Remember the American Bowl? If not, I’ll remind you that is was a program started in 1986 that had two NFL teams play an exhibition game in a foreign country. The first ever of such games took place in London, England and pitted the Chicago Bears vs. the Dallas Cowboys. For the next 19 years, the NFL would play one exhibition game per season in foreign cities such as Mexico City, Berlin, Barcelona, Tokyo and Toronto. The Pittsburgh Steelers played five games during that span: 1990 (Montreal), ’93 (Barcelona), ’96 (Tokyo), ’97 (Dublin) and 2000 (Mexico City). Their record was 2 and 3 during that time. The catch was the games were exhibitions during the pre-season, so teams and coaches had no obligations to play the ‘star players’ all four quarters. Not very exciting to attend and not very exciting to watch on TV. Then came the NFL International Series.
In 2005, Commish Goodell decided that the 2005 season would contain a regular season game that would take place on international soil. That same year marked the end of the American Bowl and the beginning of the International Series. The Arizona Cardinals played the San Francisco 49’ers in front of 103,467 in Mexico City. An international game was skipped in 2007 and revived itself in 2008 when the Dolphins played the Giants in London. The love affair with London was on. The game reportedly sold half of its capacity in the first 90 minutes tickets went on sale. Guess the English were tired of the Silly Nannies….. or was it NFL Europe…
Yesterday the NFL and England approved of playing in London through 2016. I’m astounded by this interest in American football by the Brits. But I guess if you can sell over 80k seats each year for a single football game, why not? It brings the NFL into more of an international spotlight – where they can sell merchandise until the last Tom Brady jersey is sold. It’s profitable for the league (not so sure about the players) and I guess brings mass amounts of joy to our neighbors across the big pond. I feel it’s unfair to the teams that have to go over there because the jet lag can really screw with your nap schedule, but it appears that it’s teams who vie to be the next pair to compete infront of the Queen (and I don’t mean Phillip Rivers). What I really don’t like about this whole deal is that the games are regular season games… they count. Sure the NFL makes us fans pay full price for pre-season games when we only see the future starters for a quarter. Then, they move a regular season contest overseas. Why? Did they complain about the same things we US citizens do – preseason games suck, and why should we pay full price for it? Lucky them.
Well at any rate international games will continue to take place. Buffalo plays in Toronto every other year – basically a home game for Buffalo minus all the homeless people. And now two different teams each year will head to London for the International Series. Word from Ireland and some of its media outlets is that Rooney II is vying for the Steelers to play in Ireland again. He’s been able to bring over the Pitt basketball and is pushing for the Black and Gold to return to the Green Isle. Irish Central reported this back in January of this year and quoted Ben Roethlisberger as embracing the idea. “I think it would be fun to go play in Ireland where Ambassador Rooney is. That would be kind of fun.”
What do you think Nation? Do you want to see the Steelers play an important regular season game oversees somewhere like Ireland? I wouldn’t mind it if it were a pre-season game. But I would hate for a home game to get taken away from the ‘Burgh or have an important game mid-season be played on neutral turf.