We at Riggo’s Rag had the privilege of being able to interview Nick Foxley, formerly of the Colchester Gladiators in Essex, England. Nick played several positions for his “American” football team over his illustrious career and was even writing press releases and doing analysis for the team’s website. It is our hope that Mr. Foxley will be able to join Riggo’s Rag on a more consistent basis as he as great knowledge of the Redskins and offers an interesting perspective not often told today. Here are a few questions I posed to Mr. Foxley about life as an NFL fan “across the pond”, his playing days and what it’s like being a Redskins fan overseas. Enjoy!
RR: Being that you live in the UK, is there a significant struggle to watch NFL games, including the Redskins?
Coverage of the NFL is pretty good nowadays, particularly if you don’t mind which teams you watch. Our satellite provider, Sky, provides us with three games on Sunday evenings, and ESPN covers the Monday night games (as well as college football). We also get the NFL Network Thursday night games, all playoff games and have the option of accessing Redzone, so we do ok. It’s not so easy to watch the Redskins though. They haven’t been on yet this year and as they are unlikely to feature in the playoffs, we may not get to see them all year.
However, the internet is a wonderful tool and was clearly invented specifically to allow me to watch the Redskins, so I tune in to a variety of live streaming sites to see which one provides the best reception. I’ve had some problems with my home PC recently so haven’t had the best experience this year however my brother is also a Redskins fan so I have gone round to his a couple of times.
It does mean though that I am sat in front of the computer from 6pm until 9 which doesn’t go down particularly well with the wife and kids!
RR: How would you say that fans (NFL) in England differ from those in the United States?
There’s a huge difference in the knowledge level of fans around the UK for obvious reasons. Those that follow the NFL are pretty knowledgeable and loyal to their teams, just like American fans. But it is still a minority sport over here so the vast majority know nothing about it, and many of these don’t want to know. I’ve given up trying to convince those ignorant about the greatest sport in the world about the need for the protective equipment, and when they compare it to rugby, saying rugby players are the real men as they don’t have the protection, I simply ask them if they have tried it, and when they tell me they haven’t, well, how do they know? The only people qualified to judge between the two sports are those that have tried both. I played rugby for many years and enjoy both sports but I know which one is the more physical!
RR: Is American Football anywhere near “Soccer” as far as popularity and following in the UK?
There is no comparison still. Soccer is and always will be the number one sport in this country but football is established as a minority sport and gets good TV coverage. The International Series games show that the popularity level is very high, selling out each year. In fact the recent England international against Sweden barely sold 50,000 tickets out of the 90,000 capacity, although it was just a “friendly” (non-competitive) match.
The talk of multiple games in the UK is great news but I think those in charge need to be careful in terms of ticket prices. Multiple games in the same stadium (ie. Wembley) will not succeed at the same prices in the current economic climate so I would recommend different stadiums until we get our own NFL franchise which should be based in London.
RR: You played some football yourself if I understand correctly. Where did you play? What position? What sparked your interest in American Football?
I’m glad you asked! My parent’s were posted to Washington DC from 1980-82 so I came over with my two brothers for the school holidays. We had seen some highlights before but being closer to the action ensured we were immediately hooked.
Shortly after, a new channel started in the UK, Channel 4, which brought with it a programme of NFL highlights. This brought the NFL to the masses and sparked an explosion of interest, and people wanting to play the sport. Teams started sprouting up all over the country and my brother and I found one on our doorstep, in our hometown of Colchester, Essex (about 50 miles north east of London).
We went to our first training session with the Colchester Gladiators at the end of January 1984 and have been involved with the club ever since. We both started off as running backs, have played wide receiver and tight end, but I more recently, have played cornerback and finished at safety. I probably had my most successful spell as a DB between 2006 and 2008 winning our Defensive Player of the Year award three consecutive years and my favourite trophy, that of “Best Hit” three out of four years (check out this link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opFxgfenvbc – and yes I would get a fine these days from the Commish but back then it was clean, and no flags!).
I decided to call time on my playing career at the end of this past season, at the ripe old age of 46. I’ll stay involved with the Gladiators as a coach as well as my other roles including historian/archivist, media officer, and Stats.
RR: Have you ever been to the states and seen a game live?
