Chicago Bears: London
October, 20, 2011
By Jeff Dickerson | ESPNChicago.com
LONDON -- This marks the fifth consecutive year the NFL has played a regular season game in England, but a mere three days before the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers do battle at Wembley Stadium, there was little buzz over American football in the streets of London.
On a sunny and cool Thursday afternoon in the United Kingdom, the only reminder that an NFL game is scheduled on Sunday occurred in historic Trafalgar Square, where a group of British young adults paraded down the street distributing fliers about the game. While young ladies wearing NFL warm-up suits passed out the fliers, a handful of teenage kids followed behind dressed in full pads and wearing helmets. The only problem was the teens decided against sporting Chicago or Tampa gear, but instead wore jerseys of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. The group made it's way down the streets of the square accompanied by club music often heard at English soccer matches, which made the whole scene utterly ridiculous.
However, there was nothing ridiculous about the Bears fans who traveled to London from O'Hare airport on Wednesday evening. A United flight that departed Chicago at 9:13 pm contained roughly a dozen Bears supporters decked out in the latest Bears apparel -- Bears t-shirts, sweat pants, hats, slippers and pillows were all spotted on the roughly seven-hour flight.
Things are expected to pick up in London on the American football front when the Bears land Friday morning and practice later in the afternoon at The Oval Cricket Ground in Kennington. The next day, on Saturday, the NFL is holding a fan rally in Trafalgar Square that will feature Bears coach Lovie Smith, Bears Hall of Fame defensive end Richard Dent, Tampa coach Raheem Morris and former NFL players Jerome Bettis and Terrell Owens.
Before the rally at Trafalgar Square, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will host a fan forum at the Landmark Hotel, where the Commissioner is expected to answer a variety of questions from an invited group of NFL fans. In the past, Goodell has broached the subject of a Super Bowl or perhaps even an NFL franchise in London. Those issues will no doubt be addressed in the fan session, where the questions will not be pre-selected or pre-screened, according to a press release distributed by the league.