From Wembley: Falcons, Lions and Freddie Mercury

The rebuilt Wembley is beautiful, I must say. (M. Bradley)

The rebuilt Wembley is beautiful, I must say. (M. Bradley)

The rebuilt Wembley is beautiful, I must say. (M. Bradley)

London — The massive stadium isn’t the same as it was, having been renovated from 2002 through 2007, but it still carries the magic name. To walk into Wembley is to feel the weight of history, and not just sporting history.

As much as I admire the English brand of football, the first name that springs to mind when I think of Wembley isn’t Geoff Hurst (who scored a hat trick, sort of, in England’s 4-2 victory over West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final), or Paul Gascoigne (the most gifted English footballer of his generation who scored a wonder goal off a free kick against Arsenal in the 1991 FA Cup semifinal and then wrecked his knee attempting a silly tackle in the final), or Gareth Southgate (the unfortunate defender whose lot it was to miss his penalty against West Germany in the Euro 1996 semi).

For me, the name that defines Wembley is Freddie Mercury.

I wasn’t much of a Queen fan. (I own exactly one of their albums, that on vinyl.) When the band took the Wembley stage on July 13, 1985 — it was the day of Live Aid, also ongoing at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia — I expected not very much. (U2 had provided the highlight to that point with an epic version of “Bad,” and this was the young and hungry U2, as opposed to the preening world-domination crew we see today.) In those 21 minutes of Queen, I saw — and if you saw it, you know what I mean — the most powerful musical performance ever televised.

Queen started with a shortish version of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a song I’ve never liked, and then barreled into “Radio Ga Ga.” And that’s when everything changed. One little man in sneakers and jeans and a white tank top took hold of the 80,000 folks in Wembley and the millions viewing worldwide and showed us how forceful this crazy little thing called rock can be.

The low-camera views from the back of the stadium were astonishing. Mercury was singing and leading the crowd in the double handclaps of “Radio Ga Ga,” and every pair of hands was raised overhead and clapping bang on cue. It was, and this isn’t a word I use lightly, an awesome sight.

By the end of the 21 minutes — the closers were “We Will Rock You” followed by “We Are The Champions,” naturally — the star-spangled Live Aid had been stolen by Queen. Led Zeppelin reformed for the day and played out of tune. Bob Dylan closed the American portion being accompanied by Rolling Stones Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, and the three were clearly soused. I would never have believed before that day that if there’d be one musical performance I’d watch over and over — and I have, many times — it would have involved Freddie Mercury and Queen, but that’s how it is. On that day and to this day, they were the champions of the world.

The greatest sporting moment this famous stadium has seen came on July 30, 1996. England beat West Germany in extra time to give the nation that considers itself the cradle of football (their kind) its only World Cup, though the Germans have always smelled a rat. Hurst’s second goal — the eventual winner — smacked off the crossbar and crashed down on the goal line. Soccer rules maintain that for a goal to be scored, all the ball must cross all the line. The Germans insisted that it hadn’t, and — decades later — modern technology would prove them correct.

There was no replay review in 1966. The referee consulted linesman Tofiq Bakramov, who would be known forever as “the Russian linesman.” (Technically he was from Azerbaijan.) Bakramov emphatically OK’ed the goal. In one of those too-good-to-be-true stories, it’s said that he was asked on his deathbed how he knew the goal was good. “Stalingrad,” he’s alleged to have responded.

Soon would follow the English version of “The Giants win the pennant!” from the British commentator Kenneth Wostenholme, whose description of the game’s final seconds went: “Some people (meaning fans) are on the pitch. They think it’s all over.” At that moment, Hurst scored again with the last kick of the match, prompting Wostenholme to say: “It is now!”

OK, I apologize for all this history. You probably want to know about the Falcons, who play the Lions.. (Here’s what I know: The Falcons need to win if they’re to make anything of the season, but the Lions would appear the better team.) But to me, the setting is bigger than the game. It’s a treat to be in a place where so much history has been made, and the Birds make a bit of their own today, so much the better.

With that, the figurative floor is again open. I’ll check back periodically, and I welcome your company. And I thank you, as ever, in advance.

Reader Comments 0

1106 comments
RobbE33
RobbE33

At this point, Falcon posts are painful. I could read these all day. Thanks, Mark.

MaybeMaybeNot
MaybeMaybeNot

The Falcons and Arthur Blank should just move the team to London and have the city of Atlanta be done with them.