I have been lucky enough to see a few games live. My first one was a preseason game against the Bills I think, in 1981. I saw us beat the Eagles in 1987 and almost got to see them in 1990 when holidaying with my girlfriend. Remembering how easy it had been getting a ticket to the Eagles game outside the stadium a few years earlier, I thought I would have another go. However, the ticket touts were not as generous for the season opener on Monday night against the Giants and we could not get them to come down to what we could afford. We were stood outside the stadium when the game kicked off, hearing the cheers of the crowd but not being able to see any action. So we thought we would cut our losses and rush back to our hotel…except that we couldn’t find the car in the massive car park! Imagine the frustration of hearing the crowd while we were missing the action, searching for our hire car! We eventually found it and got back by half time.
My most recent game was in 2004 for my 40th birthday. Myself, my brother and a couple of friends travelled to DC, (with tickets arranged in advance!) and saw us spank the Giants, my first experience of FedEx.
RR: Do you believe the NFL games in Europe are successful? Do you believe the NFL will ever expand into Europe again? (be it with a franchise or a developmental league like NFL Europe)
I do believe they have been successful and I hope they continue for years to come, eventually resulting in our own franchise (it would have to be in the AFC East though – couldn’t be in direct competition with the Redskins!).
The problem is, with the popularity of the NFL on the increase again, the appetite of UK NFL fans will eventually only be satisfied by having our own franchise.
The American Bowl series satisfied us for a time but as we developed our understanding of the game, watching fringe players and backups and dozens of guys who would never make an active roster, wasn’t enough.
Likewise, the International Series will satisfy us for a time, I mean watching meaningful games is amazing, and light years from the days of listening to the American Forces Network radio with reception fading in and out. But eventually we will want a team of our own where we can identify with the players, grow close to them, see them develop, and share in their successes and failures. I do think though that the NFL needs to get more involved with the grass roots over here and open up opportunities to our top players to gain valuable experience at a pro level. If and when we do get our own franchise, there needs to be some connection with national players to enable the team to grow roots and foster true, heartfelt support.
I used to go to see the London Monarchs play in the World League back in the 90’s. My overriding memory is of Brit Victor Ebubedike carrying the ball for the Monarchs, barrelling in to the endzone for a British TD! The crowd went wild – although they went wild whenever he set foot on the field!
RR: How is the Redskins/Cowboys rivalry viewed in the UK? Do you know any Cowboys fans?
Unfortunately I do know some Cowboys fans. They’re not normal over here either! I’m biased but I consider the Redskins/Cowboys rivalry to be the greatest in the NFL. Certainly in the 80’s, the Redskins and Cowboys were arguably the number 1 and number 2 most popular teams in the UK. However I do think the reputation of the rivalry has been damaged by the one-sidedness over recent seasons. It’s been a bit one sided for a while with only the occasional win for the good guys. But it is still up there with the Bears/Packers, Steelers/Ravens, Raiders/AFC West!
RR: How do you feel about Sunday’s game?
To be honest, I’m a bit apprehensive about the game this week. We played them when they were possibly at their weakest earlier this season and couldn’t win. Now they are healthy and have discovered a new rushing star, and along with our struggle against the run, form would suggest there’s only one winner. Form can go out of the window but unfortunately I don’t think it will happen this time. I could be a homer a blindly predict the Redskins to win but if I am honest, I think our struggles will continue. I’m glad Grossman is back and don’t think he should have been permanently benched after his struggles against the Eagles, and I think we will break our TD drought, but it won’t be enough. I reluctantly predict the bad guys to win by 23-10.
Injuries have certainly contributed to our struggles in the running game but we have also hurt ourselves. Driving against the Dolphins, ten yards out and we throw a pick. Our defence can’t step up and they allow the fish to drive the length of the field for the winning score. Trent Williams retaliating by pushing an opponent in the back after we just made a good first down, resulting in us punting. Just two examples of how we have shot ourselves in the foot.
We need to rediscover our running game. In the preseason and in our three wins, our running game was effective, meaning we didn’t have to rely on our QBs to win the game for us. If we can run the ball effectively and not make silly mistakes (including not turning the ball over), we will give ourselves a chance. If we can’t hold on to the ball, well, it could get ugly.
I think we’re already playing for pride, so what better opponent to have to get some of that Redskins pride back?
Hail to the Redskins!