The Baltimore Ravens traveled to London Sunday to play in their first ever international matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Unfortunately, they didn’t show up for the game like they should have, dropping a 44-7 clunker to what was supposed to be a basement team in the AFC. But for some in the stands, it was a bittersweet game because they finally got to see their team play in person for the first time at historic Wembley stadium.
Regardless of the shameful performance, Sunday was a big day for Baltimore and their fans, and those who root for the Purple and Black across the Atlantic showed up in droves to greet their team. One of those who root for the Ravens in London is Nicky Sowemimo, who has supported the team going back many years:
“I was 13, maybe 12, and in Tampa on holiday,” he said. “I wanted an NFL jersey but had no team. Completely by chance I picked the jersey I liked the look of most, which turned out to be a Ray Lewis’ #52. Followed the team ever since.”
A big fan of the English Premier League and specifically Arsenal Football Club, Nicky spoke about how he’s gravitating even more towards the NFL as it’s scope broadens throughout the world:
“Well I'm pretty disillusioned with Arsenal at the moment, honestly. Ravens losses affect me more now than Arsenal ones do,” he said. “Speaking purely for myself, the short season makes each game so much more important. With only 16 games every one feels really significant and one loss can derail the team's playoff chances. An Arsenal fan will watch their team play maybe 50 times during the season in four different competitions.”
He’s certainly happy to see the game’s influence grow internationally, but is also a bit annoyed with how that growth can lead to the typical bandwagon fans:
“More and more people are getting into the game and it's particularly taking off with younger fans,” he said. “People around university age are playing and watching the game more. That's cool but also a bit annoying for someone like me who's been into the game for a long time. I tend to get a bit protective about it and derisive of new fans I feel are jumping on the bandwagon.”
What’s especially interesting about that comment is that anyone who has their ear to the ground on the sports landscape in America will notice this with longtime soccer fans versus those who are just getting into it. Nicky spoke about how the aforementioned growth of the NFL into a potential London franchise would sit with him as a fan of both sports:
“Mixed feelings. It would encourage and create more of the sort of newbie fans I mentioned earlier,” he said. “Also I'm not going to change my team, but I'm someone who's very passionate about supporting your local team. Obviously I can't do that with the NFL. But it would put me in a weird situation having to root against a London team.”
Funny enough, Nicky seems more opposed to the idea than some Americans observing from afar may expect. He elaborates on his thoughts below:
“I like the league as it is. I don't need a London team personally,” he said. “It's an American league and I got into it knowing that. I don't need it to change and add a British team or change the league's nature for my benefit.”
While the game didn’t go like we had hoped it would, it’s certainly interesting to see the Ravens getting some international shine for the first time ever. For people like Nicky in England, and those in other countries as well, this was a landmark day for the franchise. Here’s to hoping that if it ever happens again, the Ravens will play a little bit more like they’re used to seeing from thousands of mile away.