Hello all! I have just come back from seeing Harvard versus Yale at the Ivy League Championship Final and as someone who has very little understanding of American Football... I loved it!
First of all here is a quick "Rookie's Guide to American Football" (NFL):
Pretty good summary right? Vaguely straightforward? 4 quarters of 15 minutes, 4 "downs" or attempts to get the ball forward (at games they have markers showing where the players have to get the ball to), get it to the end zone for points. Well try watching a live game with no commentary. We didn't have a clue!
The Ivy League Championship is between all the universities in the prestigious Ivy League - similar to the Russell Group in the UK. The tournament takes place during the Fall (aka Autumn) and teams get knocked out at each round. The final, this year between Harvard Crimson and Yale Bulldogs, decides who wins the championship. Our programme managed to score us some tickets so we got coaches up from New York to Yale University in New Haven, Conneticut. We arrived with an hour or so to go before game time so we took part in some tailgaiting.
Unlike in the UK where tailgating means driving too close behind someone, tailgating in the US is a social get together before a football match. The term comes from people using the boot of their cars or trucks to put out food and drink for their friends. We joined a Harvard tailgate and had some beer and pizza but there was also a bigger one closer to the stadium with foodstalls, beer tents and even a DJ! It was nice to see Harvard and Yale fans all mixing together before the game. In the UK opposing fans usually get separated to avoid violence, whereas in the US everyone was mixed in together.
The game itself was really interesting to watch. It does stop and start a lot but the tactics and "plays" can be so quick that you almost need the breaks to have time to process and understand what happened. Many of the Brits said that they preferred rugby because it doesn't stop and start as often, but American Football is (a tiny bit) less about massive blokes running in to one another and (slightly) more tactical. It can be a little bit annoying when there is a long break because we were sat outside in the freezing cold! Be sure to wrap up warm for a game!
There was also be a half time show, not quite like in the Superbowl but it's fun to watch anyway. At the Harvard vs Yale game they did a huge performance about the American Revolution with a lot of jokes mocking Harvard (understandable given that the game was held at Yale). Half time shows can be a welcome relief from the stress of the game, but half time is also a great time to grab some traditional snacks. Hot dogs, pretzels, nachos, fried dough covered in sugar (I have no idea what these are called but they taste like donut without a donut shape) - all the good old American classics to keep you warm through the second half!
The game we watched was quite one sided and by the third quarter it was obvious that Yale was going to win. Some people lef the stadium which was a shame because right at the end the crowd got to storm the pitch. This is especially common when it's a championship final, but can happen any time there is a "big" game. It is usually frowned upon to storm the pitch because it can cause damage to the grass/goal posts, and in NFL season ticket holders who storm the pitch have their passes revoked for life!
Even if you're not a massive fan of sports, I would definitely recommend going to see the game or at least join in at a tailgate. It's a really fun day out, and because there are so many alumni who go as well it can be a fun family day too - which might explain why American football has so many fans!
So far I've seen tennis, basketball and now football - what should I go see next?