The League

Les Carpenter
Staff Writer

Les Carpenter

Yahoo! Sports reporter and former NFL writer for The Washington Post.

NFL Is Too American


Despite its intense efforts, the NFL has little hope of wooing European fans anytime in the next decade. Football is a uniquely American sport that has no great international comparison and is loaded with subtleties that people unaccustomed to watching the sport simply fail to grasp. It's like, as one former NFL player said: teaching cricket to us. Trying to understand football takes far too much effort.

But the NFL has no choice than to keep pushing ahead on its international program. This is because the league, as the wealthiest of all the world's professional sports leagues, can actually see its limitations. Its competitors are blossoming overseas. The NBA might now be more popular in countries like Germany, Italy, China and Israel than it is in its own land. Baseball has established a strong foothold in Japan and the Caribbean. Even the NHL has a dedicated following in Europe and Russia. Each year, these leagues expand their markets, selling caps and pennants and jerseys and finding more and more fans willing to pay to watch their games on the internet.

They have growth.

The NFL, even with its enormous popularity in the United States, has nowhere to go. This is why it is so important to league executives to get a team in Los Angeles, they feel they can add more fans in the nation's second-largest region. Likewise, they feel the pressure to push overseas, to Europe, to Japan and now to China (where actually the NFL might have its best chance) in the hopes that somehow, somewhere the game will stick.

The way they see it they have no choice, they need to find that next fan base. Which is why there will be more international games in the near future, not fewer. The new collective bargaining agreement will be key. Don't be surprised if within three years every team is playing a game overseas each season. Fans might hate it. Coaches and players will find it a distraction. But the NFL will consider it an essential part of its longterm survival.

By Les Carpenter  |  October 23, 2009; 2:05 PM ET  | Category:  New England Patriots , Roger Goodell , Tampa Bay Buccaneers Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Vamanos, Amigos! | Next: Three Steps for Spreading the NFL Gospel

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