A person wearing a cheese wedge on their head might seem odd to most, but when the Green Bay Packers are in town it’s just part and parcel of game day.
The Packers played in London on Sunday, the first time the franchise has played in the UK – and the last of the NFL’s 32 teams to play there.
Although some of London’s games often have split crowds – with many just there to watch the sport they love – Green Bay’s game against the New York Giants at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was definitely a home game for the team from Wisconsin.
And one jersey in particular was more popular than the rest – a green and yellow one with the name ‘Rodgers’ and No. 12 on the back.
They’ve all come to watch the great Aaron Rodgers, the NFL’s reigning Most Valuable Player (MVP). And who could blame them, even at 38 years old he is still among the league’s best quarterbacks.
Before Sunday’s game, Rodgers expressed his personal excitement to do more than just play in London.
“I wanted to go over early to experience a bit of that culture, to be able to get out, see some sights and interact with fans, go to a pub and have a Guinness or whatever the local brew is,” he said.
“I’ve been talking about doing this for years, since they started this – I couldn’t wait to get over. But nobody wants to give up a Green Bay home game, so it’s exciting to finally get a chance to go over.”
And for those who traveled from all over to see the storied quarterback for the first time, as many had, they were treated to a special first half performance by Rodgers, but a quiet second half.
Rodgers threw for two touchdowns, one each to Allen Lazard and Marcedes Lewis, as the Packers raced into a first half lead only for the Giants to come back and win 27-22.
Green Bay built up a 10-point half-time lead as they looked to be rolling but some offensive miscues and some good Giants defense stopped the Packers and eventually turned the tide towards New York.
Giants running back Saquon Barkley continued his strong start to the season, finishing the game with a touchdown and 106 total yards as New York’s defense put the clamps on Rodgers late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
With under two minutes to play, Rodgers drove the offense to the Giants 10-yard line. However, Giants defensive linemen and linebackers deflected Rodgers’ passes and allowed the Giants to run the clock down.
On the final play of the game, with just one final opportunity to pull a win out of the bag, Rodgers was sacked by Oshane Ximines and fumbled the ball, handing the win to the Giants.
It was a day of firsts for many, but also just another away game.
Sunday’s game was the first London game between two teams with winning records.
Green Bay’s arrival in the UK allowed many to see their favorite quarterback for the first time. However, for some, it was a reunion across the Atlantic Ocean.
For Sue, it was one of her season’s traditional away games.
“I try to go to two or three games a year and at least one away game and this is our away game,” she says, also explaining that her trip from the US to see her beloved Packers is for an anniversary.
“I’ve been a Packers fan for 41 years. I would say (the NFL’s biggest star) is Rodgers, but Tom Brady’s done really well too.”
At the other end of the scale, for Martin and Nicola – both decked out in their own Rodgers jerseys – they were proxy fans of the great man for a day.
“I’m not actually a Packers fan. When I go to a game, I support the home team. So I’ve been to a lot of games in the States,” Martin, who says he’s seen a lot of great players – including Brady – in games in the US, said.
“I was here last week and it was great.”
After the game, Rodgers said the reception in the UK was “special,” saying the atmosphere was like a home game while also apologizing for the “disjointed performance.”
“The crowd was incredible,” Rodgers told the media afterwards. “Our fans were loud all the time, it was outstanding. Hopefully the team gets the chance to come back and play here again. I’m going to remember it for a long time.
“I’d love to come back but it remains to be seen how many years away it is, and where I’m at.”
Whether they’ve come as tourists to the UK to watch the Packers play in London or they’re watching them play in person for the first time, they were treated to some Rodgers magic, despite the result, in his long-awaited London debut .