Thursday, October 13, 2016

How to Go to the Giants-Rams Game In London

This is a new record for me: 5 posts in 1 day.

While the New York Giants are playing away to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, October 23, both teams are playing away. Far away: To Twickenham Stadium in London.

Therefore, I'm doing this one twice: Covering the Giants' trip to London, and imagining a Giants' trip to L.A. to play the Rams in their once-again hometown. (That could happen in this year's Playoffs.) This is the London version.

UPDATE: The idea of the Rams making the Playoffs became ridiculous well before the 2016 season ran out.

Before You Go. Make sure you call your bank and tell them you're going. After all, Britain may be an English-speaking country, and a democracy (if a parliamentary one), but it is still a foreign country. If your bank gets a record of your ATM card making a withdrawal from any country other than the U.S., it may freeze the card, and any other accounts you may have with them. So be sure to let them know that you will, in fact, be in Britain for a little while.

You need a passport. You don't have a passport? Get one. You do have one? Make sure it's valid and up to date. This is not something you want to mess with. Customs officials do not fuck around: They care about their national security, too.

Do yourself another big favor: Change your money before you go. There are plenty of currency exchanges in New York City, including one on 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenue.

Leave yourself $50 in U.S. cash, especially if you're going other than by plane, so you'll have usable cash when you get back to your side of the border. At last check, on the evening of October 12, 2016, $1.00 = 82 pence – or, £1.00 = $1.22. That's down from $1.49 after the recent "Brexit" vote, so fully 1 out of every 5 pounds sterling has recently been flushed down the loo by a bunch of xenophobic morons. Nevertheless, London is every bit as expensive as New York, and the exchange rate still favors them.

Under the old system, a pound (or "quid") was divided into 240 pence (from which we get the word "penny"). It was also divided into 20 shillings (a.k.a. "bob"), each of which was further divided into 12 pence. Since the 1971 "decimalisation," 1 pound = 100 pence. Coins, all of which have Queen Elizabeth's right profile on them, come in variations of 1 penny, 2 pence (tuppence), 5 pence, 10 pence, 20 pence, 50 pence, 1 pound and 2 pounds. Bills (a.k.a. notes) come in denominations of 5, 10, 20 and 50 pounds. The £5 shows Winston Churchill, the £10 Charles Darwin, the £20 Adam Smith, and the £50 steam engine pioneers Matthew Boulton and James Watt.

We don't think of London as a city with nasty winter weather. Rain and fog, yes; snow and bitter cold, no. But it is at 51 1/2 degrees north latitude. For the sake of comparison, that is further north than every city in North American major league sports except Edmonton, while New York is at 40 1/2 degrees north.

Nevertheless, weather forecasts aren't that bad: Over the weekend, Thursday to Monday, October 20 to 24, temperatures are projected to be in the high 50s by day (mid-teens Celsius) and the mid-40s at night (high single digits). You may need a winter jacket, but it won't be Green Bay cold or Montreal cold -- or even Glasgow cold. (That's 55 1/2 degrees north! Brrrrrrrr!) There's a 30 percent chance of rain on Thursday, only 10 percent on Friday, 40 percent on Saturday, but on Sunday, the day of the game, it should be dry. For Monday, 20 percent.

London is on Greenwich Mean Time, which is 5 hours ahead of New York. Adjust your timepieces accordingly. In other words, the game will kick off at 2:30 PM London time, but that's 9:30 AM New York time.

Tickets. This game is sold out. But that doesn't mean you can't get tickets. It does mean you have to be very careful. Ticket scalpers, known as "touts" in England, are more trustworthy than in America (they usually don't sell counterfeit tickets, or tickets for seats that don't actually exist), but their markups will have you think you're shopping at Macy's.

There are still tickets available on some websites, such as StubHub and SeatGeek. It's best to try them before you go. If worse comes to absolute worst, there may be another way: At some of the chain hotels, concierges (yes, I know, that's an I before E after C) have ticket connections. Though you may have to pay the ticket markup and tip the concierge. How desperate are you?

Getting There. It's 3,470 miles from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York to Heathrow Airport in London. Right, you weren't thinking of taking a cruise ship, were you? And the idea of a road bridge across the Atlantic Ocean is going to continue to be ridiculous for the next century. Even if it wasn't, you're talking 2 days' drive. And there aren't a lot of hotels in Greenland.

Don't fool around with, as they used to say on Match Game, El Cheapo Airlines. You get what you pay for. But if you go to a reputable airline, like British Airways or United, you could get a round-trip flight for a shade over $1,000.

A taxi can get you from Heathrow to Central London, 17 miles, in 45 minutes with a decent traffic flow. But it will cost you about £70, and, hearing this, you will use your first expression in British English: "Bloody hell!" Better to take the subway, known as the London Underground or the "Tube," for £6.00, taking a full hour.

Once In the Country. The full name of the country is The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It can be shortened to the initials "UK," or "Great Britain," or just "Britain" without offending anybody.

As Jason Sudeikis asked in his "Ted Lasso" commercials for NBC's coverage of soccer's Premier League, "How many countries are in this country?" Four: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. When the Republic of Ireland won its independence in 1921, the Emerald Isle was partitioned, and 6 Counties chose to remain loyal, as "Northern Ireland."

The UK is sometimes, like our own country, called "The Union." And that familiar flag is "The Union Flag," with "The Union Jack" being the nickname. The flag consists of the flag of England, the Cross of St. George, a red cross on a blue field; the flag of Scotland, the Cross of St. Andrew, a white X on a blue field; and a former flag of Ireland, to represent Northern Ireland, the Cross of St. Patrick, a red X on a white field.
Wales does have its own separate flag, a red dragon on top of a flag that's white on top and green on bottom. Northern Ireland also has a separate flag, a St. George Cross with a 6-pointed white star containing a red hand raised in a "stop" gesture, topped by a golden crown. You are unlikely to see the flag of the Republic of Ireland other than outside an Irish-style pub, but it's a tricolor, 3 vertical stripes of, left to right, green, white and orange.

Common nicknames: England, Blighty or Ingerland; Wales, Cymru (their name for themselves in their own language); Scotland, Alba (ditto); Northern Ireland, Ulster. Just as the people of the Republic of Ireland have the Gaelic motto "Erin go bragh," meaning "Ireland forever," the Scots say, "Alba gu bragh" -- and while their native language is also spelled "Gaelic," they pronounce it GAL-ick, instead of the Irish GAY-lick. (There may be good modern reason for that.)

