Nothing, however, can compare to what they’ll experience this week, when the Giants and Dolphins will become the first NFL franchises to cross the pond for a regular-season game. The Giants and Dolphins, who were chosen to play this game due to their significant fan bases in Great Britain, will meet Sunday afternoon at 90,000-seat Wembley Stadium in London for the first regular-season game played outside of North America in league history. The Cardinals and 49ers played an October 2005 game in Mexico City, the first NFL game played outside the United States.
Now the Giants must brace themselves for a seven-hour flight, a difficult five-hour time difference and the unusual challenges that come with practicing at a foreign facility for a game that’ll be played before foreign, unfamiliar fans.
“I think it’ll be a new experience for a lot of people (on the team),” kicker Lawrence Tynes said. “Obviously they’ll be wigging out whenever we get there and we’re driving on the other side of the road. That’ll be a big change. The food is obviously going to change. But I think it’ll be a good experience.”
Tynes is one of only two Giants who can truly speak from experience.
The Giants’ new kicker was born in Greenock, Scotland, the son of a career Navy man who married a woman from Scotland. Tynes lived in Campbeltown, about a three-hour drive southwest of Glasgow, and visited London several times when he was a child. He moved to Milton, Fla., near Pensacola, when he was 10, but he spent three more months in Great Britain as a member of NFL Europe’s Scottish Claymores in 2002.
Tynes typically received most of the players’ tickets for Claymores home games because he had so many relatives living in Glasgow at the time. He expects extra tickets for Sunday’s game, too, despite that the Dolphins are technically the home team and that Glasgow is at least a 12-hour drive from London. But even he’ll need to adjust to the time difference, which will change from five hours Friday and Saturday to four hours early Sunday morning in accordance with the end of daylight savings time in England.
Daylight savings time won’t end until Nov. 4 in the United States, thus the Giants-Miami game is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. local time, and 1 p.m. EDT. It will be broadcast live here on FOX and live in the United Kingdom on Sky Sports, England’s ESPN equivalent.
If any of the Giants lose track of time while they’re there, they can always count on that legendary landmark Tynes is certain even those who’ve never traveled to England will recognize.
“Everyone knows Big Ben and Parliament and all that stuff,” Tynes said. “Guys will definitely kind of be in awe of it for a little bit. Then, obviously, we have to get ready for a game on Sunday. It’s a tough travel schedule. It’ll be a lot different. I think the time change is (five) hours. That’s the big part. Here, it’s three hours (for West Coast games). That’s not bad. You can manage that. But this is (five) hours and you’re in a foreign environment, so it’ll definitely be different.”
The Giants are scheduled to fly to Heathrow International Airport on Thursday night, a day earlier than they would fly to the West Coast for a game. They are expected to land in London at 6 a.m. local time Friday (1 a.m. EDT). Then they’ll practice at the famed Chelsea soccer club’s facilities at 12:30 p.m. on Friday (7:30 a.m. EDT) and will hold a walk-through Saturday afternoon at Wembley Stadium, London’s brand new, state-of-the art venue, which cost $1.57 billion to build before opening earlier this year.
For cornerback Sam Madison, the unprecedented trip represents his first game against his former team since signing a four-year, $7.4 million deal with the Giants in March 2006. But it’ll also mark a family reunion of sorts for his wife, Saskia. She lived in England until she was 7, and her grandmother, uncle and cousins still reside in the London area.
Madison is interested, too, to see how his second family responds to this unconventional venture.
“It’s another opportunity to push our football team to another limit, to another level, to see if we can handle the ups and the downs of traveling and being on the road,” Madison said. “But it’s part of this business. How well do you prepare, with adversity, being that you’re going to play on foreign soil? And being that you’re going (five) hours ahead, instead of (three) hours back?”
Defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who was born in London, believes the Giants will react well to the trip, as will the fans that’ll pack Wembley Stadium.
“It’s going to be crazy out there, man,” said Umenyiora, who at age 7 moved from London to Nigeria, where he also lived for seven years prior to moving to the United States. “I know how they are about their sports. Even though it’s an American football game, they’re not going to take it lightly. They’re going to be out there in full force.”
Umenyiora concedes, though, that the British are much more passionate about their brand of football. So he doesn’t expect the Giants to encounter much antagonism during the game, even though this will technically be their fourth road game of the season.
“I’m not sure if they truly understand the game of American football,” Umenyiora said. “They’re going to be rooting for both sides. Nobody’s going to really have a homefield advantage there, because no one is really at home.”
Most of the Giants don’t care if they’re the fan favorites in London, as long as they come home with a win entering their bye week. If they indeed defeat the Dolphins, the Giants will have to wait a little longer to take part in any personal post-victory traditions because they won’t return to New Jersey until early Tuesday morning. They usually leave cities within three hours after road games end, but they are scheduled to address the press Monday afternoon in London.
“I’m looking forward to it,” left tackle David Diehl said. “I think playing in Wembley Stadium is going to be awesome. It’s an amazing place. I think that’s going to be an exciting thing. But I think the most important thing is going to be going there and winning a football game.”