N.F.L. Woos Fans, One Dan Marino Jersey at a Time New York Times - October 29, 2007 By JOHN BRANCH LONDON, Oct. 28 An 18-year-old young man from Swansea in South Wales looked as if he had arrived for an N.F.L. casting call to promote the leagues international push. Rhys Clements had traveled a decent distance to come to the game. His age fit every sponsors target demographic, and he wore a purple Minnesota Vikings jersey. But it was the look on his face that should make N.F.L. officials smile. His entire face was thick with paint. One half was teal, for the Dolphins. The other was blue, for the Giants. I love the game, Clements said. Its brilliant. He held a large plastic bag. Inside was his version of the venerable de-fense sign a cut-out D and a cardboard picket fence, just like Clements had seen on television. For several glorious and damp hours at Wembley Stadium, the N.F.L. could be forgiven for thinking it had already accomplished what the game itself set out to do capture a broad and non-American audience. Hours before the games 5 p.m. local kickoff, football fans and some of their curious friends poured out of the nearby Underground and train stations and converged on the stadium. The N.F.L. said 87 percent of the tickets were sold to people in Britain, and at least as many wore the jerseys of their favorite players and teams as fans in the United States do. Most of the jerseys represented an N.F.L. team other than the Giants or the Dolphins, the games participants, giving the afternoon the feel of an international convention, not an intense contest between two particular teams. But many fans did wear the jerseys of the Giants and Dolphins. American football first took hold in Britain in 1982, when Channel 4 began broadcasting condensed highlight packages of N.F.L. games. Allegiances became instant and permanent; the best teams of the mid-1980s era the Dolphins, Giants, 49ers and Bears included remain among the favorite teams today. It explained an odd confluence at what the N.F.L. deemed a tailgate party, though there were no cars and the festival generally took place indoors because of a spritzing rain. One Dan Marino walked up to another and said, Hey, Dan Marino! They greeted each other with British accents. A third Dan Marino, in another No. 13 Dolphins jersey, watched and laughed. The N.F.L. had more than 500,000 people register online to buy tickets, far more than the stadiums capacity of roughly 88,000. Thousands of those who bought tickets registered and were granted entry into the tailgate party outside the stadium. One thing the N.F.L. could not control was the weather. A plaza with a large stage sat mostly empty, however, as a storm front crossed southern England after a long string of cool but dry days. Instead, fans crowded into an adjacent arena, greeted by young men standing on stilts and playfully tossing footballs at them. One wore the jersey of the Giants Jeremy Shockey, the other wore that of Miamis No. 84 a number not assigned to any player. On the indoor concourse, Alistair Kirkwood, the managing director of the N.F.L.s British office, stood in a rain poncho. Its what people think of when they think of London, isnt it? he said, mustering a cheery spin on the days weather. It did not seem to dampen the spirit of fans. On the floor of the arena, another band played as vendors sold American-stadium standards Coors Light and popcorn. On the other end of the arena were side-to-side, large backdrops, one of the sunset over the Art Deco hotels of Miami Beach, the other of the Manhattan skyline. A scaled-down replica of the Statue of Liberty was planted nearby. Fans lined up to try to throw footballs at targets, though many had never held a football before. Others tried simulated field goals, and few could launch it more than a couple of feet into the air. Some performed a drill where receivers leap onto a large inflated pad while trying to catch a football. Outside, the rain let up. It was just enough to be noticed, but not enough to scare people to cover. So the band began to play, and people gathered. A 26-foot automatronic version of Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor was brought to life. He stood erect, raised his arms, turned his head, blinked and winked. He even walked, powered by a machine behind him. An announcer explained what a defensive end is, and touted Taylors résumé among other things, he is a Libra, he told fans. A man in Giants garb walked away and said that Michael Strahan was much better. A puppeteer and choreographer named Mak Wilson worked the controls. Big J.T., as he had been dubbed, made appearances throughout the week leading up to the game. At Canary Wharf on Tuesday, fans were handed foam No. 1 fingers. People are absolutely mad for them, Wilson said. At Victoria Station on Thursday, Big J.T. was surrounded by workers who handed commuters plastic holders for their Oyster cards the prepaid cards for the Underground that touted the N.F.L. People stopped and took pictures, laughed and shrieked when the robot seemed to look at them and wink. Some of them, surely, carried Oyster cards wrapped in the N.F.L.s logo to Sundays game. The turnstiles at the Wembley Park stop had Giants and Dolphins decals, and the brick path to the stadium was lined with corresponding banners and merchandise booths. Fans were allowed inside the stadium two hours before kickoff. Wembley has massive awnings that cover most of the seats but leaves the playing field open to the sky. Fans more than at an N.F.L. game in the states stood at their seats and watched the players warm up. An announcement and corresponding instructions on the video boards told fans of the Dolphins, officially the home team, how to cheer. Cheer loud when the Dolphins are on defense, people were told, and cheer loudest when the Giants have the ball near the goal line. And, if nothing else, watch Rhys Clements, the two-faced kid in the Vikings jersey with the giant D and the picket fence. He already knows how it is done.