Sunday 7th February 2010…what a day for American Football. Not only did the Saints overcome the Colts, but I was fortunate to attend a tightly fought encounter between the Nottingham University Outlaws and our ex-polytechnic friends, the Nottingham Trent Renegades. The end result was a modest 14-6 to the Renegades perhaps reflected the run of play, although both sides’ performances were somewhat overshadowed by James Beaumont, arguably the star of the Outlaws side.
Harvey Hadden stadium was the venue for this spectacle, which saw an array of big hits, referee’s flags and cheerleading mishaps. With our vast knowledge minimally supplemented by the contemporary bible that is Wikipedia, we were pleasantly surprised with the bustling atmosphere and responsive crowd, all eager to get behind their side in the opening fixture. Frequent ‘DEFENSE’ and ‘OFFENSE’ chants were the order of the day, with interludes of shocking American soft rock including the old favourite You’re Unbelievable by EMF. The cheerleading exhibition at the half time interval added enormous entertainment value to the day, encouraging the crowd to throw all they could behind the teams. Both teams of cheerleaders had clearly dedicated an enormous amount of time to their routines; if I may dare to be momentarily scathing I could perhaps speculate that Trent had dedicated the odd extra hour to practice here and there. The choreography worked a treat as each side performed to a complex array of fashionable music.
The game itself began brightly with the majority of the points scored at the start of the match. With 11 players taking the field at any one time, my creative mentor Tom Alnutt noted that the rosters contained a whopping 46 players! Big hits by James ‘Bo’ Beaumont throughout the game were a personal highlight and representative of the Outlaws tactics. This strong defence, comparable only to the walls of Babylon stifled any potential Renegade breakaway, ensuring that when it came down to the final minutes, there was still the potential to salvage a draw. With two minutes left of the game and the score still at 14-6 the Outlaws secured the ball from a Renegade fumble; hope remained for the Outlaws support. This fumble presented a golden opportunity for the University, however, then struck the ill discipline that had stifled any Outlaw’s progress throughout the match. The ball was lost and a penalty given by the referee, which symbolically ended any Outlaw hope of a draw. The post match pleasantries were concluded with an abundance of gentlemanly hand shaking, photos and a medal ceremony that was pleasing to witness after the brutal nature of the match.
It would be easy to be negative for the future of American Football at Nottingham, however, the score does not reflect what was a sustained period of tightly contested match play. Both sides showed glimpses of what they were capable of, had there been better conditions or officials that allowed a degree of fluidity. With the proceeds going to charity and a good day had by all, let us hope that unlike Dwain Chambers’s flirt with NFL Europe, this fixture remains.