On Sunday, Oct 26 the NFL played its second game of the 2014 season in London. The game was a matchup between the Detroit Lions and the Atlanta Falcons in a historic stadium. At half-time during the game, the Fox crew had a sign on their set that read “Wake up to Wembley.” If only someone had made sure the Lions were awake for this one. The Falcons had a 21-0 half-time lead.
The NFL has been experimenting with putting a team over in London for several years now. One game a year is played across the pond. This year the NFL has really upped its efforts and put two games over in London already. To really pique the interested of the city and get them wanting more NFL action, they will have three games in total this year. If that is the plan, it is falling short. The crowd in the stadium is only about 75% full, and from the sound of it, is more excited when they kick. Rather it is the kick off, a punt, or a field goal kick, that is when the crowd is noticeably the loudest on TV.
This does not necessarily mean London does not care about American football, or they will not grow to love it, just the time is not there yet. If the NFL wants to get a team there soon they need to showcase better match ups. The biggest issue with that is that most teams do not want to play over in London.
Earlier this year the NFL sent over the Oakland Raiders and the Miami Dolphins. A match up that would have been a premier match up in the early 1980s between two powerhouses in the league. John Madden would have made the trip across the pond and there would have been touchdowns and brutality. Unfortunately, it is 2014 and neither team has made the playoffs in over a decade. The Raiders have the worst record in the league since they went to the Superbowl in 2003, and the Dolphins are not fairing much better. The game itself ended with a Dolphin 38-14 victory.
With the final game in the international series taking place in week 10 of the season between the Dallas Cowboys and the Jacksonville Jaguars, there is not much hope for an exciting match up. The Cowboys are one of the most well-known teams in all of American Sports, but the Jaguars have one win on the season, and Jacksonville struggles to get people in the seats at their home stadium.
The Lions rallied after the half scoring a field goal on their opening drive. They stopped the Falcons on their next drive. Mathew Stafford was able to throw a touchdown pass to former Seattle Seahawk Golden Tate to make the score 21-10. The fans back home in Detroit who had to wake up at 8:30am to see their team play were happy to see signs of life.
After a Matt Ryan interception, the Lions had a short field and were ready to pull even closer to the Falcons. They were unable to get a touchdown and settled for a field goal, much to the crowd’s delight, and bringing the score closer at 21-13. The game turned out to be quite a great American football game, one that the fans of these two teams wished was actually ay their home stadium.
Another issue with the London experiment is that one team has to lose a home game. One game may not seem like that much, and if this were baseball or basketball it would not be. Both those sports play considerably more games; 162 and 82 respectively. In Football the teams only play 16 games, that leaves 8 games for the home crowd to get and spend their hard-earned money and buy $10 beers and cheer for the team they know and love. If their team plays in London however, they only get seven chances to do so.
While a team in London might be something to look at in the future, it is falling flat for now. The NFL should put more focus on getting teams to the American cities that do not have a team, possibly even some Canadian cities before it puts a franchise 3000 miles away. The second largest city in the US does not have a team, but London may get one before Los Angeles regardless.
Commentary by Andy Lapic