Getting To The Event

For me, the 2017 NFL London season has now started. Last night I made the short journey by train up to Nottingham with my wife, Nicky, to go and see that leg of the 2017 NFL UK Live tour. This was the third of four legs that the team are putting on this year. The first leg had been hosted in London, followed by Liverpool and after the Nottingham leg, the team were heading up to Edinburgh to put on a show for some of the Scottish fans.

After the London and Liverpool shows, I’d read mixed reports from some of the people who’d attended. Things such as, “Jarvis Landry didn’t say much and didn’t seem very interested“, or “Kirk Cousins was far too polished with his answers and knows how to answer without really saying anything“, to the usual “I hate Neil Reynolds” and “Peter King did a better job of hosting than Neil Reynolds” comments.

Over the years I’ve definitely learnt to take absolutely anything and everything that’s said online with a pinch of salt, but still had a very slight doubt about the evening in my mind. Having said that, the comments didn’t really dampen my enthusiasm much as I’d been to the Leicester event in 2016 and was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I’d had on that particular evening, so was still looking forward to this one even though it was a bit further to travel.

Once we’d negotiated the delayed and cancelled train situation, we found ourselves in Nottingham with not very long to spare before the event. Thankfully, the tram system in Nottingham works more efficiently than the train services so getting up the hill to the city centre was a breeze and a quick operation. After a quick stop off at McD’s, we headed off to the Nottingham Playhouse where the event was being held.

At the Event

When we got there, people were still supping their beers outside the bar situated right next to the venue but we decided to head on in. Unlike the Leicester event at the Leicester Tigers’ ground in 2016 which was just a room with a makeshift stage, this one was the full-on main theatre hall with an upper circle. We decided to sit up there in the hope of getting some better pictures. What I didn’t take into account was the fact that we wouldn’t have lights on us and no microphones which all meant we couldn’t ask the guys any questions. With me being a Browns fan and Danny Shelton being there, I was a bit gutted. Oh well, you live and learn.

Danny Shelton Cleveland Browns DT coming on stage at NFL UK Live Nottingham 2017 - Image by NFL Fan UK

I Simply Don’t Understand

Maybe we got better guests than the London and Liverpool legs of the tour, but after attending the Nottingham event I simply don’t understand any of the negative comments made by folks about these shows. Maybe people are getting complacent about the amount of NFL exposure we get these days in the UK and expect something more but, seriously, how the hell can anyone bitch about an event where you have, sitting in the same room as you, a first round draft pick, a dead-cert future Hall of Fame wide receiver and a recently voted in Hall of Fame quarterback who’s backstory would make anyone say, “Wow, that’s awesome!”. Add to all that, one of the most respected NFL writers who has over 30 years of experience covering the league and has direct access to pretty much all the players, coaches, owners and front office staff of each NFL team and you’ve got one of the best lineups you could hope for, no matter which team you support. But unfortunately, haters gonna hate, as I believe the saying goes.

Neil Reynolds, Peter King, Danny Shelton, Kurt Warner and Steve Smith Sr on stage at the NFL UK Live event in Nottingham - Image by NFL Fan UK

The whole evening was brilliant and flowed well. I think the reason it went so well and ran smoothly was because of Peter King, Kurt Warner and Steve Smith Sr’s media professionalism. You can definitely tell that all three of them have experience on that front. Peter King is, obviously, very knowledgeable to an extent that you can’t help but listen to and respect what he is saying. I particularly loved it when he said that he foresees us getting our own franchise over here when the next bargaining agreement is struck! He also went on to explain why it would be a good thing to have a franchise over here and explained what I’ve actually been saying for quite some time – it’s not just about our generation as fans of the NFL but more about future generations getting to have their own franchise that they can really, physically support each week and not just via TV as we do now. Again, going back to the haters, people need to see beyond themselves and stop with the, “What’s the point? We all have our own teams that we support. No one’s going to support a London team!”. That’s such a nonsense comment…’s not just about you, folks!

I also enjoyed what he said about the support the games receive over here:

X’s and O’s

Probably the most entertaining part of the night for me was when Kurt Warner and Steve Smith got up and attempted to treat us to some X’s and O’s coaching. It started off well and looked as if it was going to be a well-rehearsed segment of the show by two great legends of the game. It actually turned out to be a mess as two great legends of the game had differing opinions on how to do things. It was absolutely hilarious to watch as the two of them ‘discussed’ what they were doing and ended with neither player giving in to the other as to who was right – although Kurt Warner had the last say with, “The QB is the guy with the ball in his hands so he’s always right”.

