Goodell Save The Queen
NFL sources are saying that the success of the four games that are scheduled for London this season have led to the idea of a virtual franchise there, in which as many as eight games featuring various teams are played in London every season. This is in lieu of actually putting one or two franchises in Europe, which would seem to be the next logical step from there.
There are a lot of questions to answer about a European expansion. One that pops to mind is that the Baltimore Ravens played in London this past week, and now have to fly back across the ocean for a game this weekend against their archrival, the Pittsburgh Steelers. For Ravens fans, losing to Pittsburgh,especially at home, is almost like losing twice — and Baltimore will be playing that game with at least some deficit in preparation and sleep. Does that seem fair?
Another question: how will divisions work? You can’t just plop a London team into, say, the AFC East, and then say they will make a road trip to Buffalo and Miami every year. Or can you? The simplest idea is to just create a European division, which implies at least four teams. That’s a serious commitment.
If the NFL is this committed to Europe in general and London in particular, it should do something large. Something to send a signal that the league is looking to dominate a new continent the way it does this one. Something equivalent to the Beatles appearing on the Ed Sullivan show, except in reverse. If the league really wants to make a statement, there’s only one answer:
Super Bowl LVII.
Slated to take place in 2023, that is the next Super Bowl currently lacking a host city. While we could make a case for bumping Miami or Tampa out of the rotation to speed this along, we know better than to try. In any case, maybe making London wait is even better. Let the whole concept percolate for a while.
Consider this: the league flies the two teams over a week before the big game and has them do all the touristy things for a day or two. The teams could meet the Queen, drink warm beer, use Stonehenge for a blocking sled. Then they would get down to practice, and meanwhile, we could have the Draft Combine and the Pro Bowl direct from Wembley Stadium. London would fall so in love with football that they would buy up all the RGIII and Johnny Manziel jerseys currently sitting in storage.
There are logistical issues to work out, of course. If the NFL wants prime time, the game would have to start at midnight. Another solution is airing the Super Bowl in the morning (prime time in the United Kingdom). Of course, Americans would watch the game if it came on at zero dark thirty, so maybe the networks wouldn’t lose much ad revenue. Think of it as an investment: make it convenient for Europeans to watch the game, get them as hooked as we are, then introduce them to pay-per-view.
The other potential issue is Brexit. Although borders between European counties are about as easy to cross as going from North Dakota to South Dakota, Britain appears bent on walling itself off from the rest of the continent. If the game is held in London, the potential ticket market will be severely diminished if people from France, Germany, and other larger countries can’t easily cross the English Channel to go the game. That will drive down ticket revenues and hinder the growth of the sport. However, the NFL should be able to fix this. After all, they almost convinced us that concussions are no big deal. If they turn their PR machine loose on Parliament, Brexit will fall apart faster than the Falcons against the Patriots.
This makes too much sense not to try. Europe’s population is almost triple that of the United States. Since the government handles medical care and nursing homes, they can spend all of their disposable income on the NFL. Europeans still don’t know enough about football to be sick of Tom Brady (who will probably be one of the two starting quarterbacks in Super Bowl LVII) and it will take them at least a decade to figure out that nobody really knows what pass interference is. All they need to get completely hooked is to see the NFL at its gaudiest, flashiest best. Give London the Super Bowl, and while you’re at it, hire some more accountants. You’ll need them.