For the first time, the NFL stopped off in Frankfurt: After the guest appearance in Munich in 2022, the top game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins in Deutsche Bank Park was on the program this time. SPOX editor Stefan Petri was there and watched the spectacle up close. Included: a lot of partying, lots of breaks, a new anthem – and a controversial gesture.
NFL Frankfurt Game: More Chiefs home game than party
It wasn’t that easy to gauge the sympathies of the around 50,000 fans in the hours before the game started. There seemed to be a slight preponderance of red and white Chiefs jerseys on the way into the stadium – mainly Patrick Mahomes’ number 15, of course, followed by Travis Kelce’s 87 – but the Dolphins colors were also represented. And of course the jerseys of pretty much every other franchise as well, some with beautifully obscure names (greetings to the Packers fan with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix on the back!). So would this be a Chiefs home game just on paper?
Not even close! Even outside Deutsche Bank Park you could hear loud cheers or boos as the players warmed up, which was finally confirmed when I took my place in the press box: the sympathies were clearly divided. Of course it was also a football party, like last year in Munich, but it was a home game for the Kansas City Chiefs.
This wasn’t just evident in the surroundings: Yes, only the Chiefs cheerleaders were present, and only Chiefs banners were being waved on the lawn. Where the Beastie Boys immediately played the “goal anthem” at the Chiefs touchdowns, there was only dead silence for the Dolphins.
But the fans actually made the biggest difference. “There were a lot of Chiefs fans there, and I was extremely happy about that. It felt like a home game, the Frankfurt fans did a great job,” Mahomes was also amazed. He was enthusiastically cheered for every successful pass, and when the slow motion of a late hit against him was shown on the video cube, there was a shrill concert of whistles.
Hard to say what that ended up being. A few fans from the USA also found their way to Frankfurt – at least one said he had come straight from Kansas City – but there is certainly not such a clear preponderance of NFL fans in Germany. Did the Chiefs fans manage to successfully infiltrate the stadium in the style of the SGE supporters in Barcelona? Will the rest come next Sunday? Did the NFL change it?
NFL Frankfurt Game: Chiefs-Fans zeigen “Tomahawk Chop”
Be that as it may, the ranks were not bathed in a sea of red, but the ratio was at least 80:20 per KC. Of course, there were brief cheers during the Dolphins’ big plays, but beyond that, more than a timid “De-fense!” battle cry was rarely heard.
The famous “Tomahawk Chop” battle cry of the Chiefs fans could be heard constantly, from the train station to the stadium and of course back again. During the game, hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of supporters performed the classic downward chopping arm. Opinions in the USA differ as to whether and how problematic this gesture is. Admittedly, I was a bit surprised that the chop also seems to be very popular in Germany.
NFL Frankfurt Game: The fans are instructed
What can be said in any case: there was an expert audience in Frankfurt. There will certainly have been one or two event fans who simply wanted to know what a football game was like – there’s nothing to say against that – but the absolute majority turned out to be NFL fans , with jerseys, scarves or in full outfit, make-up included.
Maybe the NFL headquarters underestimated it a bit, maybe they didn’t want to take any risks. Or just be considerate of the “new” fans. But at least it seemed to me that one or two extra pieces of information were included in the announcements of the stadium announcer, who informed about successful and unsuccessful moves and announced down-and-distance, so that everyone knew what was happening.
Two comments. First: Where do the Americans always get these announcer votes? Like Michael Buffer on steroids, it doesn’t get more American than that. Second, early in the game it seemed as if the voiceover was directing fans to chant “And that’s a new… FIRST DOWN!” shouting the last two words. But nothing came of it.
PS: In classic fashion, the video screens encouraged the Dolphins to get as loud as possible, especially on third down – Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” was chosen as the musical accompaniment for these situations. This is also common in US stadiums and actually worked: There was deafening noise on the Dolphins’ decisive fourth down shortly before the end.
