KNBR radio host and 49ers sideline reporter Rod Brooks has been through it all, making him an expert on the subject of life on the road. After each road game this season, Brooks will fill 49ers fans in on what his life on the road is really like in his “On the Road with Rod,” column exclusively on 49ers.com.
I’ve been involved with NFL in different capacities for more than 15 yards now, and I’m still amazed how an NFL team packs itself up and goes on a road trip. There are so many people involved and so much stuff; whether it’s a one-day road trip or if it’s across the country, there’s a ton that goes into it. So to be able to pull off an 11-day intercontinental road trip is a mind-blowing undertaking. So many people had to put in a lot of hours to make it work.
And what can I say about my week in London? It was absolutely unbelievable – the best trip I’ve ever been on in my life. I’ve never traveled with such ease and comfort, so I would like to thank the 49ers logistics team, Steve Risser and Pat McGrath. That was a first-class trip all the way around.
Some other people who will sly under the radar for all their hard work is team equipment manager Steve Urbaniak and his guys. They did a ton of packing and preparing. Those guys put in as much work as anybody; they got all the equipment the team needed for practice and the game over there, and that’s a lot of equipment.
All I had to do was show up and talk, but what those guys did is extremely impressive. They are professionals who are good at their job.
As a sideline reporter at every NFL stadium I’ve been to, I have had access to everywhere on the field. Wherever the first-down marker is that’s where I stand. But due to security reasons at Wembley Stadium, I had to stay close to the bench. Although I wasn’t as close to the action as usual, being by the bench I got a better feel for the players’ emotions. I got a sense of how much the big plays were sparking the team. Those guys were getting pumped up and they responded well to them.
Overall, the team just had a good energy about it and even through that sluggish first half they never got down. That was a great team win.
Throughout the trip I was staying in downtown London, and when we first got there I was definitely jet lagged. Even though we had been in Charlotte for a few days, my body was still on California time. So when we landed in London at about 9 a.m. their time I was very thrown off. I felt like it should have been the middle of the night, but it was bright out, people were driving on the wrong side of the road, I didn’t know what was going on.
Before this trip I had never been to Europe and I was amazed by what I saw. One thing that really stood out was how many different people and cultures there are. One day I went down to Oxford Street which is a big shopping district, and within a two-block walk I heard English, American English, African dialects, German, French and several Asian dialects all being spoken. To me, that was just amazing.
Another thing that struck me was all the history London had to offer. Some people think the United States is old, but we’re just babies in the world compared to a country like England. I went to some the museums they had there, and those were some of the most amazing experiences of my life. Big Ben is a true marvel. Walking through Hyde Park was incredible. The history, combined with the people, made for a great experience.
The people over there were very excited about the game too. Wembley Stadium is huge, it holds about 84,000, and the game sold out in one day. And these people weren’t just going to go see an American football game, they knew a lot about the 49ers. I talked to people throughout the week and they know the players, they know the coaches and they know the ins and outs of football. I was impressed.
While I was there I had a chance to go to an English football game, or as we call it, soccer. One thing that struck me was how different the fan experience is between American sports and English sports. They don’t pump in noise to the stadium. They don’t have mascots and cheerleaders. They don’t sing “God Save the Queen” before the game begins. They don’t have t-shirt cannons. They don’t have jumbotrons telling you when to clap.
With that in mind, I was a little bit nervous when I showed up at Wembley Stadium on Sunday and I could tell they were going to have all of those things. I wasn’t sure how the English fans would respond. As usual, I was wrong. Those fans were great. They responded to the pyrotechnics, they sang along to “God Save the Queen” before the game, and they cheered when the screen said to. They also cheered really loud when the scoreboard showed highlights of the Cowboys losing. It was great to see.
That showed me that American football is not just some oddity to the British people. They genuinely enjoy it and they get it. They cheered for good plays and first downs. They responded to the big hits. They went wild for touchdowns. It was just great to see that.
In a place where they call an elevator a lift, a bathroom a loo, and a friend a mate, even in that place, they love the same game that I love. I agree with what linebacker