RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.
*Written in 2014.
Today was another day where we got to watch an NFL game in London. Sorry, I am just not impressed.
Look at that photo there (*now replaced by an unrelated GIF). That is a photo taken of the crowd at today’s game. Today’s London game was between the Detroit Lions and the Atlanta Falcons. You wouldn’t necessarily know that though by looking at this picture as almost every person is wearing gear from a different team.
I’m not criticizing the Londoners per se but this just feels like a group of people that went out and bought a ticket to see this strange sideshow and out of respect and wanting to embrace the experience, they ran down to the closest sports store that just happened to sell NFL shit and they bought whatever jersey was available in their size. Kind of like when I see some random American person going to watch a soccer match in a bar for the first time in America, only to stop off and buy any random British football a.k.a. soccer shirt that they can find.
The American sports media has a tendency to piss me off. This is really no different, as the idiots in my idiot box love pimping out this NFL in the UK idea. I mean if you watch a game, they spend more time selling the idea of the UK than actually calling the action in the damned game. And why? Well, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has made it no secret that he wants an NFL team in London. This project is an experiment leading to that eventual goal.
I think that goal is a pretty asinine one. As far as I can tell, the British people really don’t give two shits about the National Football League. In fact, most of the ones I have ever met or talked to, hate the fact that Americans call their big barbaric sport “football” and refer to true football as that weird word “soccer”. To every sports-loving Briton that I have met, they love their football. Again, their football. Sure, some may casually watch our football but you aren’t going to get the passion you see at a Chelsea game embody the fans at a Jaguars game.
I use the Jaguars as an example because that is the team that has been most rumored to be the one to eventually relocate to England. Yes, what a gift that Roger Goodell wants to bestow upon the United Kingdom by giving them the worst team in the National Football League! How mighty generous of you, sir!
And while this NFL brand building in the UK is being pushed down the British people’s throats, as well as ours, the league can’t sell them on how awesome the product is if they keep sending them teams like the Jaguars, the Dolphins, the Raiders and the Falcons. At least the Lions and the Cowboys have had good seasons thus far. If you want to sell the game to the Brits though, send them really good match ups. Send them the Broncos and the Seahawks. Hell, just send them a real rivalry game – not just some random match up.
This year they played three games in London. Next season they are expanding it to five. This is ludicrous.
To start, it isn’t fair to the teams that participate. Now, I know that many teams and athletes are game for the adventure and the chance to play in London because it is a new and unique experience but what happens when it is no longer new and unique. Honestly, like the overabundance of outdoor stadium hockey, the novelty will wear off.
And why is it not fair to the participating teams? While like today’s game, the Atlanta Falcons, even though they are on the road in London, were considered the host team and thus, lost one of their eight home games. While the game counts as a home game, they are really playing seven at home and nine on the road, giving them a disadvantage to the other teams in the league. To Detroit, it is just another road game, as had they played in Atlanta, they still would have been on the road and they still get the even eight at home, eight on the road schedule. To a team like Atlanta, who are struggling so far this season, this is a big wrench in the machine that could prevent them from squeaking into the playoffs if they are able to pull a good run together to end their season.
Both teams are also effected by the travel. London is across the ocean. While you could look at an east coast-based team and compare it to a New York team flying to California for a game, it is much further than that to any team not located on America’s eastern shoreline. How long would it take the Seattle Seahawks to get there and once they got there, how tired and jet-lagged would they be?
Now imagine putting a team in London permanently. How tired would the London-based team be after having to travel back and forth to the United States every other week for eight road games over the course of the season? How fair would that be to teams on the west coast of the U.S.? There are several reasons why no professional sports leagues have expanded worldwide. This is probably the biggest of them.
With a schedule like the London team would have to have, who the hell would want to play there? Sure, if a player gets drafted, he doesn’t have much choice but why would he ever re-sign? How would they build a franchise and develop franchise players? Maybe the press should really ask the players about their thoughts on this but ultimately, I can’t see anyone wanting to voluntarily sign-up for this task.
Now imagine if there is a team to pop-up in Hawaii or further out than the west coast. As a team, you’d have to practically fly half way around the world and back to play a hard-hitting game just to rush back home for the next one.
I mean, the NFL could send the London team to America for three or four games in a block and then send them home for three or four, to lessen travel but the point is, they would still be on the road, far from home and not near their own practice facilities. Plus a schedule with big chunks of games at home and away, also isn’t really fair to a London team.
Remember NFL Europe? That shit crashed and burned and the league held on to it for way too long. No one in Europe really supported it and no one cared. And that is the thing. If the United Kingdom really wanted an NFL team, then let’s talk about it. I just don’t see anyone in the UK that really cares, at least not on the level of justifying a team to move there.
Now you could counter and say that the games in London attract more fans than any other American team that isn’t Dallas. While that fact is true, no American stadium other than Dallas is as big as London’s Wembley Stadium. It has the advantage of having more seats. Secondly, games are much rarer there but now that it is expanding to more games per season, it won’t be as unique of an experience as it has been to the British. Thirdly, despite the huge crowds for just one-to-three games per year, the London-based sports press never gives it more than a small blurb in their sports section. Reason being? Because it doesn’t care about the sport en masse. Don’t let the American press and the commentators selling you on the idea fool you. In fact, SB Nation’s Kristi Dosh had a great article about this last season (see here).
You know what they care about in London? They care about football. The kind of football where helmets and pads aren’t required and they aren’t subjected to a Taco Bell or a Bud Light Lime advert every twelve seconds.