An NFL Experience
Yesterday I fulfilled a sporting dream of mine. I attended a game of NFL and had the full experience from tailgating to buying giant nachos. The game was between the Minnesota Vikings and the Houston Texans on a Sunday starting at midday.
Supporters certainly take on the idea of going hard early. They park at various small lots around the stadium, some as early as 7AM, and unload the beers and meat.
It reminded me a lot of camping music festivals where you’d have your spot marked out by your cars and canopy. You’d then proceed to get as drunk as possible once everything was set up, occasionally stopping for snacks and getting to know your neighboring fans.
It’s a similar story at the tailgate. One weird rule is that the liquor stores in Minneapolis aren’t open on Sundays so you have to come stocked up.
Tailgating for me only lasted around 2 hours but it was an absolute blast. I went to the game with two local blokes I’d met the previous night at a party. They had also never been to a Vikings game before.
The pregame culture
The AFL has already copied many things that work in the NFL. Some succeed like the draft. Some will never succeed like the halftime show. But some have yet to be explored like this whole tailgating thing.
I understand that you meet your mates at a pub in the city, have a few drinks and then walk to the game. This is great but more can be done on the buildup.
The pregame culture in the States is more human. People enjoy having a few drinks and eating some meat before watching live sport. It feels like there is less regulation. It’s more of a personal choice to decide what you want your football experience to be.
Australia is arguably one of the worst nanny states in the world. I see a lot of this at AFL matches where things like drinking are very censored. Its done behind closed doors.
I obviously think that having strong alcohol laws are essential. However, I wish public drinking laws could be relaxed to allow some kind of tailgating events to occur on match days around the country.
I noticed at the tailgating yesterday that everyone is so friendly. People help each other out. There aren’t a whole bunch of drunk bogans being scary aggressive men.
There is a culture of meeting randoms, offering them your hospitality and talking about life. This isn’t so much the case in Australia where people are more individualistic and stick to their groups. But I feel as if it could change through gatherings at sport events.
My experience at the game yesterday can be relived by my snap story.
It took a while for us to find our seats because of how incredible big the stadium is. This was only the third NFL game ever played at the venue so most people were struggling to find their way around. However, we still didn’t miss any of the action.
The first quarter saw two Vikings touchdowns and they built a solid lead. The place was rocking. Not only are NFL fans noisy as it is but with it being a mostly glass stadium things can get deafening.
After the first quarter we went for a walk to check everything out. This is quite common place since the games last such a long time.
What I loved most was how much natural light you get within the stadium itself. The public spaces are sleek and spacious which means you never feel too crowded in. Even the food shops had a cool design using a mix of stainless steel and wood.
The Texans never threatened the Vikings so the crowd was in total party mode. It was an incredible sight seeing 60,000 people doing the Skol slow clap. While this attendance seems low compared to a packed MCG it actually felt fuller because of the more enclosed grandstands.
Does the AFL play it too safe? I often think this is their biggest problem.
They are controlled by what the TV networks want. I get it as its millions of dollars at stake. I just wish they would use the NFL “every game is a big event” philosophy. And the only way to do that would be to play less games.
It’s pretty simple. Play a shorter season. I would like it to be as short as possible maybe even 16 or 14 games. Then every game feels just a little more special.
The AFL as a brand would hugely benefit from the shakeup. You wouldn’t just be getting a stock experience you’d be getting the full experience.