movies matter | criticism by maryann johanson
Sun Sep 29 2013, 11:36pm | 5 comments
More from the NFL on Regent Street event yesterday.
Yesterday, I was watching the pregame stuff on Fox, and Terry Bradshaw (famed quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers back in the 1970s) was asking why the NFL even bothers with having games in London. The other commentators were all, “They’re trying to expand the brand!” but he was being grumpy and pointed out that it doesn’t seem to be working too well.
To expand a sport, you need to get people who are already predisposed to be sports fans, but aren’t spending all their fan-time being fans of some other sport. I don’t suppose there are very many of them.
Most of the people I saw on Regent Street on Sunday were more bemused than anything else.
I think the British sports market is saturated. There isn’t room for the NFL even if anyone were interested. Which they aren’t. Certainly, once you watch rugby or Australian rules football, American football looks wimpy in comparison. Because rugby and Aussie football are just as violent and high-impact, and those crazy players don’t wear any protection at all. They’re just running around on the fields that are much bigger than a gridiron — and so demand more endurance — wearing little more than satin shorts.
I really think that one has to grow up with American football to get into it. I had to attend my brother’s freshman games on Saturday mornings back in the mid-’70s when I was 9 years old, and since my mom wouldn’t let me bring a book into the stands (“You are here to watch your brother play, and YOU WILL WATCH!!”), I learned the rules and strategies of the game instead of being bored. Also, my dad was a huge Chicago Bears fan, so the (only) tv in the house was reserved for their games on Sunday afternoons.
One of my brother’s teammates went on to play for the Bears on their Super Bowl winning team in 1985 (Tom Thayer, who now is a commentator for the Bears’ game coverage on the radio), which was pretty cool.
The Bears are still My Team, but I’ll also root for those teams who, back in the 1970s/early 80s, took on the Dallas Cowboys on a regular basis, such as Denver and Pittsburgh, just because I have hated the Cowboys as long as I’ve been a football fan!
US football fans do exist in the UK – one of my brothers-in-law is an ardent fan who watches on cable TV. But as others have noted, there are an awful lot of competing sports available in the UK. But who knows, where Coca-Cola, Starbucks and McDonalds have succeeded by dint of their marketing power, gridiron could succeed too!
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