Football is a thing at the moment in Germany, its ratings are good. All this regular TV appearances have made us curious. We wanted to visit a US sport event in our holidays. This is a report of how it is to visit a football game in the US and how different is compared too football (soccer) in Germany. Football matches in other countries might be similar to what we have in Germany.
Football in the US
Most football games are on a Sunday. Some are on weekdays in the evening. We went to a Sunday match, 1 pm in the old Atlanta Georgia Dome: Atlanta Falcons vs. Indianapolis Colts.
It was a bit of work to include that in our tour. As you can see in all the other articles, we visited several other cities and places. Several factors play a role; the teams usually have 2 matches a month at home. That is why you don’t have that many options in general. We could have made a visit in Memphis or New Orleans. To us, it was about seeing a football match at all, not a particular team. Tickets in New Orleans were sold out that seems to be a standard thing there. Tickets always sell out quickly. Memphis did not work for us time wise. When we were there, the team had no matches in Memphis, only somewhere else.
Atlanta only worked because we changed something in our tour. We paused an entire day to be in Atlanta on a Sunday.
Atlanta Falcons in Georgia Dome
Atlanta Falcons compete in the NFC South, as well as New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The teams’ stars are quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones. These were also the two jerseys I saw in the audience. The crowds were cheering the most when these two came in (To all Football Nerds: I do not know football very well, I don’t claim to describe everything in here).
The match was in Georgia Dome, Atlanta’s old arena. The new stadium is built right behind it and was still under construction when we were there. It’s supposed to be ready in 2017, the old Georgia Dome will be demolished and more parking space will be built there.
Buying tickets was super-easy. The Atlanta Falcons website directed me to the shop. I could buy these tickets with my credit card und just print them at home. Because these sarenas are so huge, tickets are not that difficult to get. Basketball for example is way more difficult.
Arriving at the Georgia Dome: Party Everywhere at the Parking Area
Just driving close to the Georgia Dome was quite something. We took our rental car and followed the signs in Atlanta to the Dome. That wasn’t a problem at all. Obviously, the closer you get to the stadium, the more the traffic slows down. Moving slowly gave us time to watch everything around us. The atmosphere is really very special: people are basically having a barbecue party in the parking areas. Everyone is in a good mood and happy. Loud music and huge stereos with musical equipment and bass are everywhere. People gather, have a barbecue and listen to music. We were at the stadium very early but everyone was already there. Seems to be a thing to have a pre-party. I only know something like that in Germany when Schumacher was super-popular and people were having these kinds of things at a Formular One race. I cannot say if all these people have a ticket and watch the match or if they just spend time in front of the stadium.
Parking at the Georgia Dome
Parking is easily available, the stadium’s parking area is huge. Parking guides are everywhere. Just follows the car line and you will find a spot. But the fee is 40 dollars! Paying is easy you just give the money to a parking guide at the entrance and get a piece of paper that you put on your dash. As it is the case with big parking areas, everything looks the same. Make sure you remember where you are parked.
Security Check at the Entrance: No-Bag-Policy
One thing that is very unusual for us is the fact that you are not allowed to take any bags with you. This is called No-Bag-Policy. This also means no handbags for the ladies. When I read that on my ticket, I wasn’t sure how strictly this is enforced. I was thinking women do not like to be separated from their handbags. This is a huge difference between the US and Germany: American simply accepts this as a necessary restriction to increase security (or feel you have increased security, depends on your point of view). There is one option to take a handbag into the stadium: every NFL team offers a small, transparent plastic handbag. These bags are allowed. Also, little ZIP plastic bags, similar to the one in the plane. Very small handbags (about the size of a hand) are also possible. Any larger bag like daypacks, rucksacks, seating cushions, camera bags etc. are not allowed. The NFL has a website with all information about this (link below).
I only took my phone and a little compact camera with me (at the beginning in my hand, later in my jacket’s pocket) and left everything else in the car. All pockets (trousers and jackets) need to be empty at the security check and items need to be carried in your hand. Security seemed rather strict to me. I was checked, really checked and security is properly enforced. At a German football match, this is not happening like that. I usually get checked very casually or not at all (not only me, women in general). So that is a huge difference.
