I stood with a big pole trying to avoid very big people with helmets and padding hitting me.
On 1 October I was at Wembley as a member of the chain crew on the NFL game between the New Orleans Saints and the Miami Dolphins. 85,000 fans were having a great time, cheering, booing, dancing, singing and enjoying the show that only the NFL can provide.
For seven hours I was an employee of the NFL with my own badge that allowed me access to the inner workings of Wembley. The corridors were covered with photos of the memorable moments of the last 50 years. A Cathedral to Sport.
It came with a downside. At 9.30 in the morning I wasn’t allowed into the tailgate (a special area for merchandising and fun activities) as I didn’t have a ticket for the game. I proudly said I was a member of the chain crew. I was then told I definitely couldn’t enter as I was a member of staff. The customer is king.
So why did they pick you?
In my spare time I officiate American Football games. It takes most of my Sundays. I love the physical, emotional and intellectual (the rules are very complicated) challenge. There can be as many as seven of us officials but for most University games we have four or five.
The camaraderie is fantastic. Everyone wants to get better and help each other improve. Of course in the eyes of the fans and coaches we can never get it right and they doubt our parentage in the moments of pressure. But generally we are well respected like rugby not soccer. No-one else calls me sir!
Is it much work?
There is obviously the game itself but we arrive 90 minutes before the game to go through some pre-game training, we might watch some game film, discuss the challenges of the forthcoming game, review our interpretations of specific rules or the way we work as a team.
We will be given some issues to prepare for the game and we all discuss these. I generally spend 2-3 hours every week reading rules and reviewing my previous week’s performance.
Occasionally we have training days (I have run two in the STV) and we have an annual weekend conference where experts from America teach us the dark arts.
How can we watch American Football or get more involved?
You don’t have to go to Wembley.
Our own students have a team called the Killer Bees. They play on Sunday afternoons with the season starting on November 5th. The SU has a full fixture list. To show my impartiality as an official Bath Spa also have a team (the Bulldogs).
If anyone is interested in becoming an official or getting more involved drop me an email at S.J.Egan@bath.ac.uk