While it’s largely looked like pipe dreams or rumors in the past, the increased pressure to hold more games in London has observers wondering if the NFL is close to pulling the trigger and actually putting a franchise in London. This looming disaster in the making was reported on at the Washington Post earlier this week with a decidedly pro-Goodell spin on it.
“I’ve got my rugby and soccer teams,” said [Joe Vincent] the 34-year-old police officer, whose native Wales is chock-full of both with nary a shoulder-pad-clad crew in sight. “I just happen to think American football is the most exciting sport there is.”
Until recently, that would have been heresy, punishable by long nights of (mostly) good-natured shaming at the nearest pub.
But no more. Football has taken root here, so much so that the idea of a London-based franchise — long dangled by the NFL, long deemed a fantasy — is looking more realistic than ever.
In the past I’d have written this off as simply more hype to drive headlines and keep the league in the news during the off season. But at this point there’s been so much tinkering with the schedule going on, extra game days added and a host of cash cow schemes launched by the NFL Network that I no longer put it past them. This is a horrible idea on so many levels that it’s difficult to believe that we’re seriously contemplating the possibility. Yes, it would earn more money for the league, but what would it do to the sport? We had a trio of games in London this season and while the Brits may have enjoyed a day out at the stadium to marvel at actual football (instead of kickball) it does little for the actual teams other than infuse them with jet lag.
What other major sports league does this? You don’t see any NBA teams in France, nor are there Major League Baseball franchises in Japan, despite how much the Japanese are gaga over the sport. (Yes, we have some in Canada, but that’s basically overflow parking for the United States to begin with and they’re in the same time zone with many American teams.)
The author poo poos the excessive flying time argument by going on to argue that the travel issue shouldn’t be such a big deal. After all, look at the Seahawks and the Colts.
The Seahawks are probably the most-traveled team currently, and they obviously can be competitive. It’s probably the only question that we need to answer.”
Teams that play games in London now are generally given weeks off afterward. But this season, the Indianapolis Colts played a home game one week after playing in London — and won.
Those are two sketchy examples to pick if you ask me. First of all, the Seahawks travel – at most – three time zones to play on the east coast, not all the way across the ocean. And they are a team with a powerhouse defense which can make up for a lot of adversity when they’re firing on all cylinders. As for the Colts, yes. It’s true that they played a game in London and then came back to win a home game the following week. But let’s recall that the team they lost to in England was the (now) 2-5, AFC south basement dwelling Jaguars (who themselves are only one game behind the sub .500 Colts), and the team they returned home to beat was the (now) 1-6, NFC south last place Bears. These aren’t exactly Clash of the Titans style matchups which test a team’s mettle at the edge of the envelope.
If you put a franchise in London the ripple effects will be enormous. First of all, that team will be traveling across the ocean and back for eight of their sixteen games. And that means that eight of the rest of the teams will be doing the same thing over the entire regular season. This leaves us with 25 teams (if we add two in the London expansion as expected) who will never suffer that handicap. That’s not a level playing field, figuratively speaking.
What if one team in a tie for first place in week 17 (and an assured berth in the playoffs) has to face their rival in an away match seven days after flying back from London. Is that fair? And what if, by some miracle, the new London team makes it to the playoffs with home field advantage? Everyone else who faces them in the post-season will have to fly to England to play them?
This is madness. Roger Goodell needs to come to his senses and nip this thing in the bud. The NFL is taking enough hits these days and seeing its popularity sag. We don’t need yet another excuse to be depressed over the greatest sport on the planet.