Vernon shares his love of American Football with the Daily Mirror
“I’ve been a huge fan of the sport since I was a kid. For me it was love at first sight. I remember settling down in front of Channel 4 every Sunday at tea time and watching the American Football after The Wonder Years.
As an 11 year-old it was the perfect way to finish the weekend. I could plonk myself down with my homework and enjoy the highlights as I did my maths. It was the mid 80s and football was plagued by the old hooliganism but American Football was completely different. I didn’t have a clue who the players were, but it didn’t matter. I just soaked it up. And I had posters all over my bedroom walls.
Now I play for amateur team, the London Warriors as ‘free safety’ – which is a bit like a full back in a rugby – and we’ve just won the national championship believe it or not.
American Football isn’t just a sport, it’s an entertainment. Everyone knows about the cheerleaders but there’s always something happening. They fire T-shirts into the crowd, there are team mascots going round the place and they show all the action on the big screen with the most incredible camera angles.
Best of all, you can drink in your seat. When we go to a football match in this country we have a few beers before kick off and knock lumps out of each other afterwards. But in American they do things differently. Fans from both teams sit together and you have guys going round selling beer. They walk up and down shouting, “Get your brewskies here”. The only reason you get out your seat in three hours is to pee, because they bring you food, they bring you drinks and they entertain you. What more could you want?”
I remember the first time I went to a big game in America. It was the Super Bowl in 2009 and it was the Pittsburgh Stealers against the Arizona Cardinals. It was everything I’d hoped for. They even had a half-time show by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
But it’s not just about the glamour and glitz. These guys are supreme athletes. There are a dozen players in the NFL who can run 100 metres is less than 10 seconds. That is incredible. These guys are huge, it shouldn’t physically be possible. Forget the padding, it may be there to protect you but it’s also used as a weapon. If you get a shoulder to the chops from one of those guys, even though you’re wearing a face mask, it’s still going to knock your head back.
In this country American Football fans used to be guys with transparent skin who slept during the day and stayed up all night to watch it. But the internet and satellite TV have made it much more accessible and people love going to watch it live. And as a life long fan it’s great to see American Football becoming so popular over here. Last year four million people in Britain tuned in to watch the Super Bowl, that’s a huge number.