This weekend we will see the now annual return of a depressing trend in the NFL. (No, this has nothing to do with domestic violence stories.) Tomorrow at 1 o’clock eastern time, the Miami Dolphins will face off with the Oakland Raiders. Now, this game is probably depressing enough for most watchers of the AFC, but that’s not the point of contention here. The game is taking place at Wembley Stadium in London, and two more games hosted there are to follow. (And that’s not all the bad news.)
Bigger and better than before — that’s the promise as the NFL International Series returns to London this weekend, and hopes are rising that Britain will one day have its own permanent franchise.
Wembley Stadium will host American football’s overseas showpiece for the eighth year running and, for the first time, the home of English soccer will welcome three regular-season games, spread over the next six weeks.
Building on the two games it held last year and the one it hosted initially, overseas fans will get a rare glimpse of the United States’ most popular sport.
Look, I understand the appeal of these games from the view of the league. More eyeballs equals more revenue… it’s really as simple as that. So getting the Brits interested in actual football (as opposed to futbol) makes good business sense. And if they can get more Brits watching the games on television – or perhaps even spending their tourism dollars to fly over here and watch them live – that’s great. But sending our teams over to England to play as some sort of marketing gimmick? No. Just no. Let’s end this insanity before it gets out of control.
At most we should only allow for preseason games to be played there, as we did previously. The NFL is competitive enough – in most cases – without the added stress on the teams of traveling. There is already evidence that east and west coast teams traveling for games impacts their performance, not only for the travel week but for the following one as well. And that’s only flying three time zones away. Going across the Atlantic to play a regular season game is insane.
Even worse is the discussion of allowing the Brits to have their own franchise. In that case it wouldn’t simply be one or three dog and pony shows at Wembley to raise a few more advertising dollars for the league. We would see teams flying to Heathrow for eight of the sixteen weeks of the regular season. And should the London Spotted Dicks (or whatever they end up naming themselves) actually wind up making the playoffs in a top seeded spot, we’d have bleary, jet lagged divisional champions getting off the plane and fighting to determine who goes to the Superbowl. I’d sooner see a couple of teams in Canada, as baseball does, before doing this. At least the Canadians have some sense of what football is supposed to be (if they could just get the field size right).
But London? This way lies madness. And both the fans and the players should let the league know that.this has gone far enough.