Finding you seat in the stadium is not difficult, you can go in anywhere you want and walk an entire round tour in the stadium, if you are at the wrong end. This is again a huge difference to football in Germany where you are just allowed to use the one right entrance and where most of the work goes into keeping different fan groups separately. This was not the case in Atlanta, in that context things were way easier for us.
The stadium only needs one word: huge! 70,000 people fit in and the roof was closed. It wasn’t cool, windy or drafty like a regular German football match.
The Game is About to Start
Now you get to see the cheerleaders and their quite impressive choreographies. With lots of noise (music, fire and confetti) all the players enter. First, the 20 stars of the team, each of them has their name called out and walks in alone. After that the “rest” of the team (about 50 people) walks in all together. All the substitute players (basically most players) sit on benches right in front of the audience. There are no walls, no canopies and no other methods the shelter and protect the players. The players sit on a bench (or stand in front of it) right in front of the audience. Again a main difference to football in Germany.
All the fans make a lot of noise: they cheer, applause, yell and support. But there is no other equipment, no drums, horns, trumpets, vuvuzuelas or whistles. The only thing that is there is a big screen to raise the mood. The wall usually says “rise up” and everyone starts cheering. This is also where the music comes from but it’s all taped music no live music. Samuel L. Jackson is a celebrity who supports the Atlanta Falcons and appears on the screen occasionally. The screen always does something. But it is again an entirely different fan world from everything we have in Germany. A so called fan-culture (as opposed to our football culture) does not exist or means something completely different.
Something is Always Happening
The rules are rather complex, and the game has many breaks. That is not a surprise, everyone who watches football knows that. In these breaks, the TV networks usually show ads, many ads and quiiiiiiite often. In the stadium something is always going on in these breaks. When we were there, many veterans were introduced and honored, awards were given to people, lotteries were held and the host went to different parts of the stadium to have a quiz. Once it even “rained” fanshirts from the roof of the stadium with little parachutes on them. To sum up: something was always going on, we were always kept busy. We were there in November; Veteran’s Day is in November. That is probably why we saw all these veterans, sometimes it’s a different group of people. Anyways, it was never boring.
One thing I saw all the time: the audience always walks around. People go outside, buy pizza, come back in and go back out. Like that the stadium always looks a bit empty, never full or sold-out. In fact, most people are outside waiting in the food line. Screens are everywhere many people watch the match outside on screens. Even in the washroom, screens are everywhere, including every single cabin. Maybe, it’s easier to see what is happening because everything is so complex and the camera always sees more. I have no idea, but it was something I noticed because it was something that is entirely different in Germany. Everyone buys food and goes to the washroom in the halftime break.
Watching a football game in the US is a totally new experience and very fascinating. A German football match looks very different in the TV and the stadium. The same counts for American Football. I’m saying that even though I have little knowledge about football. I could basically follow and that was the most important part. Everything happening around the match is funny and entertaining. Food and Drinks have regular stadium prices, nothing special here.
We did not like to pay 40 dollar for parking, though. It was a bit too much. Coca-Cola has a parking area near its museum, with a 10-dollar-per-day fee. Walking from there to the stadium is possible, that would have been an option. Also talking the subway is possible.
The No-Bag-Policy is something new to us, in particular for women.
The Georgia Dome will soon be demolished and next year, the Atlanta will be hosting the Super Bowl in their new stadium. That’s really crazy! The old stadium was huge and seemed pretty fine to me. But I don’t know why they decided to build a new one.
NFL: No-Bag-Policy: http://www.nfl.com/qs/allclear/index.jsp
Atlanta Falcons: http://www.atlantafalcons.com/
In January 2017 the Atlanta Falcons have, after many years, finally reached the Super Bowl again. The last game in Georgia Dome was the semifinal against Green Bay Packers. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are having and extraordinary season and broke several records. The Georgia Dome has been demolished. All games are now held in the new arena.