On Friday 11th October, the Around the NFL heroes took the stage in an east London basement on their trip to cover the Carolina Panthers Tampa Bay Buccaneers game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Dan Hanzus, Chris Wesseling, Marc Sessler, and Greg Rosenthal have been a core feature of thousands of NFL fan’s weeks for 6 years. With the addition of producer Erica Tamposi, friend of NFL Girl UK, the podcast is going strength to strength. In the words of Marc Sessler, ‘we’re in the business of podcasts, and business is booming’.
In recent years, the Around the NFL podcast has taken hold of international fans. This year, the London show sold out in 30 seconds, and it’s not hard to see why. The podcast format lends itself to sports fans in different time zones. The weekly preview show allows non-North American fans an insight into the valuable matchups worth staying up for. The roundup show provides the perfect Monday commute recap for those who retired to sleep at a reasonable hour. The inside jokes make the show feel like a community.
Community was the feeling in the room at The Curtain as Around the NFL-ers began to show up. London can be an unfriendly place at times but the shared interest in a podcast about an American sport helped break through. Packers fans playfully chided Bears fans at the bar, Titans fans behaved like forever average Titans fans and Redskins fans consoled each other. People shared stories from the week’s games and took pictures together.
When the heroes took the stage, it became apparent this community was more than a shared interest. It felt esoteric. Scattered amongst the game predictions and Greg’s insistence on the importance of Football Outsider’s DVOA rankings was a nuance of reference that everyone in the room felt party to. There was reference to Chris’s toaster from several seasons ago, Dan’s playful self-aggrandisement and Greg’s emo band Delaware. Fans were treated to a guided meditation from Marc’s magical mind and an all too familiar clash between Erica and Greg. For anyone unfamiliar with the podcast, this reads like a chaotic fever dream incompatible with detailed football analysis.
A chaotic fever dream
It’s the personalities that make this chaotic fever dream work. What fans were treated to was a loving group of friends who irritate each other regularly. Chemistry sung through every segment, and laughter rang through the room at every self referential joke and gentle dig.
The heroes stuck around after to get to know the people across the pond whose loyalty sent them to the city in the first place. Questions were asked and answered, jokes were told and photos were taken. These four podcast hosts and their producer were superstars for the night, and it felt right,
International fans seek ways to connect with a sport that is only now starting to recognise their knowledge and passion. The Around the NFL live show allowed fans to not only meet the heroes, but also meet like minded peers also party to the podcast’s jokes. This was more than a live recording: it was a celebration.