I've been stewing on the league's plan to move the Super Bowl to London in the future and as I'm trying to determine exactly why I find that idea inherently offensive, it has since been announced that more regular season games may be played in England.
(Before I continue, I want to emphasize that this is in no way a "conspiracy theory," so please bear that in mind and don't go jumping into the abyss yourselves :D)
Let's start with the Super Bowl held overseas. Why is that so offensive?
Only 80,000 or so fans get to attend the Super Bowl; 80,000 out of tens of millions...those millions of whom watch it on TV. Considering the price of Super Bowl tickets and travel accommodations, a large majority of fans are probably not able to attend anyway because of economics.
So what is the big deal if the media is broadcasting the game from overseas instead of in the U.S.? I'm still going to be watching it on TV just like millions of others.
Nevertheless, when discussing moving games to other places, it has become increasingly clear to me that the phrase "neutral site" does not refer to those cities like Los Angeles or Louisville which do not have their own teams, but instead refers to cities abroad.
So maybe the thought of the Championship game overseas is so alien to me because I see this whole "neutral site" idea as taking out the excitement and energy created by the fans.
Even though I'm not a season-ticket holder, I can still experience the crowd. I hear the roar of the fans through my TV and see the evidence of their passion every time my team is motivated and the other team fumbles a snap because they couldn't hear the count.
The Seattle Seahawks' legendary "12th Man," for example, or the well-traveled Steelers Nation comes to mind. Take last year's Super Bowl for instance.
What would it have been like had the numbers of Steeler supporters not dominated the crowd of Cardinal fans?
Would a game be better in a neutral site because it would be more equal, or would it be more boring because of it?
And if the fans are the reason to play the game, why outsource the game to another country?
The NFL is a business whose primary purpose is to make a profit. So I reasonably understand Commissioner Roger Goodell's need to expand and explore other markets for the league, because for all intents and purposes, the NFL has mostly tapped out the U.S. market.
So why not expand further into our border allies, Mexico and Canada? Why not create the NAFL: North American Football League?
My speculation is that the Commissioner and the team owners are looking for areas of population not only of good size, but with a level of affluence necessary to generate and sustain media attention and marketing.
However, there is at least some precedent for these actions: Major League Baseball. Baseball has become global, but instead of U.S. cities playing Japanese cities in a World Baseball League, there is the World Baseball Classic. In the WBC, each country creates a separate representative team to compete in a tournament championship.
Is that one of the ultimate ramifications for out-sourcing football games? That while our own league continues on relatively unchanged, once a year a representative "Team America" will compete in a world-wide football tournament?
And what this speculation really means is that I am questioning the decision-making and motives of Commissioner Goodell. He plays his hand so close to his chest that I have no idea the direction he is pushing the league to go in.
Goodell has appeared to me at times to be a benevolent dictator. He works for the benefit of the league--owners, players, and fans--but he appears very single-minded in pursuing his vision and only his vision.
My perception is that Goodell decides based on his personal assessment and not on any grounded objectives, everything from which players should be fined or suspended to expanding the NFL globally (because that's not a paradoxical phrase).
However, that does not mean that the changes Goodell supports are wrong. It just means that what really bothers me about moving games overseas is that I do not know where it will end. I cannot see the final outcome or ramifications of these actions.
Does the Commissioner, with the support of the Owners, intend to eventually out-source most of the regular season games to generate excitement in new markets?
Is the plan to eventually help create more leagues over the globe? Would our teams play theirs? Would we have a blood-fest match-up of the Moscow Cossacks vs. the Dallas Cowboys? Or would it be more like the World Baseball Classic?
And yet, in a few years the idea of more games overseas, or even the Super Bowl held abroad, may not bother me so much. Maybe these expansion moves are actually necessary to stop this favorite sport of mine from disappearing in the future.
Fifty years from now our childrens' children may actually be clamoring for a CFL vs. NFL Europe grudge match.
I just do not know, and that is the source of my uneasiness.
It is the fear that expansion will destroy and take away everything I love about the game. That is why moving the Super Bowl overseas makes me anxious; I do not know where it will end.
I guess only time will tell.
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