Never, ever confused "England" with "Britain." Especially, don't call a Welshman or a Scotsman "English." Also, don't call them "sheep-shaggers." (This is a common slur for the English on the Welsh, but it is also sometimes used for the Scots, and even Northerners.)

Most Americans think there are only 2 British accents: The posh, upper-crust version, and the Cockney. Even other Englishmen are guilty of this, considering anyone from the South, or at least anyone from inside the M25 (London's "beltway"), to be a "Cockney." In fact, a true Cockney is someone "born within the sound of Bow Bells." That's the bells of St-Mary-le-Bow Church in London's East End. Considering all the development in East London since the Luftwaffe pounded it in The War, a "true Cockney" may now have to be born across the street.

Anyway, English accents are very varied. As George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion and its musical variant, My Fair Lady, point out, accents can be varied within London itself. The West Country accent is believe to inspired "pirate talk." There is a distinctive Midlands dialect, centered around Birmingham -- and that's "BURR-ming-um," not "BIRM-ing-ham" like our Alabama, though also originally a steel city. There's the Scouse dialect of the Merseyside area, centered on Liverpool; the Manc (MANK, not MANSS) dialect, centered on Manchester; the Yorkshire dialect, and the dreaded Geordie, of the North-East, centered on Newcastle. Someone once said, "This is where England begins to think about turning into Scotland," and Geordie (also the nickname for the people) sometimes needs subtitles.

A word of warning: A few years ago, a New York Times Magazine article was written, by a woman whose name I've forgotten, titled "The Worst Word In the English Language." She managed to tell how horrible she thinks the word is, without actually printing it. Well, guess what: It's not the anti-black slur we now call "The N-word." It's a word the English have no problem at all with using. In polite company, it's "The C-word." In the pubs and on the stadium terraces, it's "cunt." Sometimes, "rhyming slang" turns it into "berk," short for "Berkeley hunt." A variant of that part of the female anatomy, "twat," is also popular. They use these words the way we would use words for the corresponding part of the male anatomy: "He's a putz!" and "What a schmuck!" and "Don't be a dick!"

The English use "shit" the way we use "horseshit," meaning "of very low quality." They use "bollocks" -- meaning testicles -- the way we use "bullshit," meaning a lie, a falsehood. But they also say something is good by saying, "It's the bollocks," like we would say, "It's the shit." Be aware, though: "Bollocks" = bad, "the bollocks" = good. Sometimes, something good is "the dog's bollocks."

The word "bastard" -- "BAH-stahd" -- is also common. Legend has it that, during World War I battles between the British and Ottoman Empires, the Muslims would shout, "Allah!" while the Brits, Canadians, Australians, et al. would shout, "Come on, you bastards!" and Ottoman prisoners would then ask if "Bastard" was their name for God, as Allah is in Arabic. Which leads me to another warning: If someone says, "Come on, then!" he is challenging you to a fight. Do not accept: He has what we would call the home-field advantage.

Language will be an issue. Words we would end with -or are ended with -our: Colour, honour, flavour. Words we would end with -er tend to end with -re: Centre, metre. Words we would end with -se are ended with -ce: Defence, licence. The last letter of the alphabet, Z, which we pronounce "Zee," they pronounce "Zed."

Nobody calls each other "old chap" or "old bean" anymore, but "lad" and "the lads" are common. You're not on the street, you're in the street. And if you get hurt, you're not in the hospital, in the emergency room: You're in hospital, in casualty. In which case, you're in the shit. And if you're arrested, you're pinched or nicked, and a jail cell is the nick.

A short-distance bus is a bus, but a long-distance bus is a coach. A truck is a lorry. A highway is a motorway. An elevator is a lift. Garbage is rubbish, a trash can or wastebasket is a bin. And while we use "bum" to mean "a homeless person" or "a no-good person," they use it to mean "rear end." And while we're on the subject, they don't say, "ass," they say, "arse."

In the 1950s, TV producer Kermit Schaefer, visiting London and watching a World War II movie in his hotel room, heard a woman send her man off to war by saying, "Keep your pecker up." He collected "bloopers" in books, and thought he'd found the blooper of all time. Boy, was he disappointed when he was told that, in England, "pecker" means "courage." Another word for courage is "bottle." If you're brave, "You've got bottle." If you're doing something brave, "That takes bottle." But if you run, "You've bottled it" or "You've done a runner."

Don't even get me started on "rhyming slang," which Cockneys invented to fool the cops. The classic examples are stairs becoming "apples and pears," and money becoming "bees and honey." Usually, rhyming slang gets even shorter: "Bees."

"Taking the piss out of (someone)," "taking the piss" or a "pisstake," what we would call "rubbing it in," became "taking the Mickey Bliss," "taking the Mickey," "taking the Mick" or "taking the Michael." (No one's ever used that one on me, though, despite my many visits to U.S. bars to watch English soccer games on TV.)

What we would call a private school, they call a public school. What we would call a public school, they call a comprehensive school. And if you flunk out of school, you could be a chav. We don't really have a single name for chavs here, but think early Eminem, or just go to any suburban mall on a Friday night, and you'll understand.

They have accepted hamburgers and pizza, but their version of the burger joint and the pizzeria, long predating them, is the chip shop, which sells fish and chips. Not "French fries," chips. What we would call chips (potato, corn, nacho, or whatever), they call crisps. When they say, "pie," they're not talking about a holiday dessert or a pizza (which, but, thank God, they still call "pizza," which is Italian for "pie"), they mean a much smaller item, about the size of a cupcake, usually filled with meat. Sausages and mashed potatoes are bangers and mash. And a "pudding" is closer to a cupcake than our puddings, be they chocolate, rice, tapioca, etc.

A stadium is a stadium, but it is also a ground. A field is a pitch. A locker room or clubhouse is a dressing room. A game is a match. Practice is training. As Allen Iverson would have said if he were English, "Not a match, not a match, not a match. We speak of training." And they really, really hate it when you call their football "soccer." Even though they invented the name, and it was frequently used in their newsreels up until that form of entertainment was phased out in the 1970s. Along the same subject: A TV set is a telly, a television season is a series, and a series or program is a "programme." A game program -- as in, "Program! Scorecard! Yankee Yearbook!" -- would also be spelled this way.

