I'm writing this the week after another highly successful International Series game at Wembley. The quality and closeness of the game helped, but the whole atmosphere in and around the stadium felt better than it ever has. NFL games at Wembley feel normal now - knowledgeable fans having a great day out and watching the sport they love. Better still, after a few years of "will they won't they" over the future of the game, we are now guaranteed at least one game here for the next 3 seasons, and a strong chance of there being even more match-ups heading our way.
A fundamental reason for the success of the Series is the willingness of teams to come over here and sacrifice a "home" game. Miami, New Orleans et al have made that sacrifice and helped make the IS what it is today. However, it is the Jacksonville Jaguars that have gone that step further and committed to playing here for 4 consecutive years, thus ensuring more days like Sunday. I'm not going to be one eyed and say that the Jags are doing it out of an overpowering love for the UK, it's a hard nosed business decision that has a multitude of strands to it, but the bottom line is that are coming over here for 4 "home" games. Like them or not, that's a big commitment and one that, in my opinion, merits our support for those games. I think it'd be fantastic if as many people as possible adopted the Jags as their second team and helped create a "home" atmosphere.
Even the most ardent Jags fan would admit that their team isn't in a great place right now. They are going to lose plenty of games this season, and some of them will be pretty ugly. They are not the easiest team to get behind at present, but it'd be brilliant if fans looked beyond that and gave them their full support in a few weeks time. After all, everyone loves an underdog. Think how big a story it would be if the Jags did actually pull off a shock victory, it would rank as one of the biggest upsets of the season. For that to occur in front of a frenzied, partisan crowd would send a fantastic message to other franchises. Come to the UK and it can do wonders for your franchise.
I'm not suggesting that fans should ditch their teams and become Jags fans. The majority of UK fans already support teams and have deep rooted loyalties that aren't going to change, and that's great! It shows that we UK fans are passionate about our teams and care about the game. However, unless the Jags come up against our favourite team, we can still cheer them on. Sunday demonstrated how great it is to have the majority of the stadium behind one team.
Furthermore, the sport is growing in the UK. New fans are jumping on board every year and it'd be great if plenty of them took on the Jags as their team. After all, they'd be able to watch their team live multiple times without crossing the Atlantic. What better way to start your NFL supporting life. Of course, the previously mentioned quality issues may put off potential Jags fans, but look how some franchises have turned around their fortunes in recent years. The last 2 recipients of the 1st overall Draft pick - the Chiefs and the Colts are currently flourishing. Under an ambitious new owner in Shahid Khan, it's not a great stretch to think that the Jags could follow in these footprints. Get the Draft right and anything can happen. Besides, everyone hates a glory hunter - start supporting the Jags now and nobody will accuse you of that!
The Jags also have the best mascot in the NFL - Jaxon De Ville. Jaxon has been involved in numerous on and off field incidents. He has been known to bungee jump into stadiums and often rides a motorised scooter around the field. Unfortunately Jaxon sometimes takes things a bit too far and has been reprimanded by the NFL for - among other things - stamping on a life size doll of a Steelers Quarterback and shaking the goalposts before an opposition field goal. In fact, it was after Jaxon had spent too much time on the pitch during a match, that the Colts filled a complaint with the league and Jaxon appeared at the next Jags home game locked in a steel cage! Expect similar antics at Wembley later this month.
So there you go, you may disagree, but I genuinely think we should all get behind Jacksonville when they play at Wembley. Show the other franchises how the UK treats a home team, create an atmosphere similar to last Sunday and thank the Jags for giving us more NFL games in London. Who knows, we may end up witnessing one of the biggest shocks in this, or any other, season.