NFL back in London for another game

Updated: October 26, 2008, 4:52 PM ET
Associated Press

WEMBLEY, England -- With dark gray clouds rolling overhead, the NFL brought its show back to London on Sunday when the New Orleans Saints "hosted" the San Diego Chargers in a regular-season game.

For the second straight year, Wembley Stadium was sold out with fans from England and the United States packed into the venue and wearing shirts of all colors and teams.

"Once in a lifetime," said Brad Luebbermann, a 44-year-old commercial pilot from San Diego who came to London with a friend to watch the game.

With Saints flags waving all around because they are technically the home team, British rock band Stereophonics started things off with a short set on a rolling stage. Joss Stone then sang "God Save the Queen" shortly after the end of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Olympic swimming champion Rebecca Adlington, wearing her two gold medals over a Saints jersey with the No. 2 on it, came out to flip the coin. New Orleans won the toss, and then the game, 37-32.

Last year, fans from New York and Miami descended on Wembley to watch the Giants beat the Dolphins 13-10 in a rain-soaked game.

Despite early rain Sunday, there was none at the start of this year's game. And that was good news for Jerry Yager, a 40-year-old engineer from New Orleans who came to England with a group of friends and had his face painted in the team's colors.

"We go to an away game every year," said Yager, who admitted he was pushing for Denver but changed his mind because the game was in September. "I wanted to go snow skiing, but it was too soon, so it was London all the way."

Many in the packed crowd didn't have so far to travel, however.

Ian Connor, who plays in the British American Football League, only had to travel from Bedfordshire, about an hour away.

"I started watching football in the early '80s," said Connor, a 31-year-old physical education instructor at a prison. "Been mad for it since."

So mad, in fact, that he plays defensive tackle for the Bedfordshire Blue Raiders, and was excited to finally see an NFL game in London after missing out last year because he couldn't get tickets.

Luebbermann not only got tickets for the game, but he and friend Gar Frye are also going to see Arsenal play Tottenham on Wednesday in the English Premier League.

"Why come all the way to England and not see an English soccer game," Luebbermann said.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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