I think I’ve also found my new favourite NFL Network presenter in Steve Smith. He was hilarious all evening as he took the micky out of anyone and everyone. He started with Danny Shelton and the 1-15 record the Browns managed last season and went on to Kurt Warner and his 3-step drop during the X’s and O’s, but the biggest applause and laughter came when he ripped into the New England Patriots fan who’d come onto the stage to join in with one of the games. Smith didn’t hold back at all and laid into him about cheating……absolutely brilliant!

Kurt Warner and Steve Smith Sr giving demonstration - Image by NFL Fan UK

Danny Shelton

Danny Shelton kinda looked like he should have been sitting in the audience with us at times as you could see that he was enjoying listening to the retired veterans with their knowledge, stories and banter just as much as we were. The best part of the evening with regards to Danny was his sincerity when he answered a fan’s question about being drafted by the Browns. He was asked if he was pleased to have been drafted by them or would he prefer to have been taken by a “proper team like the Cowboys?” (Get over yaself son). Danny didn’t hesitate for a second as he shot back his answer. He said he wants to be a part of the rebuild and to help make the change within the Browns organisation and help them get to greater things. He did add at the end that he just hopes he’s still there when that change happens in Cleveland. Maybe a scripted answer but I got the impression he was being genuine and sincere as the rest of the audience did as he got a great round of applause. It’s refreshing to hear this kind of answer from a young player said with such sincerity. I’ve got a great respect for this guy and I too hope that he’s a Cleveland Brown for many years to come.

Great Experience for Fans

At various parts of the evening, members of the audience were invited up onto the stage to get involved via games. A lot of the time it was kids that got picked to go up, which was good to see. At one point you had a kid wearing a #89 Steve Smith Sr Baltimore Ravens jersey stood next to the man himself. There are not many places you can get that to happen and I can only imagine how awesome that was for the young man. There was also a chance for a Browns fan to team up with Danny Shelton for a game of ‘True or False’ as well as a Rams fan teaming up with Kurt Warner for the same game.

Each member of the audience who participated in the on-stage activities got to choose a prize from a table strewn with goodies. These prizes weren’t the kind of crap that gets handed out at some events, they were £70+ jerseys and footballs etc. Well worth getting up there and getting involved. As if getting on stage with your heroes wasn’t enough already.

A great moment was when a fan stood up and asked a question then quickly asked a second one straight after. The question was to Kurt Warner and asked if he’d sign his Super Bowl 43 programme. Kurt was well up for doing this and so the fan was invited up. After Kurt had finished answering the guy’s original question, Steve Smith took over and answered that question as well. Whilst he was doing so, the fan and Kurt had a chat right up there on stage. No one stood there trying to usher the guy off stage as if he was messing up the show and instead everyone was happy for him to have a chat with his idol.

Kurt Warner signing a fans Super Bowl 43 programme - Image by NFL Fan UK

Awkward Moments

If I had any criticism at all about the shows (I noticed it at the 2016 Leicester event too) it is about Neil Reynolds and his interaction with the audience members whilst they’re on stage. He needs to learn that he’s supposed to be controlling things and not be acting like a fan of the guys he’s on stage with. By this, I mean that he seems to ignore the fans that he’s just got to come up on stage and they look awkward as they have no idea where they should stand or what they should do as Neil is too busy chatting with the guests like some kind of fanboy. At one point we had two fans stood so far away from the centre of the stage, where the guests were, that they might as well have stayed in their seats. The rest of the evening ran well but that part seriously needs to be looked at and mentioned to Mr Reynolds.

It’s not actually as if Neil Reynolds’ job was that difficult seeing as Peter King, Kurt Warner and Steve Smith Sr are all so good at what they do, media-wise, that they carried the show for him. They filled the time perfectly and had nothing but interesting things to say and so Neil only had to chip in now and then. The guests were also the ones who looked after the audience members who’d gone on stage as Neil Reynolds seemed to be his usual self-interested, cold self at times.

I didn’t want to go on a Neil Reynolds bashing rant as I don’t dislike the guy as many do, but feel that needs mentioning.

Final Thoughts

All in all, these events are fantastic if you’re a fan of the NFL. All those people who criticise the events probably haven’t actually been to one and are just doing the usual social media spouting off thing.

If you have the opportunity to go to one of these events, I strongly recommend that you do so. They seem to be getting bigger and better and at £7 a ticket, with £6 going to charity, I fail to see why you, as an NFL fan, wouldn’t attend.

Another great evenings worth of entertainment and a massive thanks to the organisers and guests for putting in the time and effort.

Did you go to the NFL UK Live event in Nottingham, London, Liverpool or Edinburgh? If so, what did you think of it and the guests?

Let us know in the comments below.