It was the battle of Ohio to open week 2 of the NFL season as the Browns hosted Joe Burrow and the Bengals. This match up was about much more than who would come out on top.
My first experience watching the NFL in the motherland unfolded as a mixture between the Tender Bar and Saturday arvo footy from the 1980s.
After waking at 11am, jet lagged from a 32-hour delayed long haul, the lure of brunch and NFL brings me inside The District, a sports bar on the corner of third Avenue and 94th st, NY. I pull up a stool at the bar with the 49ers and Dolphins game on mute.
The home town Giants are playing in Cleveland and that dominates the other five big screens.
While expected it’s still strange to be watching the football in the afternoon, and not at 3, 4 or 5 am. As is Chip Kelly’s modus operandi the 49ers come out well prepared and score early on a Carlos Hyde swing pass. The second quarter sees the natural order restored, as the Dolphins make a charge.
The offense finds it’s rhythm off play action and suddenly Ryan Tannehill with no pressure about him, is rightly unstoppable. The Dolphins score on a one yard pitch to Jay Ajayi. The next drive sees a turning point. As the 49ers look to answer a promising drive ends when Garret Celek fumbles in Dolphins territory and loses possession. The 49ers secondary is torched again, culminating in a 16-yard strike to Dion Sims.
I then have the good fortune to be asked by the most effervescent man encounters in recent times how the Dolphins scored so quickly. When halftime arrives we’re swapping stories of our travels in Europe and after some explaining of Aussie rules we’re regaling stories of junior football glory days.
We digress back to the NFL when the Giants finally do something exciting against a Browns defence that is playing tough, or when the Dolphins score again (a 43-yard pass to Kenny Stills).
When the Browns score some hollering from behind stuns the home crowd. One exclaims he can’t believe thee are Browns fans here, another that there are still any at all. Both claims draw plenty of loud New York laughter.
Another Dolphins score (15 yards to Leonte Carroo) makes this (seemingly) all over. I’d love to say I stayed for what was an exciting 49ers comeback that ended just two yards short. Or that I was completely across all the NFL action that culminated Sunday Night when the epic Chiefs and Broncos match was decided as overtime expired with a Chiefs’ field goal bouncing in off the upright!
I know my new friend Vardy was – he was still at bar laughing when I walked past during the first quarter of that game. I have no doubt he and the locals would have rhetorically exclaimed “Are you kidding me?!” when that game finished.
But this is New York. On a sunny winter’s day there’s just too much to do.