Also, the Metric system is used. When they say "pounds," they mean money, not weight: That becomes grams or kilograms. All volume is in liters, all distance in meters, all temperatures in Celsius. So if someone says it's 16, that's about 60 Fahrenheit.

Geographically and culturally, England is the reverse of America: Their South is the more urban and cultured region, while their North is the more rural, parochial, weird-food and "football"-crazy region. Although the political/geographical divide is the same: With a few exceptions, their North is more liberal, their South more conservative.

Which brings me to an important point. You know the old saying, "Leave politics out of it"? Right, no one ever says that when they agree with you. Well, don't discuss politics while you're over there, unless someone asks you for your opinion. Even then, unless you're sure that most of the people in the room will think the way you do, the best thing to do is to say, "It's your country. I'm just a visitor. I'm here for the game. I don't have enough of the facts." Which is the truth.

Theresa May, leader of the Conservative Party (or "Tories"), just became the UK's 2nd female Prime Minister, after Margaret Thatcher (1979-90). She became Tory leader, with Jeremy Corbin as leader of the opposition Labour Party, after David Cameron (who'd been in office since 2010) had to resign in the fuss over the vote to leave the European Union -- "Britain's Exit" or "Brexit." He, Gordon Brown (Labour, 2007-10), Tony Blair (Labour, 1997-2007) and John Major (Conservative, 1990-97) are the living former Prime Ministers.

Parliament holds the power. Prime Minister May is head of government and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. As she has been since the death of her father, King George VI, in 1952, Queen Elizabeth II, now 90 but very much still active, is head of state, but has very little power.

Once In the City. North American cities go back 100, 200, 300, maybe 400 years, although few of them have much of anything older than 200 years. London is old. Archaeologists have found evidence of settlements 6,500 years old, and the Romans were there 2,000 years ago. There are surviving buildings many centuries old, although most buildings date from 1666 or later, after the Great Fire. Which is not to say that there aren't modern buildings: Like New York, London is perpetually under construction.

There is some dispute as to where the name "London" comes from. The Romans called it "Londinium." (So did the 1966-68 Batman series. They also renamed Scotland Yard "Ireland Yard.") Tracing the city's name back to an early landowner's name have failed, and another source saying that it comes from an ancient Celtic language meaning "river too wide to ford," while an accurate description, has also been discounted.

Before you leave Heathrow, get an Oyster Card. This has nothing to do with seafood: Transport for London issues them for use on trains and buses. In effect, it's a Metrocard. You can load it with as much fare as you think you'll need. A single 1-zone ride is £1.50. (At the moment, about $1.83 -- much cheaper than ours!) And since London's famous "black cabs" are every bit as expensive as New York's, and the ancient, twisty streets make riding the bus problematic, take the bloomin' Tube.
Like New York City, London is divided into "Boroughs." But there are 32 of them, not 5. And "The City of London" is separate from them. This is the original part of the city, and is called simply "The City," much as Manhattan is by people in New York's Outer Boroughs. (It's also called "The Square Mile.") But the city of London includes The City and all 32 Boroughs, which, together, form the municipal entity named "Greater London."

Its population is about 8.5 million, roughly the same as New York, while the "Home Counties" -- including also Essex, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire (that's pronounced "BARK-sher"), Surrey, Kent and Sussex -- contain about 17 million, a little smaller than equivalent to New York's Tri-State Area.

Charing Cross is considered the "centerpoint" of the city, but there are no east-west and north-south addresses. The River Thames -- always "the River (Name)" in the British Isles, not "the (Name) River" (this also applies to lakes) -- divides the city into north and south, but this is not absolute when it comes to postcodes.

Central London postcodes are divided into EC (running from 1 to 4) and WC (1 and 2). East London runs from E1 to E20, North London from N1 to N22, Northwest London from NW1 to NW11, Southeast London from SE1 to SE28, Southwest London from SW1 to SW20, and West London from W1 to W14. There are parts of the city that don't conform to these. The stadium is one of them: Twickenham, about 11 miles southwest of Charing Cross, is at TW2.

While London has local newspapers, most of the papers are national in scope. There are broadsheets like that most British of newspapers, The Times, but the big sellers are the broadsheets, running the political spectrum from left (The Guardian, the Daily Mirror, The Independent) to right (The Telegraph, a.k.a. the Torygraph, the Daily Express, the Daily Star, and that most dishonest of newspapers, The Sun). Instead of actually buying any of these, if you want to read any of them, do it online.

The police used to be called Bobbies, after their founder, 1830s Prime Minister Robert Peel. But "Scotland Yard" refers only to their headquarters. It would be like calling the entire New York Police Department "One Police Plaza" or "1PP." Their name is the Metropolitan Police, or "The Met." (Not to be confused with our main art museum or the opera house at Lincoln Center.) Another nickname for the London police is "The Old Bill," after a comic strip character during World War I, since many cops then had mustaches that resembled his. Sometimes, they're "The Bill" for short. Soccer fans love to verbally abuse The Old Bill at matches. Do not do this. You wouldn't do it in New York, so don't do this anywhere in Britain.

Do not drive in London. You don't know the streets, renting a car is expensive, and, besides, you don't know how to drive on the left side of the road.

As for lodging, your best bet is to get a hotel away from Central London, in a neighborhood. North and West are going to be more expensive than South and East. If you need to get a little something, a snack for your hotel, supermarket chains include Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda, Marks & Spencer (M&S), Waitrose, Iceland, Lidl, Morrisons, and a name you'll recognize from America, Germany-based Aldi.

However, do not presume that a "chemist" is a "drugstore" like CVS, Rite Aid, Duane Reade or Walgreen's, where you can pick up anything from CDs to cat food, from candy bars to plastic toys that will keep your kid occupied for 3 days before he gets bored with them and moves on. A chemist, like the Boots chain, is only a place to pick up a prescription -- but they also sell booze. For a convenience store like 7-Eleven or Wawa, try McColl's, Costcutter or Londis. A store like this may be called an off-licence or an offie, as they are licensed to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption outside the store.

