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American Football in the UK Part 1: Who is this Sean bloke and picking teams from England

This is the first article in our series where I'll discuss what American Football is like in the UK. We'll go through what the sport is like here, what it's like to play at uni and more as we build up to the big day when the Redskins face the Bengals this season.

James Brocklehurst- jbefotography

So before we get started I know what you're thinking "another series where someone casually types things that are vaguely related to the Redskins every week?! Don't we already have Ken for that?" Well yes, and obviously his series is gonna keep you company early on the week- Six pack of "Mondays" and all- but for those looking for some editorial content and looking to gain some knowledge about how America's favorite sport is doing in the UK, we have you covered here as well.

I'll start off this week with mostly background and introductions. My name is Sean Michael. I've done some writing for HogsHaven in the past as part of a draft profile series but my passion is writing columns, or broadcasting if we can figure out how to Skype into the audible. I'm from the DC area, my parents still live in Gaithersburg, and was put on the season ticket waiting list before my first birthday. I had season tickets with my dad from when Jack Kent Cook Stadium (now FedEx Field) was opened until around 2008. We have decades of memories, mostly of the Redskins losing, but football and my dad shaped my life and I wouldn't trade those memories for anything.

I moved to the UK in 2014 to study broadcast journalism. I was at the University of Maryland before moving but my lovely fiancé is English so I made the hop across the pond. We're getting married at the end of this July and she's even agreed to take photos where she's the quarterback and my teammates and I are the linemen. She's actually a big reason I decided to play football at university at all.

Now is where we get to jump into the whole football in the UK thing. I play right tackle for the Nottingham Trent University Renegades. I also am part of their media team and run the team website (yay for the cheeky plug!). I'll have more on the structure of football in the UK in another article but I figured why not brag a bit actually playing the sport I love so much.

Before I get to the meat of the article, a few quick points about the UK. I don't know Mark Bullock, I haven't met Robin Hood, vinegar on fries is actually pretty tasty, and when you come to England make sure to bring your own root beer and ranch dressing, they're very hard to find here.

So now for some actual substance. Picking a team from thousands of miles away.

My dad is from Wisconsin. He moved from the Midwest to the DC area over 35 years ago. Back then there was no Redzone channel, no Slingbox, no NFL Sunday Ticket. In fact, there weren't even out of market games on television except for primetime games like Monday Night Football. When my dad moved to DC he decided to watch and root for the Redskins. He was pretty lucky as the year he moved there was the first season that Joe Gibss coached the Skins. So my dad got a new team to fall in love with and passed that love onto me. He kept the Packers as well (there haven't been many decades where one of his teams wasn't great the lucky man) but he added a team when he moved.

My dad, my fiance, and I are a Redskins game

My dad, my fiancé, and I at a Redskins game

The world is different now. I watch local games through a Slingbox from Nottingham England. People can watch whoever they want from wherever they want. That means that a lot of people don't change their allegiance to teams when they move. Some Rams fans may find another team but in reality it wouldn't be that hard for them to keep following the Rams in LA. I mean come on, you know the NFL is gonna put them front and center.

The landscape of picking a team in the UK is actually an interesting mix of those two situations. With no permanent team here fans have of the NFL have to find something to attach themselves to. Tons of fans here haven't been to the US or if they have, don't call a particular city home. Many of my friends picked a team by basically luck. They decided to go to a game in London or watch one on TV and decided they were going to adopt whichever team won or they liked. It may seem like a weird system but they have to pick somehow right?

I can't say this is how every fan in the UK picked a favorite team but it's certainly the type of story I've heard the most. It's pretty interesting to see who attached to which team. It's been pointed out that every NFL game in London has gear from every NFL team and based on my time over here that seems like it'll hold true for a long time.

Another approach that some people take is the favorite player approach. I have a friend who loves Cam Newton but is also a fan of other players. This is closer to what some NBA fans are like in the US. They love the game and follow certain players. They may also have a favorite team but they're more into the game as a whole.

Watching the Redskins via Slingbox

Watching the Redskins via Slingbox

Watching games here is still a bit like when my dad moved unless you have the right equipment. But many fans I know find ways to watch their favorite teams from thousands of miles away. Many of my teammates are just as diehard football fans as anyone reading this. I'd almost say that being an American Football fan, player, or coach in the UK concentrates your love for the sport. To watch it you really have to care about it because you either have to go to a place that has games on, pay for an online pass, or have equipment that lets you watch games. You usually can't just turn a TV on Sunday afternoon (night here actually) and watch multiple NFL games. Even if you can, your TV provider may not have the variety of games you are looking for.

I can only speak for my experience with the NFL and football here and don't want to assume everyone has had the same experience but overall I've found that fans of football here are a special group. They like a sport they have to go out of their way to follow and are loyal to teams and or players. I've found that while it's different to hear everyone around me talk about Euroleague and soccer, that being in this environment has helped me appreciate how special it is to have friends that love the same sport as you.

Please let us know what you'd like to see from this series in the future. If you have a question about football in the UK share it in the comments below or tweet me @Sean_Michael_DC.