ATL and LA can start over fresh with a brand new expansion teams.

joe jr 3
joe jr 3

I didn't like what Arthur did to Dan Reeves….at that time I felt it was dumb move. Hell the man took the birds to the Super Bowl! Arthur needs someone who know football talent as a GM, Dan will be a great choice.

gulfwavesgary
gulfwavesgary

I really wonder if Mike Smith was paid off by throwing away 1:14 at the end of the first, then losing by 1. The worst I have seen ever under Mike Smith. I now believe that a change at GM and COACH is required.

ZanesMule
ZanesMule

when his new stadium starts up, arthur will making more millions than ever.  He's consider renaming the team the atlanta chumps for all the fans that keep buying his stuff!!!  He "appreciates" it!!

Wallylake
Wallylake

Who is going to watch the falcons at their new stadium?  I'm not.  I guess Mr. Blank needs to get serious about getting a new team.  He needs to get rid of the whole coaching staff.  Plus he needs to get rid of Matt Ryan.  Ever since Ryan got his big raise last year, he is playing like a big coward.  He is afraid to run, he gets a little pressure and he freezes.  He isn't the only quarterback in the league that gets pressure. He thinks he is beyond all the other players. 

RickDDay
RickDDay

@Wallylake Not me, I've already surrendered tow of my 4 season tickets and as soon as the lease ends on the last game the Falcons play in the Perfectly Good Georgia Dome I am giving up my last two. I bought my season tickets in 2002, and slowly over time, the experience has gotten more expensive and the team just 'can't get over' the Big Game.


I'm tired of bitching and filling out team surveys because they won't listen and they are only going to get worse.


Atlanta is too transient a city to have a home base when the UGA and GT fans dominate the fan dollar in Georgia. That last home game had over half the Dome filled with screaming Bears fans.


So yea, I'm over it too, even if they were winning. Just not enough return on the entertainment dollar.

Hayseed_Dixie
Hayseed_Dixie

@zuzu331 "people's Idea of History is soccer games and people singing songs on a stage."


Yes, because history should solely be about lottery-lucky megalomaniacs amassing armies of the poor to massacre other armies of the poor. 


It should never be about unprecedented displays of culture. 


"Europeans laugh at us,and with good reason."


You know what, any Euro that laughs at America (and most are envious) needs a reality check.   We've taken nearly everything they've done and done it better.   


Hey- Delta's ready when you are. 


Red-Dog
Red-Dog

We could have gotten Payton Manning awhile back...Kept our good defensive players unloaded some fluff , but then we are Atlanta and just like MARTA train routes we don't make much sense.

ZanesMule
ZanesMule

@Red-Dog payton wouldn't live in atlanta---not his thing.  He likes progressive cities.

RickDDay
RickDDay

@Red-Dog as of this moment, Ryan is the #4 rated QB in the league and Manning is a slight better at #3. The one stat that spells the difference is 15 vs 8. That is the number of sacks each QB has to endure.


You are not going to get any better production out of anyone else except Rivers and Luck. Even Brees is ranked 7th in QBs.


What does not make sense is your insistence we can Ryan. For who. Vick?


Graham, Greene, Megatron, Ball, Bradford, Spiller, J. Jones, B. Marshall,  and a slew of other NFL 'studs' are severely underperforming and/or are injured. Ryan is doing yeoman's work considering what he has as weapons and protection for the past 2 seasons.


I'll take Ryan over Manning any day. The way the OLine plays, Manning would have not lasted past game 6 last year before ending his career in injury.


Nah, Ryan is fine, albeit rattled. He gets hit hard a lot.

zuzu331
zuzu331

@RickDDay @Red-Dog RickD,Matt Ryan deserves a medal. I dont think there are many QBs in the League who could do this well,with so little. Lets hope he gets some consistent weapons to work with and a decent OL to work behind,sometime in the future,and that he can stay healthy.

TomGaff
TomGaff

I personally think it started when they chose to get rid of Clabo and Harvey Dahl(bad boys), don't even remember who the QB was back then. Paying all your big money to the QB's and skill guys(WR) seems to have been a bad move. Trading 5 picks for a rookie WR(Jones) who seems to stay IR a lotis not working out.Getting guys like Osi, Edwards & Jackson(who look like Tarzan but play like Jane) is not working out?

zuzu331
zuzu331

@TomGaff Agreed on Dahl and Clabo. They have been sorely missed. It is funny how many people dont understand that football is a simple game about blocking and tackling,moving the Line Of Scrimmage,or stopping said movement as a TEAM.  Its not funny that the guys running the Falcons dont understand it either.

ljax
ljax

What should happen is that Matt Ryan should be traded. Falcons can take the 100 plus million they are paying him and go find some defensive players with that money.  If you cannot win then you don't need such a high priced quarterback.  