If you need serious help (non-medical), don't fool around, contact the U.S. Embassy:

* Street address: 24 Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, London W1A 2LQ, UK.

* Phone number: +44 20 7499 9000.

* Web address:

Going In. The original Wembley Stadium hosted 9 NFL preseason games between 1983 and 1993, and the London Monarchs of the World League of American Football played home games there in 1991 and 1992. The new Wembley Stadium has hosted 15 regular-season NFL games since it opened in 2007, including the Giants beating the Miami Dolphins that year, and the Jets beating the Dolphins last year. 

Wembley has already hosted a Jacksonville victory over Indianapolis this month, and will host Washington vs. Cincinnati the Sunday after this Giants-Rams game. So, I presumed that this game would also be at Wembley.

Wrong by me: It's at Twickenham Stadium, usually called Twickenham (for its Southwest London neighborhood) or Twickers, the 82,000-seat home of English rugby, the game from which American football developed. (Both are offshoots of association football, or soccer.)

The Rugby Football Union, the governing body of English rugby, built the original stadium in 1909, on a site that had been a cabbage farm, so the stadium is also nicknamed The Cabbage Patch, kids. The stadium has been rebuilt in pieces: The current North Stand went up in 1990, the East Stand and the West Stand in 1995, and the South Stand in 2006. So despite the site having been used even before Fenway Park opened, it's a modern stadium.
The official address is Twickenham Stadium, Whitton Road, Twickenham TW2 7BA, United Kingdom. You're not driving in, so don't worry about the cost of parking. And they don't do tailgating in Britain: They go to the pub before and after the game.

Unlike Wembley, which has Tube service close by, getting to Twickers by public transit is a bit complicated. You'll need to take the Tube to Waterloo Station, on the South Bank of the Thames, then take South-West Trains' Reading line to Twickenham Station. Head for Bus Stop B, then take Bus 281, with Hounslow as the destination sign. After about 4 minutes, it will reach Tayben Avenue, just outside the stadium. From Central London, the process should take a little under an hour.

The pitch, the playing surface, is Desso GrassMaster, a hybrid of natural grass and artificial fibers. It is aligned northwest-to-southeast -- really, north-to-south, like a standard American football field.
As I said, Twickenham is the home of the England national rugby team. Legend has it that, in 1823, at Rugby School in Warwickshire, a 16-year-old student named William Webb Ellis got frustrated during a football match, whose rules forbid carrying the ball, picked the ball up, and ran toward the other team's goal, and through the sticks (no goal nets in those days), and put the ball on the ground, thus inventing the touchdown. The other players decided they liked the idea, and rewrote the rules to create "the Rugby game." In his memory, the trophy for the Rugby World Cup is named the William Webb Ellis Cup.

This sounds a lot like the origin story for baseball, supposedly invented by Abner Doubleday at Cooperstown, New York in 1839. Well, the parallels continue: Like General Doubleday, Webb Ellis was a real person, and became a distinguished gentleman. He was from Salford, outside Manchester. He did attend and graduate from the Rugby School, graduated from Oxford University, became a good cricket player, was ordained as a minister, and became one of the most honored Protestant clergymen of the Victorian age.

But, again like Doubleday, he never claimed to have invented the sport in question, nor there is any official record of him having played it. And, again like Doubleday, he was conveniently dead and unable to deny the story once it came out: He died in 1872, and the story was first published in 1876.

And, again like baseball, there is no definitive truthful origin story. The ancient Greeks played a football-like game at least as far back as the 4th Century BC. The Chinese also did so at that time. So while the English popularized "football" all over the world, when they say they invented the sport -- either soccer or rugby -- that's bollocks.

There are actually "two codes" of "rugby football," both of which use an oval ball, from which the oblong "prolate spheroid" of "gridiron football" evolved, and both of which prohibit forward passing. The 2 forms split in 1895. 

Rugby union has 15 men on a side, and goalposts; rugby league is 13-a-side, and doesn't have goalposts. Rugby league has a longer and wider pitch than rugby union. A try (touchdown) is 5 points in rugby union, 4 points in rugby league, followed in both by an attempt for a 2-point conversion. Both sports have a position called a hooker, which may seem funny to us. Rugby league is said to be simpler and quicker.

In each case, matches are 80 minutes, divided into halves. There's also a form of the sport called Rugby sevens, with 7-minute halves. Rugby union features an annual competition, held on weekends every February and March, called the Six Nations: England, Wales, Scotland, a combined Ireland team (players from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland), France and Italy. 

It also has a World Cup, held every 4 years, in the year before leap years. Outside the Six Nations, the leading powers are South Africa (the Springboks), Australia (the Wallabies) and New Zealand (the All Blacks, referring to their uniforms, as they are multicultural, with Samoans often leading them in a fierce-looking pregame haka dance).

Twickenham has hosted Rugby World Cup matches in 1991, 1999 and 2015, and Six Nations matches every year. It also hosts The Varsity Match between Oxford and Cambridge universities (Britain's Harvard and Yale), and the Army Navy Match (their Army-Navy Game). It's also hosted rock concerts, which can increase seating capacity to 110,000.
Food. Levy Restaurants, as they do at several American sports venues, runs the concessions at Twickenham. However, specifics aren't available online. The Rugby Football Union website will only say, "A large number of varied food and beverage outlets are located at various levels within the Stadium and in the West Car Park. There are also limited restaurant facilities, details of which can be obtained from Twickenham Experience Ltd." Therefore, you're probably better off eating before going to the game, and after leaving it.

Team History Displays. Since neither team playing in this game is the home team, my usual mentions of books or videos about the home team do not apply. However, under the East Stand, the RFA has opened the World Rugby Museum, which acts as a hall of fame for the sport. It includes a Rugby Wall of Fame, which currently has an even 100 members:

* England, 41 members, in alphabetical order: Rob Andrew, Neil Back, Bill Beaumont, John Birkett, Jeffrey Butterfield, William Carling, F.E. Chapman, Fran Cotton, Ronald Cove-Smith, Lawrence Dallaglio, W.J.A. Davies (pronounced like "Davis," without the E), Wade Dooley, David Duckham, Eric Evans, Bernard Gadney, Jeremy Guscott, Richard Hill, Bob Hiller, Peter Jackson, Ron Jacobs, Dickie Jeeps, Martin Johnson, Jason Leonard, Cyril Lowe, Brian Moore, Alexander Obolensky, Chris Oti, Ronald Poulton-Palmer, Dean Richards, Jason Robinson, Budge Rogers, Hal Sever, Richard Sharp, Adrian Stoop, Rory Underwood, Roger Uttley, William Wavell Wakefield, Peter Wheeler, Peter Winterbottom, Norman Wodehouse and Clive Woodward.

