If Dan Marino and Mark Clayton, the most prolific passing-receiving duo in Dolphin history, wanted to reunite for a game of catch in Hyde Park, they would have to bring their own football.
Pigskins, it seems, are hard to come by here.
In October 2007, Miami lost to the New York Giants in the NFL’s first regular-season game in London, and while the popularity of the game in England is on the rise, buying a football in the British capital is tough.
About three miles northwest of Buckingham Palace is Whiteleys Shopping Centre, a large retail shopping mall. A branch of Sports Direct, a sporting equipment and apparel store, anchors the second floor. The shelves are filled with everything from soccer balls to cricket bats to tennis racquets, but no footballs.
A store employee, who declined to give his name, said finding a football in the city would be “impossible,” but his co-worker disagreed.
“We had one,” he said. “Not one brand, one ball, and I don’t know if we sold it or if we sent it back to the warehouse.”
As part of the NFL-in-London celebration, the city shut down a section of tony Regent Street on Saturday from Piccadilly Circus to Oxford Circus, and the league held a fan festival. There, at a temporary NFL shop, fans could buy four different kinds of footballs, at prices up to 100 pounds, or $134. Within the blocks surrounding the fanfest, a football for sale is hard to find.
Near the Oxford Street entrance, JD Sports, a sports apparel company, was holding an event where fans could meet four Dolphins cheerleaders, but the store had no footballs for sale.
Down the block is a large Nike store. The doors were wide open, and electronic dance music filled the air around the constant stream of people entering. The ground floor was a party-like atmosphere devoted to NFL apparel.
Store associate, Galvin Akambi was holding a mini Nike football. The price: 9 pounds, about $12, but there were no official-sized balls.
“Normally around here, if you want to throw an American football with your friends, you’ll have to order one online,” Akambi said. “American footballs are around when the NFL is here, but when they leave they take the balls with them.”
Leon Valsechi is a student in the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State. The Curley Center is partnering with the Miami Herald to supplement coverage of the Dolphins in London.