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DROWN THE FRANKFURTERS! AMERICAN FANS DESERVE TO SEE ALL NFL GAMES
The commissioner and owners are hellbent to bring regular-season contests to Europe and other continents, which isn’t fair to supporters who shouldn’t have part of a nine-game experience in Germany
The globe would be a sublime place to inherit, if not for armed conflict and predictions of World War III. It seems freakish to bring America’s most coveted sports spectacles and market them to Europe and other continents. Aren’t we ignoring the Israel-Hamas crisis? The Ukraine horror?
For those same egomaniacal reasons — conceit, money, conquering the planet from a stadium C-suite — the NFL continues to use a significant part of its regular-season schedules to play elsewhere. In my domain, if I’m living in Kansas City and have only nine home games in 2023, I want the November clash against Miami’s offensive feeders on GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. I want ALL nine. I don’t want 11 percent of my glee absorbed by Frankfurt’s frankfurters.
Who doesn’t want another glimpse of Patrick Mahomes for one’s grave? Why not marvel about a superior defense? A Chiefs fanatic should be allowed to enjoy a new industry order, loving all the goo with Taylor Swift and her drinks and Travis Kelce charmology, as her presence morphs an image-bolstering tight end into the rage of commercials and an impossible receiver to cover. Or, if the Dolphins have the home game, I’m there to root for velocity and Tua Tagovailoa while nerd-turd coach Mike McDaniel sprints wildly to the tunnel after an interview.
Yet Roger Goodell presses on, playing five more games this season in London and Germany. The latest was Sunday — Chiefs 21, Dolphins 14 — and it will play a role in who reaches the Super Bowl from the AFC. Next year, the league may head to Madrid and Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo. Later, Ireland? The emporium bell has rung to the point that executive vice president Peter O’Reilly says all 32 teams could play at least one international game per season, which makes for more travel fatigue in a league that demands 17 football games be played in 18 weeks.
Or, as he claims, an NFL franchise could be based in another country. “In the realm of possibility,” O’Reilly said. Has the league pondered personal taxes? A drought of free agency and mass defectors? Players who never show up after being drafted? Fans who treat it like a lacrosse association when compared to their ancestored soccer affections?
“There is passion and demand for our game and for the NFL outside the U.S.,” he said, “and that’s why we’re exploring it as fully as we are.”
Look, the only time I’ve been abroad and noticed NFL passion was Mexico City, where Cowboys and Raiders fans are present. On one of my last Paris moments, bartenders pretended the only high-intensity sport was rugby and wouldn’t try to turn on the NFL. London has some interest, with 34 of the 46 contests so far, but it’s closer in tune with Beyonce coming to the capital for a one-night sojourn — an American attraction appearing for a show. Can you imagine the Premier League playing authentic matches on our soil, then putting a permanent team in East Rutherford? It’s understandable why the NBA sends two global contests amid 82 regular-season games, with Orlando playing Atlanta in Mexico City this week while Brooklyn plays Cleveland — no Wembanyama? — in Paris in January. I even grasp Major League Baseball opting for series next season in Seoul, Mexico City and London, as it’s only crumbs in a 162-game schedule.
Football? The excursion requires too much time and rushed wherewithal. Why not make it a preseason journey? Wouldn’t the locals still buy, real or fake? Isn’t the universal appeal overblown by the commissioner and owners whose zeal impacts what we really care about in America — OUR FRIGGIN’ SPORT! — which dominates broadcasts like no other entertainment fix? Who wants to get up early in lifetime NFL cities, on Sunday morning, while Frankfurters tailgate on hard-boiled eggs with a green spring sauce?
“I do see us playing in more markets very soon, as early as next year,” Goodell said the other day in his fertilized home. “We actually have three or four markets that are here this weekend and next weekend that are interested in hosting a game. We will not stop playing games in the UK, but we will play more games in other markets because we want it to be a global sport.”
In case you didn’t hear: “We intend to be a global sport.”
It can’t be. They have their own global sports. The NFL isn’t among them.
The only good news, from the league, was Goodell shocking us all and ending a future Super Bowl in some overseas destination. “For us to play a Super Bowl in a city where we don’t have a franchise, that would be pretty hard to do,” he said.
This from a boss who once suggested a full European division of teams. What’s next from the world pooh-bah? Mumbai? Cairo? Bora Bora?
I’m waiting on Riyadh. Saudi Arabia has the public investment fund, right? Golf one day, buy Taylor and Travis the next.
Jay Mariotti, called “without question the most impacting Chicago sportswriter of the past quarter-century,’’ writes general sports columns for Substack while appearing on some of the 1,678,498 podcasts and shows in production today. He is an accomplished columnist, TV panelist and talk/podcast host. Living in Los Angeles, he gravitated by osmosis to film projects.