Giant Fan Base

It is with great pleasure that The Giant Insider has discovered there are approximately 600 Big Blue fans residing in London, England. Of course, that's the site of next Sunday's Giants-Dolphins game, the first regular-season NFL contest played outside North America.

So how did these good folks become fans of a team, and a sport that is, excuse the expression, quite foreign to them? We decided to let them explain this in their own words.

Andrew Levy grew up in New Jersey. His dad was a Jets fan, but "the first game I ever saw in person was a Giants-Cardinals game at [Giants Stadium] the year it opened. I was four," Levy noted. "The first memory I have of really caring deeply about the Giants is the 1981 playoffs."

Born in Northern Ireland, Phil McMenemy began his affiliation as a Giants fan in the 1980s when a weekly NFL TV show was broadcast in the United Kingdom.

"[There was] one main game which had extended highlights and brief highlights of the [other games]. The first game I saw was Giants versus the Redskins. [My friend] was a 'Skins fan – and combined with New York being my favorite U.S. city, I made a quick decision to follow the Giants and have stuck to it ever since."

Since his introduction to Big Blue football, Phil has become a hardcore Giants fan.

"When I started following the Giants, about the only way you could get live coverage of games was to try to listen to the America Forces Network Europe. Unfortunately, radio reception for the station was truly awful in Northern Ireland, so you spent Sunday evening tuning in and hoping the Giants were one of the featured games and that you'd be able to hear the commentary half the time. Fortunately, it's a lot easier to follow the team now."

NFL coverage is definitely a lot more extensive now in the U.K. than it was in the 1980s.

"Fortunately, TV coverage over here has improved hugely ever since when I started following the Giants in the 1980s, and now there is full coverage of six games a week, and I'll always watch a Giants game if it's even a Sunday or Monday [night game]. Those games don't tend to be shown at the most convenient time over here."

Steve Pickett, a British TGI subscriber, became hooked on Big Blue football in 1971 when, at age 13, he was in the U.S. on a student-exchange program.

The first NFL game Steve watched involved the Giants. And he became a fan right then. And he described himself as "fanatical."

"They lost, but that was it for me," Pickett said, recalling his first experience watching a Giants game. "I can't rest if I don't know the score of a game. I'm on the Internet, looking for the game stats and [game] reports all the time the game is on.

"I have a wardrobe full of Giants' T-shirts that I wear all the time," Pickett added. "In fact, when I was on a blind date, many years ago, the lady was told I'd be easy to recognize. 'He'll be wearing a Giants shirt.' I might still have the shirt, but the lady in question is long gone. There's something you know full well – the Giants will always be there tomorrow."

Pickett and his pal, Gavin Price, often get together to watch Giants games on the Sky satellite network or via the Internet.

The guys will be attending the game at Wembley Stadium.

"We had tickets to see them when they were supposed to be coming over for the America Bowl at the old Wembley in 1991, but they pulled out at the last minute and we watched the Bills versus Broncos instead. I'm incredibly excited to be seeing the Giants play. I've been waiting to do this for years, and have already made plans to go across to New York next season to catch a game then."

Price's favorite Giants are wide receiver Amani Toomer and right guard Chris Snee. He appreciates Toomer's ability to make clutch first-down catches and Snee's "nasty, mauling blocks" that open holes for Big Blue's running backs.

His favorite Giants memory is the 1991 Super Bowl and "the [Scott] Norwood missed field goal."

Price believes the Giants will have a decent record at the end of the season.

"I'm going to stick by my preseason prediction of 10-6," Price said. "If we can continue to play the way we have been in the last three games [prior to the San Francisco game], I can't see any reason why we wouldn't be able to achieve this. I believe that the key to this is staying healthy as we are lacking in depth in quite a few places, especially the offensive line."

Neil Saffer has an uncle who is a "naturalized New Yorker," who visits his London home every summer. Saffer said his first "conscious memory of football" was the hype surrounding William "Fridge" Perry and the 1985 Chicago Bears.

"I became a Giants fan watching highlights of early season games in '86 with my uncle who supports both New York teams on the basis that they're never both good at the same time. Thus, I became a Giants fan. I'm very glad that he didn't persuade me to follow him into supporting Tottenham Hotspur [a Premier League soccer team, based in London] as well, or I may never have forgiven him."

Brian Weston, a computer analyst/programmer, is a longtime Giants fan who has followed the team through any media providing information.

"I try and follow them via whatever media I can," Weston said. "Initially, it was through newspapers, but now, the Internet has made it a lot easier. I now try and watch games when they are on, but if it is the late game on Sunday or even the Monday night game, I generally have to give it a miss. I have never seen them live, so I am very excited about them coming to London."

Weston's favorite Giants are tight end Jeremy Shockey and defensive end Osi Umenyiora.

And his prediction for the season?

"I was optimistic going into the season, but after the bad start it did not look good, but they have turned things around," he said. "I think they will be okay and probably win about 10 [games]. Playoffs is a possibility, but I think Dallas will win the division."

Rob Wood, a U.K.-born London resident, stated that they started getting TV coverage of the NFL around 1983.

"I remember watching the Super Bowl that year and everyone getting very excited about the Dolphins," Wood said. "But I'd always been fascinated by the city of New York – the skyscrapers, the yellow taxis and all those stereotypes. So for me, it was simply because I preferred the Giants' uniform that they became my team."

Wood noted that it had been a very trying experience to buy a ticket for the Giants-Dolphins game at Wembley.

"Tickets are like gold dust," Wood said. "But I managed to get one. I'm gonna get there early and see some proper tailgating in action."

Wood noted that his business takes him to the United States on a regular basis, but he has never seen an NFL game in a stadium.

"I've never managed to see a live game, let alone a Giants game," Wood explained. "I saw the Bears versus the Cowboys preseason game in London years ago, but the fact that this game matters and that there will be proper fans there from the U.S. and the U.K. in the brand new Wembley Stadium should make for an awesome atmosphere."

Absolutely, Rob. Absolutely.

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