NFL: The Rise in Popularity of America's Game in Ireland

Stephen FennellCorrespondent IFebruary 21, 2012

Tebowing knows no bounds. Ireland felt the full impact of Tebow Time.
Tebowing knows no bounds. Ireland felt the full impact of Tebow Time.Jim Rogash/Getty Images

It's fair to say you guys don't know how lucky you have it.

Keep that in mind the next time you're watching a game, and spare a thought for your yawning—but enthralled Irish brethren.

Sadly for us, the NFL is played primarily on a Sunday night. The time difference means we don't go to bed until four AM, and have to get up for work at seven.

Not the ideal way to start the working week I can assure you.

But we don't have earthquakes, hurricanes, George Dubya or Sarah Palin here—so it's a fair trade all things considered.

Thursday nights aren't much different either. It's hard enough to keep the love of your life happy without having to creep into bed before dawn two nights a week.

''But the 49ers and Ravens are playing."

Its seems two brothers coaching opposing teams for the first time in NFL history is not a valid enough excuse for her.

As if all that's not bad enough, we then need to travel to a different continent if we want to see an interesting NFL game live. It's either a long, expensive trip to Candlestick Park—or we pop over to London to catch the annual game.

Buccaneers vs. Bears. That's the best you can do?

I imagine that it's the same dejected feeling you get from being a lifelong Browns' fan, but it's better than nothing—so we're grateful.  

We fell head over heels in love with this flip.
We fell head over heels in love with this flip.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Then there's the problem of it being the most misunderstood sport in existence.

Except for Curling maybe.

But this is where there's hope. With each impassioned explanation of a down, one more person becomes intrigued. They know why that guy is running towards the imaginary computer-generated yellow line so frantically now.

''So, after 10 yards they start again or kick it away—that makes sense."

So, they've started again and (insert QB's name here) throws the ball 50 yards, where a tight-end/wide receiver miraculously catches it and runs into the end zone. Cue slam dunk or salsa dance celebration. Now we're talking.

By the way if you inserted Blaine Gabbert's name in the above brackets, there would mostly likely have been a sack—third and long.

Maurice Jones Drew, what are you still doing in Florida?

And back to the game at hand.

''So, one team scores and then gives the ball back to the other team to score?"

Yeah, something like that.

I really shouldn't have picked a Lions vs. Saints game as an introduction. Just wait till they see the replay of Kansas City vs. Denver.

Steadily the rules fall into place. Believe me, it's probably second nature to Americans—but it takes a bit of figuring out over on this side of the pond. 

But with each convert, comes another person you can talk to about where Peyton Manning will be at the start of next season. Or, whether Matt Flynn's record-breaking game was a once off.

Or, another you can add to your Fantasy Football league. 

It's great winning it every year, but it's nice to have at least one other team to compete against.

It's a brotherhood and one that's great to be a part of. Poker games now get scheduled around the NFL. Next thing you know there's a bar showing the game—and there's twice as many people there for the Super Bowl as there were last year.

People seem to understand the concept and love the ferocity of the hits, the showmanship and the tactics. They still take some convincing as to why four 15-minute quarters take over two hours to play.

More time to drink is the response.

In Ireland, we love our sports fast and tough. You've heard of Hurling I hope?

The NFL ticks all the boxes and more.

It's the premier, ultra macho battle of wits and there are cheerleaders there for good measure. I'm just surprised it took people so long to realise this.

America's game is well and truly on its way to be becoming a success story over here in little old Ireland.

Thursday, Sunday and Monday night games—we love it.

Did I forget to mention to my girlfriend that there's Monday night football too?

I guess just watching some of those hits can give you a concussion.