* Wales, 9: Phillip Bennett, Gerald Davies, Gareth Edwards, Vivian Jenkins (Vivian is a masculine name in Britain), Barry John, Kenneth Jones, Lewis Jones, Cliff Morgan and J.P.R. Williams.

* Scotland, 8: Gary Armstrong, Gordon Brown (not the former Prime Minister, although he is also Scottish), Peter Brown, Gavin Hastings, Andrew Irvine, Roy Laidlaw, Robert Wilson Show and Ian Scott Smith.

* Ireland, 8: Simon Geoghegan, Michael Gibson, Willie John McBride, Tom Kiernan, Jackie Kyle, Tony O'Reilly, George Stephenson and Keith Wood.

* France, 8: Serge Blanco, Didier Codorniou, Xavier Dutour, Raphaël Ibañez, Jean Prat, Jean-Pierre Rives, Philippe Saint-André and Philippe Sella. 

* Australia, 7: David Campese, Ken Catchpole, Mark Ella, Nick Farr-Jones, Michael Lynagh, Cyril Towers and Col Windon.

* New Zealand, 7: Don Clarke, Sean Fitzpatrick, John Kirwan, Jonah Lomu, Colin Meads, Graham Mourie and George Nepia.

* South Africa, 6: Gerry Brand, Dawie de Villiers, Frik du Preez, Hennie Muller, Francois Pienaar (played by Matt Damon in Invictus) and Chester Williams (played by McNeil Hendricks in that film).

* Italy, 3: Diego Dominguez, Massimo Giovanelli and Alessandro Troncon. 

* Argentina, 2: Agustín Pichot and Hugo Porta.

* Romania, 1: Mircea Paraschiv.

Sorry, no Americans. Yet.

Stuff. The Rugby Store is on the lower level, in the stadium's southwest corner. But if you're looking for Giants stuff, Rams stuff, or this-game-specific items, you may be better off going to a vendor, either inside or outside the stadium.

Again, since neither team playing in this game is the home team, my usual mentions of books or videos about the home team do not apply. With one exception, and it's not about a team, but the stadium itself: In 2014, Chris Jones and Lawrence Dallaglio published The Secret Life of Twickenham: The Story of Rugby Union's Iconic Fortress, the Players, Staff and Fans.

During the Game. Oscar Wilde once said, "Rugby is a good occasion for keeping thirty bullies far from the center of the city." George Orwell said, "Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting." Walter Carey said, "Rugby football is a game for gentlemen of all classes, but for no bad sportsman of any class." The most common saying, for which proper attribution has never been made, is, "Football is a gentleman's game played by hooligans, and Rugby is a hooligan's game played by gentlemen."

That said, a rugby crowd is very different from a soccer crowd. The English will be putting on their best face for this game. Author Joe Queenan, a Philadelphia native who married an Arsenal fan from London, once wrote of going to a Six Nations match at Twickers and being treated wonderfully by both England and Scotland fans, and then, a week later, attending a North London Derby match between Arsenal and Tottenham at Arsenal's Highbury, and being disgusted by the crowd's behavior. (In each case, the home team won.) And since the Giants and the Rams are not rivals -- the Flipper Anderson Game being 27 years ago -- your safety should not be in question.

Most likely, both National Anthems will be played: "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "God Save the Queen." The Giants don't have a mascot, but the Rams have Rampage the Ram, and he may make the trip. England Rugby has its own mascot, an English bulldog named Ruckley (a man in a costume, not a live dog), and he will likely be entertaining fans at the game.
Ruckley, pitchside at Twickers

After the Game. Again, your safety should not be an issue. This is not a soccer game, where a hooligan "firm" might be waiting for you in the stands, on the stadium concourse, at the Tube station, on the train, or at your destination station. Just follow the instructions of the ushers (stewards) and cops, and you should be fine.

Your postgame meal should be at a pub, but, unlike Wembley, there aren't very many near Twickers. If you're really desperate for "home cooking," there are plenty of familiar American names, particularly in the touristy areas like The City, the South Bank and the West End: McDonald's, KFC, Subway, Starbucks. There is, however, only 1 Dunkin Donuts in the entire city: At Golden Cross House, 456-459 Strand Road, London WC2R 0RG. There are plenty of pizzerias, Chinese takeaways (what they call take-out joints), and, of course, chip shops.

Sidelights. London has a very rich sports history, with football (soccer) coming first, and everything else second.

* Wembley Stadium. Originally named the Empire Stadium, because it was built to host the 1924 Empire Games, the 100,000-seat original opened on April 28, 1923, just 10 days after the original Yankee Stadium. Each was the most historic sports venue its country has ever built. Its Twin Towers were more famous around the world than those of New York's World Trade Center. Also iconic were the royal box, where a member of the royal family would hand out trophies and winner's medals, and the 39 steps needed to reach it from the pitch.
Old Wembley hosted the FA Cup Final every year from 1923 to 2000, matches of the England football team, the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and the track & field events of the 1948 Olympics, games of the 1966 World Cup and Euro 96 (including, in each case, the Final); the European Cup/UEFA Champions League Finals of 1963 (AC Milan over Benfica), 1968 (Manchester United over Benfica), 1971 (Ajax over Panathinaikos), 1978 (Liverpool over Brugge) and 1992 (Barcelona over Sampdoria); the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final from 1929 to 2000, the 1992 and 1995 Rugby League World Cup Finals; and 9 preseason NFL games, from 1983 to 1993.
Wembley was also a legendary concert venue, including the British end of Live Aid in 1985, 3 shows by Bruce Springsteen on his tour the same year, a 70th Birthday concert for the still-imprisoned Nelson Mandela in 1988, Izzy Stradlin's last concert as a member of Guns N' Roses in 1991, the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness in 1992, Elton John & Eric Clapton in 1992, 9 shows by U2, 12 shows by the Rolling Stones, and a house record 15 shows by Michael Jackson.
But the stadium was antiquated as the 20th Century drew to a close, with particular complaints about the vast distance between the ends of the pitch and the stands (necessary to host track events) and the quality (or lack thereof) in the rest rooms.

