LONDON -- Before we head back over the pond to America, the Around The NFL crew wanted to drop a few final thoughts on the week that was in London.
What a time it has been: A rollicking adventure to an unforgettable metropolis that welcomed the NFL -- and its reporters -- with open arms.
Let's dive in, before we fly out:
- We've talked plenty about football, but Rex Ryan drew laughs this week when he went out of his way to praise England's pub scene. He wasn't wrong. In case you didn't know, football writers like beer. So do Londoners. It's a beautiful marriage that had Conor Orr and I spending our evenings traveling the streets to talk football and life with a cadre of tavern dwellers. We started the week at a "pub quiz," which I was flamed for calling "trivia night," its American moniker. We showed up late to the proceedings, so Conor and I tracked answers on a napkin -- and got relatively crushed by a tableful of musclebound millennials and their blonde girlfriends. Maybe it was the beer.
- London did an outstanding job hosting both teams. The heavy lifting came with the Bills, who were here all week and tucked away at The Grove, a mega-posh hotel and spa in the countryside beyond the city. It was ideal for an NFL club, giving them space and solitude for practice and rest, while lowering the temptation to break curfew. The Grove's history dates back hundreds of years in various forms. The contrast of watching pro football giants wandering over quaint lawns amid 15-foot-tall animal sculptures was intriguing, sort of like seeing Richie Incognito in a sequel to "The Shining." It was easily the most exotic setting I've visited for an NFL get-together.
-- Marc Sessler
- First off, need to echo what Marc said about the people. That's what made the trip for us. Every English reporter, fan and random bystander we met was funny and courteous and amazingly smart. It made our weeklong stay here so enjoyable. For my first takeaway, I'll start with the food. England gets a bad rap -- even from some locals -- but their take on breakfast is amazing. Tomatoes and mushrooms, why the hell not? The best meal of the trip was probably courtesy of the Goat tavern in London. Even under swamped circumstances, they delivered a prime fish and chips minutes before the kitchen closed and paired it perfectly with a local pale ale. Will be on my list of must-haves every time I come back.
- Seeing soccer live and in person was phenomenal, and really put an exclamation point on our journey. During the Around The NFL meetup, it was interesting to hear a fan's perspective on why they preferred American football because of the pace of the game. There are more breaks, more chances to get a beer and collect your thoughts. But Marc and I agreed that live soccer is a white-knuckle affair. Fans don't stop singing and chanting, and you can see the action developing in a unique way. I wrote about that experience here and am really curious to see if the soccer aesthetic informs a new generation of football fans.
Again, London, thanks for one great ride. We can't wait to see you again.
-- Conor Orr