Sorry Roger Goodell, the NFL Has No Future in the Olympics
The game of American football is solely, well, American. The Canadians have their own variation of the American game. And other than that, the game is relatively dead world-wide.
National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell recently expressed how he wants to expand the sport into the Olympics. He claims that 64 countries play the sport, and the game has reached 24 new countries within the past five years.
Goodell is spot on when he says the game is generating interest overseas. However, the problem is that the rest of the world is becoming fascinated by the American players in the American game.
The game of American football has been showcased abroad through NFL games. Countries like Germany, England, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Sweden, Ireland, Spain and Australia have all hosted NFL action.
There was even the NFL Europa League, which served as a minor league type of system for NFL franchises. From 1995-2007, the league was based in Europe and was consisted of European only teams.
While there was absolutely no shortage of American football exposure to the world, there is a shortage of foreign talent and development.
The International Federation of American Football (IFAF) is responsible for the growth of the game world-wide. Of the 64 countries that play the sport, there are four continental committees. The IFAF Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania.
Various international competitions are held, including the Senior World Championship, Women's World Championship, U-19 World Championship and International Bowl.
Does the game of American football have a future in the Olympics?
The US and Japan have both won the Senior World Championship twice. The inaugural Women's World Championship and U-19 World Championship went to the USA as well. The International Bowl, which is the USA vs the world's best, has been won twice by the US and won once by the world.
On paper, the sport doesn't actually seem too dominated by the USA. However, the USA's roster has no household names and the best football players are in the NCAA or NFL. The quality of players on these USA squads would not stand a chance against a Division 1 NCAA school.
Chances are before you read this, you didn't know the specifics of the game abroad. Sure, there are a few international players in the NFL and you might have known that there are American football leagues outside of the border. But when is the last time ESPN has shown highlights of or mentioned one of these international competitions?
If the game of American football was introduced to the Olympics, it would actually be bad for the game. NFL squads and college teams would not dare to risk injuries in a competition that is pointless for the sport. This would leave semi-pro or out-of-work players representing the USA. How can a lousy American squad make the nation proud of the sport and make the world interested in the game?
Sure, the American team might blow out the competition. But can the best talent from Kuwait, Nicaragua and Luxembourg really compete with the mediocre talent that the USA will offer? It would drive the US crazy and wouldn't benefit the game if the worst American players are blowing out the best foreigners.
So Commissioner Goodell was a bit bold to say the game of American football has a place in the Olympics. Expanding the NFL to a global audience would be the best way to benefit the sport. Perhaps having knowledgeable players or coaches setting up a system of development for players abroad would allow for the world to catch up to the American talent.
But remember, it is the American game. And it will take a long, long, long time for the world to match our talent, if they ever do.
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