The Pythons attempting to break through a strong ARU Siege defence Dik Ng

I can’t say that I ever imagined the first American football match I’d watch would be in a muddy field somewhere in the north of Cambridge on a drizzly Sunday afternoon. Trying to maintain some feeling in my feet and hear anything above the sound of the wind was undeniably different to the images in my head of American college games with full grandstands and roaring crowds.

The game I attended was a big one: Cambridge Pythons versus ARU Siege, a Cambridge derby. This BUCS clash was an important game for both teams, with Siege searching for a win over the Pythons for the first time in their history. Both teams came out firing from the first whistle with high energy all around. However, ARU quickly wrangled control of the game and started to build up their score against a Cambridge side. Their final touchdown of the first half came with only 12 seconds left on the clock, leaving Siege 21-0 up going into the break.

Something that genuinely caught me off guard was the warm-up that the players go through at half-time. It’s obvious to anyone watching just how much of a stop-start game American football is, but it puts it into perspective that even the players who’ve been on the pitch have to undergo such an extensive warm up. It makes complete sense when you consider that many players aren’t even on the pitch for the majority of the match with the separation of the offence and defence. It’s definitely a unique sport in that sense, and one I think would frustrate me to play, being unable to impact an entire half of the game, although you can’t deny benefits to the atmosphere of the game that the extra support from the sidelines enlists.

The person who actually kept the most warm was probably the paramedic who was periodically making quick dashes across the pitch to attend to different injuries on each bench. Obviously I knew there was heavy hitting involved with American football, but I thought the extensive safety equipment worn in comparison to something like rugby might have more of an effect at reducing the number of injuries. I could see a variety of tenderly held shoulders, knees and wrists throughout, and that’s not even considering the possible concussions. Thankfully it appeared that nothing too serious occurred in this match, but I can certainly see how it would.

The tactics of the game is one of the aspects I find most interesting, as it requires many more exhaustively well-rehearsed set plays than many other sports. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many clipboards on the side of a sports game, but my favourite addition was definitely the whiteboard that had been lugged along. How well-drilled the Pythons were was perfectly demonstrated when shouts of “If you’re green, you’re on” had a group of players donning their helmets and jogging back onto the pitch without a second thought whilst others looked on completely unfazed. Although I already knew this from the very small snippets of NFL I’ve seen, the amount of communication between the coaches and players during the game was still quite shocking, with the start of each down seeing the implementation of a new strategy as instructed by the coaches.


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Unfortunately for the Pythons, the game ended in disappointment. With a final score of 27-0 making it a win for Siege, the Pythons’ game could probably be summed up by one Cambridge player tackling another within the dying minutes of the game. The Pythons put up an admirable display of defence in the second half, forcing many errors from ARU and stalling them at almost every opportunity, but ultimately a series of incomplete passes and fumbles meant the offence never really got their footing in the game.

Despite the unfortunate result on the day, I was pleasantly surprised by just how much I enjoyed the game, despite how stop-start it is, but I don’t think it’ll ever compare to the better version of football.