One thing you can be sure of when the NFL comes to London Town every year, is that the changing (locker) room after the game is going to be full of people.
Not least the players themselves – all 53 of them in the squad – then the coaches and assistants, kit men, security, club officials, medical staff and various others related to the running of the franchise on game day.
Easily, over 100 people directly related to the franchise can be found in the Wembley Stadium changing rooms for each team playing in the match. And after the match, following a ’12-15 minute cooling off period’ the assembled media (Wembley has space for 100s of media) complete with their bags, cameras et al get invited in to join the party too.
A Head For The Game is one such media outlet privileged enough to be allowed in and after nearly 10 years of International Series games we have got used to conducting interviews in the private domain.
Such is the professionalism and politeness of the players that after nearly four hours of smashing each other to pieces; win or lose, they will speak to the world’s media freely and honestly.
Of course, as the winning team on Sunday Jacksonville had the lion’s (or should that be ‘Jaguars’?) share of media interest – there is nothing as lonely as a journalist in a losing team’s changing room – in addition to the added interest relating to their continued commitment to London as a franchise and as the official ‘home’ team, albeit 4,300 miles away from Florida.
Over the years of the International Series, the changing room interviews at Wembley – the teams take over two full ‘soccer’ changing rooms each – have evolved into a business affair after the initial excitement, and related questioning, when the International Series could have been seen as an experiment or even a novelty.
The players are recognising this too.
Complete with the American ‘beat’ reporters directly linked to the teams themselves and their local press – still an important part of the media mix in the United States – the UK is represented by the usual news agencies, plus the big hitters like The Sun, Daily Mail, Sky, BBC and also by a small hardcore band of NFL fans who have covered every game, practise and event since the International Series started back in 2007 and who have now evolved into slick multimedia reporters complete with personal relationships built over the years.
Also there is the random mix of marketing and competition winners, plus the odd curve ball.
One such curve ball last year were the parents of James Corden, the actor, and now TV personality in American thanks to his presenting of ‘The Late Late Show’.
They visited the Jaguars changing room after their win over the Buffalo Bills and had an awkward, well for James’ Mum anyway, moment when defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks was caught unawares, shaking the offered hand from James’ Dad whilst completely naked (06:20).
Marks is listed by the Jaguars at 309 lbs (140.1kg/22.07 stone) and standing at 6ft 2inches.
For their first-ever interview experience in the NFL, James Corden’s Mum and Dad could not have picked a nicer guy though, who took it all in his (nude) stride.
A Head For The Game was right in the thick of that moment, standing right next to the interview as it took place and this past Sunday we felt a sense of déjà vu as, awaiting our turn to talk to the UK flag bearer Marks after his sides’ win over the Indianapolis Colts we had to take a second look.
As approaching Marks were not one, but two more Cordens. This time it was the turn of the sisters. Cue numerous laughs from both sides – Marks really is one of the nicest 140kg men you will ever meet.
“Hello Sen’Derrick, sorry we’re not going to be as exciting as the last two interviewers,” we said stumbling cautiously around all the aftermath and detritus of a match lying forlorn and unloved on the floor.
“That’s OK,” he laughed in response. Phew we thought and so the interview proper could start.
It turns out the Corden sisters were doing another NFL piece for the Late Late Show to be aired soon – no doubt we will keep you updated on when it is aired and it will be worth watching as Marks enjoyed himself immensely filming it.
“His parents were here last year,” said Marks to Ahead For The Game immediately after the interview. “They were really enjoying themselves when they came in the locker room, but I wasn’t dressed yet and the cameras just came right over and they showed it all on TV, it was very funny.”
Marks’ infectious laugh and smile punctuated the whole sentence, and after A Head For The Game reminded him how strange it still is for those covering the NFL for the first time in the UK to come into the changing room, Marks was clear it was all in a day’s work.
“Well, you have women, cameras – everything in the locker room after a game and you just have to be respectful and understand that it’s their (the media) profession and they’re coming in to do a job,” he said.
“It’s awesome, the thing about when we come over here [to the UK] is that everybody has a lot of great questions – it’s not always about football.
“They allow you to have fun so it’s pretty good.”
Photo: NFL UK