LONDON — The British are of at least two minds about the Vikings. Many of them, possessing very long memories or good history instruction, hate the Vikings, primarily for their sacking, pillaging, etc., of this island starting in the 9th century or so.
To wit: On New Year’s Eve, according to The Guardian newspaper, an attempted burglar jumped out a window after being scared by a man dressed as the Norse god Thor. “He looked like he had had a few drinks and decided to do a late-night break-in,” said Thor. “But he hadn’t counted on the God of Thunder living there.”
Most Brits don’t fear the Vikings that much, and not because this Thor had a tinfoil sword. Even the present-day American football team that was defeated by the Eagles 26-14 on Sunday is more likely to be met with apathy as interest or outright dislike. Sort of like the Vikings’ own season ticketholders.
It was not too difficult for a group of American college students and their instructor (me) to find the game on the telly — insert your own ironic comment here about fans in Minnesota nearly getting the blackout while we easily watched from 4,000 miles away — but not an English soul gave the game a second glance. Soccer, cricket, rugby or darts are usually on the sports pubs’ TVs at this time of year.
Happy to switch channnels
At The Fest, a German beer hall in Fulham, publican Paul Bisset (who once worked “laying concrete” in St. Paul) was happy to switch to the game for us, once I told him it was on. Paul had to kick us out before 11:30 — closing time — with the Vikings trailing 16-14 at halftime.
Germans are a bit more interested in American football than the average EU citizen. The NFL tried Europe for several years beginning in 1991, taking a break in 1993-94 and then folding “NFL Europa” in 2007. Reportedly the league, which was down to six teams, five of them in Germany, was losing $30 million a season. This despite producing some decent football and developing some better players, such as Kurt Warner, Jake Delhomme, Brad Johnson and Adam Vinatieri.
Replacing NFL Europa have been games the last two seasons in Wembley Stadium in London. The Giants beat the Dolphins in front of 81,176 in a soaking rain in 2007; the Saints handled the Chargers before an estimated 83,000 in 2008. The Bucs and the Patriots are scheduled for 2009. Getting 80,000 to show up seems OK, considering the London area has 8.3 million people in it. You should be able to get 80,000 to attend a spirited croquet match.
If you’ve watched those games from England on television, you’ve noticed that the crowd tends to cheer at odd times. A mocking cheer was about all the Minnesota club got from the Brits in the beerstube; in a more American-like barbecue place a mile or two to the east only one patron watched the NFL while his female companion paged through a magazine.
Earlier I checked with its general manager, Ian Rogers, to make sure the NFL game would be shown in his establishment, Bodeans.
“Sure will!’ he said. “We’ll have the Dolphins-Ravens game at about 6 o’clock.”
Um, will you also show Vikings-Eagles?
“Yes, that too.”
With the Vikings-Eagles reduced to a “that too,” I asked if its late start (9:38 p.m.) would be the problem it was for the Germans.
Another closing time
“No, we’ll still show it. You should be able to watch two hours.” Then it’s closing time, Ian said. A long, late trip to a more tourist-oriented pub awaited those who could not go without watching an ugly fourth quarter.
I don’t know what it means, but an Urban Outfitter store on tony Kensington High Street was selling Packer and Bear jerseys, but nary a Viking sweater was to be seen on the rack. “Although if they had Lion jerseys for sale, that would have been a real problem,” said Brian Woitte, a University of St. Thomas student from Eden Prairie.
I guess one could delude oneself that all the Vikings jerseys were sold out; one could not reach the same conclusion for the hapless Lions, however. Each team has one thing in common: The season is over, and the Brits hardly noticed.
Related post by Steve Aschburner here.