And so, it was replaced. The original plan to keep the Twin Towers as part of the new structure was rejected, and they came down in 2002. Like the new Yankee Stadium, the new Wembley was ridiculously expensive to build; the difference was, while Yankee Stadium II required only 2 1/2 years to build, and opened on time for Opening Day 2009 as planned, the new Wembley kept getting delayed, until it finally opened on March 9, 2007.
The new stadium, with its pitch slightly to the north of the site of the old one, has 90,000 seats (making it the 2nd-largest in Europe behind Barcelona's 99,000-seat Camp Nou), a retractable roof, and an arch, obviously meant to be the new symbol the way the Twin Towers were the old one. 
It's hosted the Champions League Finals of 2011 (Barcleona over Manchester United) and 2013 (Bayern Munich over Borussia Dortmund), and the Gold Medal match of the soccer tournament at the 2012 Olympics (Mexico over Brazil). And, yes, it hosts concerts. Tours are available. Wembley, HA9. That's West London.

* The SSE Arena, Wembley. Originally the Empire Pool and later the Wembley Arena, this 12,500-seat contemporary of the old Madison Square Garden, the Boston Garden and the Montreal Forum went up in 1934. It's the city's premier indoor sports venue, hosting events of the 1948 and 2012 Olympics, and has hosted rock concerts since 1959. Arena Square, Engineers Way, HA9. Both the Stadium and the Arena can be reached by Tube, Metropolitan Line to Wembley Park. 

* Wimbledon. Aside from Wembley and Twickenham, Britain's holiest sports site isn't Anfield in Liverpool, nor Old Trafford in Manchester, nor Hampden Park, Celtic Park or Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow. It's Centre Court, home of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club -- in other words, the tennis tournament officially named "The Championships, Wimbledon," but which everyone calls just "Wimbledon" -- except the tabloids, who often call it "Wimby" for short.
The tournament has been held in the area since 1877, women have played since 1884, the current stadium went up in 1922, and was given a renovation, including wider seats cutting capacity to 15,916 and a retractable roof to keep out the infamous English rain, in 2009.
Three men -- excuse me, gentlemen -- have won it 7 times. William Renshaw did it in the amateur era, between 1881 and 1889. In the Open Era, which began in 1968, Pete Sampras did it from 1993 to 2000 (the last of these making him the last American man to win it), and Roger Federer between 2003 and 2012. The women's -- pardon me, ladies' -- leader is Martina Navratilova, 9 times between 1978 and 1990. The Williams Sisters have won it 12 times: Serena 7 (including the last 2), Venus 5. The Broadway/Wimbledon Bridge, SW19 7NH. South West Trains from Waterloo Station to Wimbledon.

* Cricket. There are 2 legendary cricket grounds in London. Lord's Cricket Ground (or just "Lord's"), has hosted the sport since 1814. That's right, 1814: During the Napoleonic Wars, the War of 1812 between America and Britain, and during the last, mad years of King George III, when his son, the future King George IV, was Prince Regent. The oldest part of the current stadium went up in 1987, while the rest of the stands were built in the 1990s. (Unlike America, most stadiums in Britain have had separate stands, and can be rebuilt piece-by-piece and remain open.) 

It wasn't named for a nobleman, named "Lord (Anything)." It was built by Thomas Lord, a cricket star of the period. It is owned by Marylebone Cricket Club (and that's pronounced "MAIR-ee-leh-BOHN"), and is the home of Middlesex County Cricket (MCC), the England and Wales Cricket Board, and the European Cricket Council.

It is called "The Home of Cricket," and is home to the world's oldest sports museum, the MCC Museum. It hosted a U.S. vs. Canada baseball game during World War I, to raise money for the Canadian Widows and Orphans Fund; and the archery competition of the 2012 Olympics. St. John's Wood Road and Wellington Road, NW8. Jubilee Line to St. John's Wood.

The Oval is the home of Surrey County Cricket Club, and was also the site of the 1st international football match, a 1-1 draw between England and Scotland on March 5, 1870; and the 1st FA Cup Final on March 16, 1872, in which Wanderers beat fellow London-based club Royal Engineers 1-0.

Cricket was first played on the site in 1845, and the current stand dates to 2005. The stadium seats 26,000. Both The Oval and Lord's host games of The Ashes, the periodic series between England and Australia; and both have hosted Cricket World Cup matches. Harleyford Street, SE11 5SS. Northern Line to Oval.

* Football clubs. London is home to 13 teams in the Football League. Going around in a circle, from north, to east, to south, to west, they are, as follows:

** Arsenal, a.k.a. the Gunners. Emirates Stadium, 75 Drayton Park, N5. Piccadilly Line to Arsenal -- by far the most successful club in London they are the only one with a Tube station named for them. Highbury Square flats, built out of the old Arsenal Stadium, are at Avenell Road and Gillespie Road.

Highbury hosted some of the soccer games of the 1948 Olympics. Muhammad Ali fought and beat British heavyweight Henry Cooper twice, both in London. The 2nd time was on May 21, 1966, defending the Heavyweight Championship of the World at Highbury. Charlie George, then a player in Arsenal's academy but also a 14-year-old apprentice carpenter living nearby, helped to set up the ring, before becoming the biggest Arsenal star of the era, his goal clinching the 1971 FA Cup Final and thus "The Double."

** Tottenham Hotspur, a.k.a. Spurs. White Hart Lane, 748 High Street, N17. Piccadilly Line to Turnpike Lane, then Bus W3. First playing on the site in 1899, most of the current stadium dates to the 1990s. Their new stadium, next-door, is now under construction, forcing demolition of a corner of the old stadium. In the meantime, they are playing their 2016-17 Champions League home games at Wembley, as Arsenal did at the old one in the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 seasons.

** Barnet. The Hive, 260 Kingsland Road, E8 4DG. Overground Line to Haggerston.

** Leyton Orient, a.k.a. The O's. The Matchroom Stadium, Brisbane Road and Buckingham Road, E10. Central Line to Leyton. This is a small, neighborhood club, and the area has a bit of a Wrigley Field feel.

