Editor's Note: Dan Turner spent some time at training camp in Oxnard this past summer and has been a guest on "Talkin' Cowboys" to share his stories and opinions from London. Dan (@dtsturner) has contributed to DallasCowboys.com last week while the Cowboys were in London to play Jacksonville at Wembley Stadium.
Last week, I spent seven days averaging four hours a day on the London Underground, 3 hours of sleep a night, 1 meal a day, and more miles walking than I've ever done in my life. I stayed in North East London, South East London, and South West London with old school mates. Why? All was in a quest to spend a week reporting on the Dallas Cowboys whilst they were in my country.
The first event was the Play 60 on Tuesday. I arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed, eager to meet everyone. I was instead greeted by 3 coachloads of zombies, who were red-eyed and barely conscious enough to speak. The reporters could hardly remember what year it was. I walked past Jason Garrett. He had his usual smile, but stared into nothingness for the best part of 5 minutes.
The players weren't quite so morbid with jet lag. The defensive line were attempting to perfect their English accents, with plenty of 'mate', 'fish and chips', and 'guvnor' being spouted. Orlando Scandrick was taking penalty kicks against Tyler Patmon in some miniature goalposts. The offensive line were enthusiastic in their support of some young kids who were partaking in the drills. Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, and Dez Bryant were in hysterics watching ex-Tottenham Hotspur player, Ledley King, trying to throw a football. Romo told me that he looked like a cricket player. Dez was attempting to teach some kids how to throw up the X. Those kids then sang Happy Birthday to Dez, who turned 26 on that Monday.
The rest of the week was more structured, and the staff more alive. The training sessions started with press conferences. These revolved around the media asking about Tony Romo's status for the game. I was amazed how many different ways people could ask the same question. The coaches showed themselves to be experts in saying a lot, yet giving little away.
My personal highlight of the week was the Jerry Jones press conference on the Thursday. It was my first ever live experience of JJ, and it lived up to all expectations. He reminisced about a Russian who could kick a chandelier above his head, 'eye candy' in movies, and about five minutes on Elizabeth Taylor. He works the room. Everyone is there for him, and he knows that.
We were allowed in to watch training for the first 30 minutes, but they never showed us much. Romo would just do a few dump offs, and it was generally nothing more than an elevated walkthrough for the players. As soon as our time was up, we were ushered away, and every view on to the training field was covered up. I joked that this was because Romo was unleashing massive 9 routes on the field.
After training, we took the bus back to the team hotel. Bryan Broaddus would show off his impressions. His Brad Sham and Mickey Spagnola take-offs were utterly superb. Conversations would revolve around soccer, cricket, rugby, culture, and every other quintessentially British thing. This would be followed by a quest to find somewhere with good coffee and Wi-Fi, to write to my heart's content.
In the evening, I would take the London Underground to Marylebone Sports Bar and Grill for Cowboys Daily. The first day was somewhat stressful for everyone involved, as no one really knew what would happen. I arrived 30 minutes early, and the room consisted of me, the UK Cowboys heads, and the Cowboys staff. It was only with about five minutes to go until the broadcast that the fans started to stream in, followed by the cheerleaders. In all honesty, the cheerleaders were probably the main reason for the popularity. The show was great. The UK fans asked some questions which pleasantly surprised the panel, and the shows were a roaring success.
On the Saturday, we had the UK Cowboys Fans Bash. This was a superb event. It isn't 'normal' for UK NFL fan groups to do this sort of thing. It required a huge amount of effort from the heads of UK Cowboys Fans, Lauren, Jamie, and Nik. Thanks also must go to Pete from NFL auctions, and Barry Griffith from Star Sports Tours. The fans who came were treated to another episode of Cowboys Daily, as well as being able to meet Orlando Scandrick and Danny White. It was a brilliant night for all
Then there was Sunday. It had been a busy week up to then with writing, and travelling, and reporting, so it was nice to do some sightseeing. St Pauls Cathedral was a particular highlight, especially since it was Remembrance Sunday, when the UK pays its respects to troops who fell in battle. The city was bustling with veteran soldiers, as well as NFL fans, and the usual tourists. Cowboys hats and jerseys were everywhere. It was a sight to behold for a UK Cowboys fan.
Outside Wembley, it was crammed with Cowboys fans too. There were the obvious Romo and Bryant jerseys on show, but they were joined by Dan Bailey jerseys, and DeMarcus Ware, and Jay Novacek, and Emmitt Smith, and Roger Staubach. You can find British fans who have been Cowboys since the early years. They would find out results days after the games from snippets in the newspaper.
Remembrance Sunday made it even more significant. Poppies were on display everywhere. Americans as well as Brits wore them with pride. People held bags above their heads which made the stadium look laden with poppies. I was as proud to hear the impeccably kept minute's silence, as I was to hear the gusto of the British national anthem. The readings of poems written by soldiers from the First World War, and the standing ovations given to current British soldiers were another source of humility for all there.
[embeddedad0]The game itself was a little surreal. I was watching my favourite team, in my favourite stadium, in my favourite country. The famous arch watched on as the Cowboys laid waste to the apparent 'home team', the Jacksonville Jaguars. This was more like a Dallas home game though. Usually for Wembley International Series games, each team's fans will make up around 10-15 percent of the attendance, with the rest being neutral. I estimated that around 50 percent of the fans who attended last Sunday were Cowboys.
The final point I wish to make on last week is this. Everyone was highly complementary of us UK Cowboys fans. We have had little publicity as a NFL watching nation up to last week, so it was nice to see. However, the fans who really deserved credit for last week vast number of Americans, Canadians, Germans, and Italians who made the trip. There was even representation from Norway, Saudi Arabia, and Mexico, amongst others. It really is incredible to consider the lengths people will go to watch their Dallas Cowboys.
It was an honour to share my country with the Cowboys for a week. I hope we were able to prove to the doubters that the Cowboys aren't just America's team. They're ours as well.