentators utilizing.
As well as the stadium commentator, you have a press box commentator on the tannoy there, which gives you the play information for every play, often before the stadium ones. This does create a bit of an echo at times, but you can see the commentators and journalists waiting for the call, before updating their twitter feed or telling their listeners.
The free food continued at half-time, with burritos and chicken and chips on offer; as many journalists did before me, I took the option of both! (I wanted to make sure I fitted in!)
Stocking up on snacks I headed back to my seat, to watch a good second half of football in what was a great Wembley atmosphere.
At the 5 minute mark in the 4th quarter I headed down to the interview room with the other journalists, ready for the post-game Chargers interviews. I’m glad they take you down in a group – as Wembley is an absolute labyrinth behind the scenes!
Strangely Wembley were showing Neil Reynolds and Rob Ryan on Sky sports in their pre-game show, rather than the game being played there. So myself and other journalists ended up huddled around my mobile watching the final minutes on Gamepass, as the game was being played metres away!
Without the warm sunshine outside, I rather inconveniently donned the warmest piece of clothing I’d brought with me to the game… And as such found myself sat in the front row of the press conference, wearing my Baltimore Ravens hoody, as I received strange looks from Anthony Lynn, Tyrell Williams and Philip Rivers, just taking in the moment.
Usually it’s only something you would only see on NFL Network or Gamepass as you want to see what the Head Coach says after the game, but there I was with it happening yards away.
You can see why people buy into Anthony Lynn. He’s calm and cool, but with an aura of toughness about him; which is said that he brought this to the Chargers and was a part of them bouncing back from their 0-4 start last season. The beat writers were ensuring they got all the answers to their questions as they were discussing their angles prior to the interviewers starting, with one pair agreeing to share intel if one goes to the locker room and one stays there.
Anthony Lynn shared that prior to the game in the planning that week, that his QB coach called that their first pass play to Tyrell Williams was going to be a TD, the Chargers beat writers used this nugget of information when then speaking to Tyrell and Philip Rivers to get their thoughts on this.
They tried to press Philip, who is even taller in person, on that spat with Keenan Allen, but the veteran gunslinger played it off as two players who care and argue because they’re close.
He meanwhile kept looking over at Red Zone on the TV’s above to see what was happening around the league and I’m pretty sure he smiled as he saw the Bears were leading the Patriots!
As the interviews finished, so did my day at the office, but it’s definitely one I could get used to!