After playing 15 games at Wembley Stadium over 10 years, the NFL is moving to a different venue for its International Series. The New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams will take the field at Twickenham Stadium Sunday, leaving many to wonder whether they’ll be facing off in some sort of alternate universe.
Twickenham Stadium sounds like the name of something out of a Quidditch venue in a Harry Potter book, not a place where two NFL teams will actually play.
The truth is, Twickenham Stadium has quite the history. It’s a rugby cathedral that’s been around for over a century and was used as a civil service depot in World War II. It’s like no other stadium the NFL has ever played in before.
Despite its rich past, we keep coming back to the name. What in the world was Twickenham named after, anyway? Here are our best theories (all in good fun, of course):
Twickenham is tied to Stonehenge. Nobody knows how Stonehenge was built. Perhaps Twickenham Stadium is a nod to whichever form of life erected the most mysterious prehistoric sculpture on Earth. The Twickenhams built Stonehenge and then named a rugby stadium before they left. Makes perfect sense. - Alex Reimer
It’s been Great Britain’s leading biscuit maker since 1672. Oi love, fancy a Twickenham? So goes the famous English ad campaign ubiquitous with English life in the 1970s. Fads like the Sex Pistols and World War II came and went, but Twickenham’s stale confection of folded bread has outlasted them all.
The stadium was built in the late 1800s to honor the only biscuit that won’t dissolve in tea. Many of the original girders were actually made of the hard-to-chew pastry. They lasted 76 years before being replaced by steel in 1973. - Christian D’Andrea
Sir Hammy Twickenham, the first pig to be knighted. The line “That’ll do pig” from the 1995 movie Babe was actually adapted from the real life story of Sir Hammy Twickenham, the sheep-pig of southwest London.
In 1832 — when Sir Hammy Twickenham became a better sheep-pig than all of the sheepdogs in the area — he was knighted by King William IV who famously said “That will suffice, swine.” Of course, things had to be made more appealing to an American audience by changing up the language and trimming a name as long as Sir Hammy Twickenham to just Babe. - Adam Stites
A road in Indiana. I used to live in South Bend, and there is a road there named Twyckenham. Spelled a little different, but same pronunciation. One day during a wonderful northern Indiana blizzard, a car ramped up onto a roundabout near Twyckenham they either didn’t see or couldn’t slow down in time for. Regardless, the car landed in the middle of the roundabout on top of a bush, completely stuck. The stadium is probably named as a tribute to the terrible day that person had. The switch from ‘y’ to ‘i’ was because British people are bad at spelling. - Jacob Price
Another road in Indiana. This one was Twickingham in Evansville where my grandpa lived. Twickenham sounds like the way somebody from the south would say “Twickingham” spelled out, so somebody from the southeastern United States probably named it that. Even if that place is older than dirt. - Harry Lyles Jr.
Thaddeus Twickenham, an unfinished Dickens novel. Soon after beloved British writer Charles Dickens died in 1870, his second-oldest daughter found a novel he had started about young Thaddeus Twickenham, whose father sent him away to live in the countryside with his aunt and uncle after his mother died of consumption. Dickens’ family decided not to publish the unfinished work posthumously out of respect for his artistic vision. Years later, the London Evening Standard ran a poll that gave readers the opportunity to name the city’s new rugby stadium.
Dickens was so revered for his literary contributions that the name of the protagonist of his final piece of writing — which the public had never even read — won in a landslide. - Sarah Hardy
That one quaint little town where Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple cleverly solved a mystery. You remember the one. It was the one where she figured out who had committed a murder at a vicarage, or the one where Mrs. McGillicuddy saw something. I don’t know, but Twickenham sounds like it could be the setting for nearly all of Agatha Christie’s mysteries, except for probably A Caribbean Mystery. Twickenham definitely doesn’t sound Caribbean.
Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie is an author with possibly the most British full name ever, and she was named a Dame Commander in the Order of the British Empire, which is also very British. It only makes sense to honor her works, even if subtly, with this nod to what was surely a setting for some of them. - Jeanna Thomas
The two original founders of Twitter. Everyone obviously knows Twitter was founded by Joe Twicker and Ron Mannenham. Two completely real, not made up people. They were originally going to call Twitter Twickenham, combining their last names, but it didn’t do well in focus groups. But, once the two made hundreds of millions in venture capitalist money, they decided to buy the naming rights to a stadium. - Mark Sandritter
Why is the NFL playing here?
The league struck a deal with the Rugby Football Union in 2015 to play three games at Twickenham over the next three years. They also have the option of adding two more.
Twickenham is a historic venue with 82,000 seats that allows the league the expand its presence in the UK, which is really the goal the league has in mind here. Last year, the NFL also reached an agreement with the Tottenham Hotspur to play at least two games per year in their new stadium, starting in 2018. And Wembley Stadium is still in the mix too. The NFL renewed its deal to play at least two games per year through 2020 at Wembley.
Because it’s a rugby field, the NFL believes the grass there is better suited for football.
“Rugby is much more similar to our NFL game because there’s a lot of traction, a lot of grit required in the feet. So I think we’ll find it will play a lot more like a football field than a soccer field. I don’t anticipate any issues with the field at all,” a league official said this week.
At any rate, get your Quidditch gear ready, the NFL is going to be staying at Twickenham for a while.