By Ray Hamill
The Brits apparently aren’t all that fussy when it comes to America’s version of football, and much like a cricket highlight on SportsCenter, they seem quite happy just to be included.
How else do you explain a Jacksonville Jaguars game selling out?
Or Christian Ponder being received as a real live sports hero?
Or people wearing a Chad Henne jersey in public (or even owning one for that matter)?
But they’re the sort of weird things that happen when football crosses the pond, and this Sunday marks the second of two NFL games to be played at Wembley Stadium this season (the eighth in seven years), as the league looks to build on the growing interest in the sport within the British Isles, and Roger Goodell looks to further enhance his personal agenda of one day becoming commissioner of the universe.
You see, it doesn’t matter which teams we send to London, the Brits will lap it up with the childlike enthusiasm of a Cleveland sports fan living in The World Of Pure Imagination, jumping at the chance to see such a “glamorous” game from the other side of the world played live and in person, not to mention the cheerleaders.
The fact is we could send over the Pro Bowl, and to the scone lovers of the world it would be an exciting occasion and an opportunity to relax that stiff upper lip.
In the eight-game history of the NFL in London, only five teams with winning records have made the trip, along with exactly five winless teams (three this year alone) and squads with a total combined record of 37-64.
But that doesn’t matter to the Brits, who are selling out almost 85,000 seats in a matter of hours, and showing up half a million strong for block-parties with the teams, with fans of all NFL teams jumping at the opportunity to see any NFL team.
All of which means plenty of financial opportunities for the league and its owners, who won’t be happy until they have officially accumulated all the money in the sports world (and probably not even then).
And because of that, no matter how much the players or coaches may complain about it all, and no matter how apathetic fans here may feel about it, the concept of the NFL in London isn’t going to disappear.
In fact, it’s going to expand, and even considering the fact that the city of Los Angeles is now in its 19th consecutive season without an NFL team, Goodell has already announced plans to hold three games in London next year, with abundant talk of housing a team there permanently and even the possibility of holding a Super Bowl there.
Personally, I have no problem with a game (or two) played in London every year. It’s an inevitable part of the evolution of a global sports market, and not that different to talk of the English Premier League playing competitive games outside of Britain (although that’s still just talk).
But the Super Bowl?
Do you think the Brits would hold Prince George’s christening in Vegas?
Seriously Roger old bean, when I hear you say things like that I have to wonder if you really have the fans’ best interest at heart, or if you haven’t consumed one too many warm ales with your bangers and mash, because it makes you sound like a complete bloody wanker.
Global expansion for the love of a buck – eh, I mean, English pound – is one thing, but Goodell needs to remember what fans made the NFL the most dominant force in American sports, and why football is more than a religion in this country.
Don’t sell out the fans on this side of the pond just to take advantage of some on the far side.
The idea of holding a Super Bowl in London, or anywhere outside of the United States, is ludicrous.