I Finally Get the Point!

By Daniel Andruczyk

So those that follow me on twitter, facebook and the website all know that in the last week I have moved to the United States of America for work. It afford me a unique opportunity to see Rugby League in the United States and Canada and Jamaica. but most of all it provides me a perspective into the world of professional sports, one that I think I didn’t get in Australia or Europe. I was lucky that last weekend, two days in the country I was invited to my first College (American) Football game. I was a convert.


When I say a convert, I don’t mean to the sport itself. Yes Gridiron has its good aspects, but as far as I see it it still fails miserably compared to the speed, agility and intensity that Rugby league offers. So what do I mean by my main title? The spectacle! The spectacle of the whole day from 7 am through to 7pm the whole city turned out to promote and celebrate the game and support their team. So I will now try and regail you of my experience and thoughts and hopefully you might see what I have seen.


Cars and fans in the car parks with their BBQ’s and games before the game

Tailgate Party

The University of Illinois, is part of the Big 10 College Football teams. They play 6 home games through the season, though some of them are not against the teams in the top 10 but still count to the years record. Basically teams only play each other once in the conference (though its called the Top 10 there are 12 teams these days in the conference). But what the University of Illinois is most famous for (aside its 22 Nobel Prize winners) is the invention of the Tailgate Party.

What is this, well let me tell you, one of the most insane invention around. Imagine rocking up with your mates and thousands of other fanatics, opening up the back of your car, ute or trailer, getting a BBQ grill out and beer and just having a big’ol party till game time. So I was invited to my Bosses party, yup my boss and and everyone else there are nuts when it come to the game. He has one of those cruisers, like in the movie “Meet the Fokkers”. It has a plasma screen, full bar and a big 6 burner BBQ with Brot-Beer sizzling away. It was phenomenal. From 7am we were there drinking Margaritas, good beer (yes it does exist in the USA!) eating juicy sausages and discussing who will win the game. Everyone, and I mean everyone was wearing the team colours, Orange and Navy Blue.There were a few “enemy fans” from North Illinois University,  but on the whole it was a sea of orange.

S5001873 At my bosses Tailgate Party

Now to put into perspective what all this is. The (twin) city of Champaign-Urbana has a holds population of 100,000 people. The Stadium holds 75,000 and the game ended up having over 50,000 inside the stadium and another 15,000 in the carpark doing the tailgate and watching the game on TV! Yes you read that right. People turn up to a game and watch it in the car park! How insane is that.

The Entertainment

So I am not sure what the actual main event of the day is though, the Football game or the Entertainment! Now there are three forms of entertainments that happen through the whole day and game, the Cheer-Leaders, the Cheer-Dancers and the marching Band. Unlike many of the Australian Cheer-leaders, who well I am not even sure what they do or are there for, these have all scholarships at the University for being either athletes, aspiring professional dancers or musicians, and its not the kind of tacky stuff we get in the NRL, the music was all modern stuff. The ban played from Metallica through to Grease Lightning to a very very cool rendition of the Imperial March. The acrobatics of the leaders and the moves of the dancers were something else to behold.

And all that is just before the game. People were flocking to the stadium just to see the marching band and dancers! The Americans are a patriotic bunch, renditions of all the American folk songs and the different patterns like the outline of America and the Stars and Stripes, the intricate patterns they do and the music, its phenomenal. Like there is a point to it all, you actually do get entertained, not the poor excuse that we get in the NRL

S5001881 Some of the entertainment on the day

I Finally see the point of having Cheer leaders and dancers in the NFL and American sport. They actually do, do something and its amazingly entertaining. After seeing this I really don’t see the point of the cheer girls in the NRL!

The Game

As I said the game itself, though spectacular in the build up and the individual plays, still is no comparison to the raw power, speed, intensity and power of the Greatest Game. But that seem not to matter for the fans, they have their sport and are totally absorbed by it. They scream their heads off when play is on and during the break they have a normal conversation with you. Its quite bizarre actually. Its amazing seeing all the different camera angles they get on the game and just how many people the whole things absorbed, not just the players and coaching staff but the support and TV staff as well. You have nearly everyone there is not just a fan of the team and game but also the bans and cheer leaders/dancers.

In the end though the game was quite exciting as it went to the wire with the home side getting a final touchdown in the last minute that gave them a 6 point win 28-22. There was much more kicking or punting as they call it, involved in the game than I expected. Certainly their kicks come no where near as good as anything in the NRL. The accuracy and distance that the NRL gets in its kicks is much, much better. Still was interesting to see.


The Fighting Iliini at the Memorial Stadium.

After the game it was back to the Tailgate party and the post game analysis from the thousands of experts. The party lasts for the rest of the day. Basically 7 am to 11 am its the Tailgate. Then 11 am to 2 pm its the game and then tailgate again after that! I spent another hour after the game and then headed into town to a bar and they were all full with orange too. Plus the game was on reply on TV!

Russel was Right!

When Russel Crowe bought South Sydney one of the controversial things he did was to get rid of the cheer-girls and “that” entertainment. I can see now why he did that. The way its done in the NRL there is no point in having the cheer-girls. They bring absolutely nothing to the game and over all game day experience. Sure, some say its eye candy, but lets have them do something with that eye candy. Oh, and girls, don;t you fret you are not left out either. The Cheer –leader squads have as many men as they do women dancing and performing. So when Saints brought them in years ago, it was actually the normal thing to be done over here, yet the backward archaic ways of thinking in Australia had all of us laughing at the guys and making unsavoury remarks about them.

Without knowing what he was thinking, but I think Russel had a decision to make. Either stick with the cheerleaders and expand them at great cost for probably very little benefit to the club as a whole or scrap the whole concept. Him going with the latter I am sure has meant the club overall is saving money and face by not having to put out what in essence is an inferior product every week. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not having a go at the girls and guys that are the cheer leaders in the NRL, they go out and put all their effort into it, but in the end its done and promoted in a amateur way. Either do something full on or get rid of.

In the end my first American Football experience was a phenomenal one. The whole game-day experience was just amazing. From the Tailgate to the game entertainment, the whole things is just fun, fun, fun. Its all about giving the fans the best experience money can buys. Sure Tickets are expensive for NFL but if this College game experience is something to go by then I think what you get in terms of the whole entertainment package its a total bargain.

I finally get the point!

Daniel Andruczyk’s email: daniel@rugbyleagueinternationalscores.com
banner ad
Powered by WordPress | Built by Thinking Cap Studios