London’s Calling? Hopefully Not for a Super Bowl


Jul 10, 2009

London’s calling, but there is a clash of interest.

With the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers set to play at Wembley Stadium in London, England on Oct. 25, it’s worth looking into the NFL’s true intentions while scheduling a game there for the third consecutive season.

Commissioner Roger Goodell and all of the parties involved maintain they’re just trying to develop a worldwide interest in their product, which is all well and good. But there are whispers and reports indicating Goodell has been exploring the possibility of playing the Super Bowl outside of the States.

Now war is declared, and battle come down.

Don’t even think about acting on that idea, Sir Roger. Sure, you’ve used some extreme measures since becoming the NFL’s leading man. Hey, you want to suspend the league’s criminals? Go ahead. Even expel them if you’d like. Leave your mark as the commissioner who descended straight from the Wild West, a no-nonsense gunslinger who doesn’t tolerate the slightest of ill judgments.

Just don’t be the guy who alienates an American fan base that has helped transform the NFL into the nation’s most exciting team sport. Sure, baseball will always be America’s pastime, but football has become America’s game. And the Super Bowl creates a beautiful holiday that unites this country — even the world — for perhaps the biggest party of the year.

The Super Bowl is locked in for the next four seasons, so the earliest this could happen is 2014, if, of course, it happens at all.

London calling to the imitation zone. Forget it brother, you can go at it alone.

I’m not saying the sport would die in America if Goodell makes such an atrocious decision. After all, the game is too great, and the fans are too loyal. New Englanders won’t stop rooting for the Patriots if they — or any AFC team, for that matter — qualifies for an overseas Super Bowl. But still, there is no reason for Goodell to figuratively spit on his customers.

Does anyone really think the Champions League would take the risk of scheduling its final on American soil? Of course not, because it wouldn’t want to upset its most loyal fan bases, especially the followers of Manchester United, possibly the most popular sports franchise on the planet.

London calling, and I don’t wanna shout. But while we were talking, I saw you nodding out.

Furthermore, what case has European football — the American kind, not soccer, if that makes any sense — made to warrant hosting the Super Bowl? NFL Europe died in 2007 after 17 seasons. Its popularity — and I use that word lightly — was lower than George W. Bush’s approval rating, with two games televised during a weekly basis and sometimes shown on tape delay.

Even the London Monarchs suffered two deaths. One of NFL Europe’s inaugural franchises in 1991, the Monarchs ceased operations after the 1992 season (after playing both years at Wembley Stadium). They resurfaced in 1995 and played in five different stadiums over the next four seasons before perishing for good.

So, there seems to be no logical reason to uproot the Super Bowl for a one-night stand in Europe. Oh, except for that one with the green eyes.

That’s right, there would probably be a nice payday involved with bringing the game abroad. Goodell looks at Europe, and his eyes twinkle with the hue of a dollar sign. But at what cost? Can the loyalty of American NFL fans be marketed during the peak of the game’s popularity? Sold out in favor of a continent that would treat the Super Bowl as little more than a unique experience, their consolation to losing out on the World Cup for a cycle? Mr. Goodell, your customers are paying higher ticket, concession and parking prices than ever before. Treat them like people, rather than mannequins with open wallets.

Now get this. London calling, yes, I was there, too. An’ you know what they said? Well, some of it was true! London calling at the top of the dial. And after all this, won’t you give me a smile?

There’s no harm in exploratory talks, and if Goodell and the league’s owners are set with just playing one game per year in London to spread its popularity, go for it.

I’m not completely crazy about a team losing a home game, or more importantly, its home-field advantage. I’m also not a huge fan of sending the players overseas, even if it coincides with a bye week — although it didn’t bother the New York Giants when they played at Wembley Stadium in 2007 before eventually winning the Super Bowl.

In the long run, the European experiment should attract more players to the American game, which should only improve the quality of the product. At this point, the current players are still singing the company line, whether they mean it or not.

“I’d much rather play in London than the Tampa stadium,” said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who was hinting toward the challenge of playing in front of the Bucs’ hostile fans. “It’s the middle part of the year, and I’m sure it will be fun to play in a different place. I know the NFL works hard at expanding to different countries all around the world, get more fans. The players understand that, and we’re willing to do that. We love the game. We want other people to love the game, too.”

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