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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The NFL's Imperial Hubris

The National Football League’s arrogance under new Commissioner Roger Goddell is galling. This week the NFL will officially trash the new Wembley Stadium, the hallowed ground of the England National Team and the Playoff Championship venue for each division of the Nationwide Football League. We’ll see American Football lines painted at Wembley and the all the tasteless commercial pomp and circumstance that comes with any event in an American Professional sports league. But the bottom line is people in the U.K. care as much about this NFL game as people here in the United States care about the final match of the Rugby World Cup.

In order to make Wembley look full it is reported tickets are being given for free to anyone who might want to attend the game. That’s good because since tickets for England’s matches and the playoff final in the Championship, League One, League Two and the Conference National are hard to come by, many lucky fans will actually get to see the new Wembley without paying. What a novel concept, and what charity by the NFL. It’s nice to know that those NFL/United Way commercials are truly representative of the generosity of the league, even if its best charity work is outside the United States.

American Football is not a game anyone outside the US takes seriously. While some foreigners may be intrigued by the game and may claim to like the Dallas Cowboys or Green Bay Packers, few if any foreigners actually follow the NFL regularly. Why should they? I grew up around American Football so I’ve been indoctrinated in the game by a local sports media with little worldliness and understanding of what people really care about outside the relatively insular and comfy confines of the American sporting landscape. However, with more and more foreigners gracing the shores of the United States, World Football (Soccer for those in the US), Cricket, Rugby and even Formula One racing are becoming more and more popular sports domestically even while the sports media tries to ignore them. Earlier this year the final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup which was won by the US National Team had four times as many viewers in the US as the final game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in Hockey. Last year the US-Italy match in the World Cup had almost as many American viewers as Game Six of the NBA finals (The deciding game). This however was hardly noticed by the propaganda artists in Bristol, CT at ESPN World Headquarters. They are Yankee propagandists of such a high order, that they make the war bonds ads of the 1940s look tame and meek.

The NFL’s decision to hold a Regular Season game smacks of nothing less than hubris on the part of American businessmen who know little if anything about the sporting culture outside their own country. In a week when English and Scottish clubs are competiting in the UEFA Champions League, the English team reached the final of the Rugby World Cup, the Premier League races are heating up, Scotland is gearing up for the life and death clash next month versus Italy and England is searching for answers about its failing Euro 2008 qualifying campaign, does anyone outside the United States really believe the NFL matters in the U.K? Perhaps when Wembley is full on Sunday Evening we as Americans can stroke our own ego thinking we have once again conquered a foreign land with something uniquely American, while the truth is 98% of the British population could care less. The NFL seems to think because Soccer’s ratings are growing in the United States that American Football should sweep the U.K. They are wrongheaded and foolish at the same time. But why would that surprise us? So many Americans know so little about sports outside their own country it seems the three sporting planets exist: the United States, Australia and the rest of the world. Australia is rapidly assimilating with the rest of the world which leaves the American sports jock culture to do their best imitation of the isolationist Republicans of the 1920s. “The NFL and MLB brought to you by Calvin Coolidge… that has a ring to it!”

1 comment:

Ken said...

I would like to hear from you. Still have lots of friends here. Send me an e-mail.


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I am the host of the Major League Soccer Talk and EPL Talk Podcasts and am frequent guest on other (world) football shows. I am also the publisher of various other websites including this one. I work in public/government relations in addition to my soccer work and have a keen interest in history, politics, aviation, travel,and the world around us.