** West Ham United, a.k.a. the Hammers or the Irons. The London Stadium, formerly the Olympic Stadium, Loop Road and Stratford Walk, E20 2ST. The main stadium of the 2012 Olympics, it gives the Hammers a more modern stadium with a larger capacity, but taking them out of the old East End and moving them to Stratford is like moving the Red Sox out of Fenway Park and making them share a stadium in Foxboro with the Patriots. Docklands Light Railway to Pudding Mill Lane. Their former stadium, the Boleyn Ground, a.k.a. Upton Park, is currently being demolished. Barking Road and Green Street, E13. District Line to Upton Park.

** Charlton Athletic, a.k.a. the Addicks. The Valley, Floyd Road and Valley Gardens, SE7 8BL. Bus 53 to Charlton Village.

** Millwall, a.k.a. the Lions. The New Den, Verney Road and Bolina Road, SE16 3LN. Bus 53 to Old Kent Road and Ilderton Road. The site of their old stadium, The Den, perhaps the scariest ground in England due to the Millwall fans' nasty reputation (they made Oakland Raider fans look like pacifists, but they're not as bad now), was at 30 John Williams Close, with the cross road having the figuratively and perhaps even literally chilling name of Cold Blow Lane. Same bus to same stop, although the Old Den was in SE14, while the new one is in SE16. 

** Crystal Palace, a.k.a. the Eagles. Selhurst Park, Whitehorse Lane and Park Road, SE25 6PU. Bus 3 to Brockwell Park, then Bus 468 to Selhurst Park.

** AFC Wimbeldon, a.k.a. The Womble. Kingsmeadow Stadium, 422A Kingston Road and King Henry's Road, KT1 3PB. South West Trains from Waterloo Station to Norbiton.

** Chelsea, once a.k.a. the Pensioners, still a.k.a. the Blues, but known to their detractors as the Chavs. Stamford Bridge, 500 Fulham Road and Wandon Road, SW6 1HS. District Line to Fulham Broadway.

** Fulham, a.k.a. the Cottagers. Craven Cottage (it's a lot nicer than it sounds), Stevenage Road and Greswell Street, SW6 6HH. District Line to Putney Bridge.

** Queens Park Rangers, a.k.a. QPR or the Hoops (due to their vertically-striped uniforms; Glasgow's Celtic and a few other British teams have this nickname). Loftus Road Stadium, South Africa Road and Bloemfontein Road, W12. Central Line to White City. 

** Brentford, a.k.a. the Bees. Griffin Park, Braemar Road and Ealing Road, TW8 0NT.

Many of these teams are playing at locations where they've played for over 100 years. However, the Hillsborough Stadium Disaster in Sheffield in 1989, where nearly 100 people were killed and 600 injured, caused a radical makeover of British stadium design, conversion to modern, all-seater stands. As I said, most stadiums in Britain have had separate stands, and, in the 1990s, were either rebuilt piece-by-piece, or were replaced by entirely new stadiums. So most of the preceding will be up to modern standards -- especially the 2006-built Emirates and the 2012 Olympic Stadium.

One more note before I move on: While the threat of "football hooliganism," like New York street crime, peaked in the 1980s but is now way down, it is still possible, particularly on matchdays. And, since Sundays are now also usually matchdays (it's no longer all at 3:00 PM on Saturdays as in days of yore), and this game will be kicking off at 2:30 PM on Sunday, you should be aware of the possibility, especially since the only Premier League game in London on the day will be Chelsea vs. Manchester United, probably letting out around the time you'll be heading to your game, and both with fanbases with nasty reputations.

* National Sporting Club site. The home of British boxing, on December 2, 1907, it hosted a fight for the Heavyweight Championship of the World, between Tommy Burns and James "Gunner" Moir. It was the 1st time a recognized title fight was held outside the U.S. Burns, the only person born in Canada ever to hold the title, defended it successfully, dominating the 10-round fight with Moir, then the British champion.

By the 1920s, boxing was too big a business for big fights to be held in such a small location. 43 King Street, WC2. Piccadilly Line to Covent Garden.

* Wonderland site. Burns remained in London, and next defended the title on February 10, 1908, against Jack Palmer, and defeated him as well. At the end of the year, Burns went to Australia, and lost the title by being knocked out by Jack Johnson on December 26 -- appropriately enough, Boxing Day. Wonderland burned down under suspicious circumstances in 1911, and a budget hotel is on the site now. 100 Whitechapel Road, E1. District or Hammersmith & City Line to Aldgate East or Whitechapel station.

* Earl's Court Exhibition Centre site. Built in 1937, on the site of an exhibition hall that had been built for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee (50 years on the throne) in 1887, this convention center hosted Muhammad Ali's 2nd title defense in Britain, against the appropriately-named Brian London, on August 6, 1966. It was a wipeout, as "The Greatest" knocked "The Blackpool Rock" out in the 3rd round.

Earl's Court hosted boxing, gymnastics, weightlifting and wrestling during the 1948 Olympics, and volleyball at the 2012 Olympics. That was the last major event there, as it was demolished in 2014, the O2 having rendered it obsolete as a sports and concert venue. Housing is being built on the site. Warwick Road and Eardley Crescent, SW5. District or Piccadilly Line to Earl's Court.

* London Arena site. Also known as the London Docklands Arena, this 15,000-seat hall opened in 1989, and was the most recent building in the British Isles to have hosted a Heavyweight Championship fight. Lennox Lewis beat Francis Botha here on July 15, 2000.

But the O2 rendered it obsolete as well, and it was demolished as well, in 2006. East Ferry Road at Westward Parade, on the Isle of Dogs, E14. Docklands Light Railway to Crossharbour.

* The O2 Arena. Originally the Millennium Dome when it opened in 1999, this 20,000-seat facility has become London's top concert hall, and hosted basketball and gymnastics at the 2012 Olympics. Peninsula Square, SE10. Jubilee Line to North Greenwich.

* Royal Albert Hall. Opened in 1871, named by Queen Victoria for husband, Prince Albert, and seating 5,272 people, this is Britain's most famous concert venue. Alfred Hitchcock filmed The Man Who Knew Too Much twice, in 1934 in black and white with an all-British cast, and in 1956 in color with Jimmy Stewart as the lead, and both had their climatic scene at the Royal Albert.