2dawgs
2dawgs

@ljax Might help if he had an offensive line, they could not block a high school team.

HaiL_Trump!
HaiL_Trump!

N E 1 esle thing the Flacons shuld hire Jimy Jonson 4 the head caoch?

HaiL_Trump!
HaiL_Trump!

Queen wSA 1 of my favrites untill I found out he was a gay. I burned all the records and tapes 

ZanesMule
ZanesMule

ATL should tank it the rest of the year to get the #1 or #2 draft pick.  oakland, tampa and jacksonville really suck too, so it will take a lot of losses to get that pick.  Arthur needs to strategize!

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

@WhereDaMoney I am beginning to think that Matt got ill at the decision to puss out at the half and tanked the game............Smitty has lost this team.........Art, wake up!

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

Panthers leading the south at 3-4-1

maxmess
maxmess

Excellent article.

One correction though, "The greatest sporting moment this famous stadium has seen came on July 30, 1996." 

The year should be 1966.


Cheers

doktrt
doktrt

Falcons of old. Probably lose the next 3 or 4 then start our drive to screw up the draft position.

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

@Flacons_go_2-14 @doktrt Flacon or Vulcan or what ever the he!! they are called on the Enterprise..........tell that Captain Kirk i don't give a rat's A$$ if he is remodeling his house.

etherdome
etherdome

I was lucky enough to see Queen perform quite a few times in Atlanta.  Mercury was a heck of a performer.  


Of course, that has nothing to do with this miserable team.  It has nothing to do with this poor excuse for a newspaper.  And, it has nothing to do with present-day Wembly stadium.  


Lazy writing.  Enjoy your vacation.  

RickDDay
RickDDay

@etherdome What does Freddie Mercury and the 2014 Falcons super bowl ambitions have in common?

RTS123
RTS123

I knew the Falcons were going to loose when Mike Smith played it conservative on the last possesion of the 1st half with over a minute left and 2 TO . Falcons pick up 6 yards on the first play and they are about to go no huddle and all of a sudden he slows them down. The Falcons offense was never the same after that. I bet Mike Smith wish he had the that time back. Funny how Detroit had a little more time than that at the end of the game and NO timeouts and they get a winning field goal. Time for Smith and Dimotrof to go. NOW AUTHOR!!!!!!!!!!

Boxtradamus
Boxtradamus

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, had Freddie Mercury just liked woman, he would still be with us!!!

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

@Boxtradamus In fact Box.....i think i read where FM was Bi-sexual.........you might look into that.......would double your chance of not having a date on the weekend.

Grant1296
Grant1296

@gtcaryd Why bring up Dawgs gt??? See nothing in that moron's posts that make him a Dawg...Could be a Techie for all you know...

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

@Grant1296 @gtcaryd 96, i might have him confused with another moron........if so, i retract the dawg reference......for now....you back in MN 96?

Grant1296
Grant1296

@gtcaryd Nope Home...Heading to J ville in the am... Not for the game...work...

Grant1296
Grant1296

@gtcaryd Not really...gotta do what ya gotta do...4 or 5 more years it's over...Glad this time it's Fla not somewhere up north..

Grant1296
Grant1296

@gtcaryd If it's Vegas, LA. or Miami not so bad....Boomington MN or somewhere in Jersy not so good.

RickDDay
RickDDay

@Bigdrew IF I was stupid enough to have a Facebook Page I would like that heartbeat~

DaBigMotor
DaBigMotor

"The massive stadium isn’t the same as it was, having been renovated from 2002 through 2007."

This is 100% INCORRECT.


Wembley Stadium was not "renovated." IT WAS COMPLETELY DEMOLISHED THEN REBUILT.


An example of lazy journalistic research. If the reported loves the place so much, he should know that. 


He should be embarrassed. 

Fansince66
Fansince66

@DaBigMotor What do you expect from the same rag that has that bow-tie wearing dude as the Falcons beat reporter? Spell-check????Fact check???? What's that?