NFL Frankfurt Game: Timeouts, breaks and game interruptions
I’m not telling football fans anything new with this knowledge – the (over) three hours of playing time of an average NFL game with only 60 minutes of net playing time has to come from somewhere. In the stands, however, this realization comes through again if you don’t pass the time by getting chips or using your smartphone – or, like me, I always prefer the conference on the RedZone channel on Sunday evenings.
Game interruptions due to penalties or injuries. Pauses before kicks or punts. Change of ball possession. 30-second timeouts, full timeouts, two-minute warnings. Video Reviews. The half time is surprisingly short at twelve minutes.
Like the chicken and the egg, in the USA you don’t know which came first: football or the commercial break. Some people can even remember the prognosis that football would never, ever be able to catch on with the Americans – after all, 45 minutes in a row without a commercial break is unimaginable there.
What struck me again in the stadium in Frankfurt was how often and for how long the two teams stood on the field and waited until things could start again. Well, you just get used to everything.
NFL Frankfurt Game: The fans need to be entertained!
How the TV channels and streaming services fill the above-mentioned interruptions is no secret. The supporters in the stadium also want and should be entertained. During the breaks, everything the entertainment budget could afford was ignited: kissing and flex cams, interviews, mini-games, commercials (of course there were also in the stadium), even a chip cannon was ignited. But the biggest applause came when there was a spontaneous marriage proposal on the sidelines.
I don’t have a comparison to the local NFL here, but it’s amazing how much effort was put into not letting things go quiet for a second. The DJ was particularly in demand, playing everything the party playlist had to offer, from Genghis Kahn to the darts anthem “Chase The Sun” (you know: Dö dödödöööööö ….). But does that have to be in the middle of the game? Sometimes party music was played through the speakers at full volume until the last second before the snap. Nobody needs it.
PS: I wouldn’t be surprised if the cheerleaders burned more calories at the end of their shift than the stars. They had significantly fewer breaks…
NFL Frankfurt Game: Germany has a football anthem
A realization that many US journalists brought home from Munich last November: Wow, the Germans are really huge fans of John Denver! Now it remains to be seen whether the U40 generation associates the song “Country Roads” more with John Denver or the Hermes House Band: It is at least one of the few English-language, high-quality songs that are suitable as popular songs and that almost everyone can sing along to. So perfect for the stadium. And so things got really epic in Munich.
The only question that remained open was whether the spectacle would be repeated in Frankfurt or whether at least another anthem would be established. When the audience was allowed to vote for a song using a QR code and “Hey Baby” by DJ Ötzi ended up at the top, I had bad thoughts. In the end it was “West Virginia” and the “Shenandoah River” again, which was enthusiastically sung by the entire stadium. And in a time out – in an important situation in the game. No matter: the song was pressed through in its entirety as ice-cold.
At least now I would bet that John Denver will be voted in again on November 12th at Patriots vs. Colts. “Country Roads” is our “Sweet Carolina.” Our “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. Germany has a football anthem and that can no longer be shaken.
NFL Frankfurt Game: A successful football festival
The fact that the fans made their way home peacefully and contentedly after the game was of course also due to the narrow 21:14 for the Chiefs, but that’s not all: from the supporting program to the game, there was very little that could be criticized overall, and that was also a nuisance the intermittent drizzle and the temperatures of 10-12 degrees are not. “The atmosphere was amazing,” one fan told me: “I was in London five weeks ago, but this surpassed everything.” “You can’t compare that with the Bundesliga,” said another.
The teams? “We don’t want to be playing overseas again in eight years,” Chiefs president Mark Donovan emphasized to Peter King. “What we do today will pay off in 30 years.”
The players? “Like we have Arrowhead [aus Kansas City] picked up and shipped here to Frankfurt,” praised receiver Justin Watson.
Then there isn’t much to complain about anymore. Only the halftime show left the people I spoke to cold: “We would have liked to see Taylor Swift.”
The post first appeared on www.spox.com