Since the 1968 "Cream Goodbye" concert, it's became known for Eric Clapton's shows, so many that it's been dubbed "The House of God." (I don't know who first said, "Clapton is God," but, while he's great, he is not God.) Kensington Road and Exhibition Road, SW7 2 AP. Circle Line to South Kensington.

* Piccadilly Circus. Perhaps the original version of New York's Times Square, with billboards and neon and a traffic message, this is Britain's answer to "the Crossroads of the World." And, just as Times Square is the gateway to New York's Theater District, a.k.a. "Broadway," Piccadilly Circus is the gateway to London's theater district, a.k.a. "The West End." Bakerloo Line to, well, Piccadilly Circus.

* Museums. Unlike New York's museums, which require "donations," London's museums are free. Five notables:

** The British Museum. London's answer, or rather precursor, to both our Museum of National History and our Metropolitan Museum of Art. Great Russell Street and Bloomsbury Street, WC1B. Northern Line to Tottenham Court Road.

** The Victoria & Albert Museum. Dedicated to art and design. Cromwell Road and Exhibition Road, SW7. District Line to South Kensington.

** The Imperial War Museum. Dedicated to Britain's armed forces, it includes a museum ship, the light cruiser HMS Belfast. It was built on the site of London's infamous insane asylum, which gave its name to insanity in general: Bedlam. Lambeth Road and St. George's Road, SE1, on the South Bank. Northern Line to Elephant & Castle.

** National Maritime Museum. Park Row and King William Walk (that's named for William III, who crafted the Union in the 1690s, not Prince William, who stands to become William V), SE10. Docklands Light Railway to Cutty Sark.

** Royal Observatory, Greenwich. Home of the Prime Meridian. Blackheath Avenue, SE10 8XJ. Also Docklands Light Railway to Cutty Sark.

* Royal Palaces. Buckingham Palace (most of it is actually newer than the White House) is open to tours, but check for times. The Mall & Constitution Hill, SW1A 1AA. Circle or District Line to St. James's Park. Kensington Palace is also open to tours, and is the official London residence of William and Kate, Prince Harry, and some others, and was Princess Diana's residence after she split from Prince Charles. Kensington Gardens. Central Line to Queensway.

Hampton Court Palace, best known as the favorite home of King Henry VIII, is 14 miles southwest of Central London. East Molesey, KT8 9AU. South West Trains to Hampton Court. And Windsor Castle, built by William the Conqueror in 1070 and Queen Elizabeth's favorite residence, is 22 miles west in Windsor, Berkshire. SL4 1NJ. South West Trains to Windsor & Eton Central. The famous Eton School is within walking distance.

Britain has Prime Ministers, so it doesn't have Presidential Libraries, or even equivalent facilities. With one exception. Winston Churchill's estate, Blenheim Palace, is open to the public, but it's in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, 62 miles northwest of Central London. But the Churchill War Rooms, open to tours, are at Clive Steps and Horse Guards Road, SW1A 2AQ. It's adjacent to the Prime Minister's residence, 10 Downing Street, but that street is not open to the public. SW1A 2AA.

They are directly opposite the Palace of Westminster, the nation's capital building, and perhaps the most famous single building in the world. This is a huge difference: London is Britain's capital for government, finance and popular culture; its "Washington, D.C." and its "New York." Remember, "Big Ben" is the bell inside the big clock, not the clock itself, or the tower (that's the Victoria Tower). SW1A 0AA.

Westminster Abbey is across Abingdon Street from Parliament. SW1P 3PA. And just to the north of each of these is Britain's main war memorial, the Cenotaph, where, each Remembrance Day (Veterans Day to us), at the moment of the end of World War I, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the entire nation stops for 2 minutes' silence, as the monarch lays a wreath. SW1A 2ET. For each of these, take the Circle, District or Jubliee Line to Westminster. 

The tallest building in the British Isles, and the 4th-tallest in Europe, is The Shard, named for its appearance, like that of a long piece of broken glass. It is 1,004 feet tall (taller than all but 15 buildings in America, 8 of them in New York), and has an observation deck. London Bridge Street, on top of London Bridge Station, SE1 9SG. And remember: London Bridge and Tower Bridge are 2 separate structures, and the more familiar bridge is Tower Bridge.

Countless movies and TV shows have been shot in London, although it's not often that the most familiar British film icon, James Bond, shoots in London. The most notable scenes are the helicopter scene with Roger Moore in For Your Eyes Only (1981) and the boat chase with Pierce Brosnan, ending at the Millennium Dome (now "The O2") in The World Is Not Enough (1999).

There are lots of Beatles-related sites in London. Abbey Road Studio is at 3 Abbey Road and Garden Road, NW8 9AY, just 3 blocks north of Lord's Cricket Ground. Jubilee Line to St. John's Wood. The crosswalk from the Abbey Road album cover is a little further north, across from 9 Abbey Road, at Hill Road. Marylebone Station was the filming location for the train station scene in A Hard Day's Night. Melcombe Place and Harewood Avenue, NW1 6JJ. Reachable by multiple Tube lines to Baker Street.

Contrary to myth, that opening scene was not filmed at Paddington Station, although that station is known from the stories of Paddington Bear and Harry Potter. Praed Street and Eastbourne Terrace, W2 1RH.


The Giants will be playing in a foreign country, whose customs and lifestyle are similar to our own, but with very distinct differences. The people of London can be famously friendly, but do not abuse their hospitality. Show respect, and you will get it in return. If you do, you should be able to enjoy yourself in their city.

Whether you will enjoy yourself at the game, that's up to the Giants and the Rams.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Cheers UM! I grew up in Britt boarding school in the 50s/60s era. Loved this piece, it brings back memories both good and mediocre. Some jargon has changed (not sure if I would deem it as having 'evolved') over the decades. Yes, I'm an old bloke/chap now, so likely I'm averse to change just for the sake of change.
Regret I won't be at the game in Twickenham but may the better team win. Curious how Amfoot is kinda catching on in the good ole U.K.!
Be watching it on the tele. Does it draw quite the attention as football (soccer) as in Premier league? Look after yourself and enjoy the game.