NFL Has Right Idea, Wrong Place When It Comes to Expansion

Benjamin AltsherContributor IOctober 23, 2009

NEW YORK - MAY 13:  Roger Goodell the NFL commissioner addresses the media following his meeting with former New England Patriots video operator Matthew Walsh on May 13, 2008 at the Intercontinental Hotel in New York City. Walsh was there to discuss videotaping practices used by the Patriots in the Spygate controversy.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

With the third annual NFL game taking place in London this week, the debate about bringing NFL football overseas is raging once again. 

Most fans believe the league is fine the way it is, and that the Londoners don’t appreciate the game the same way we do.  Unfortunately, for those fans, the decision-makers at NFL headquarters don’t care as much about fan appreciation as they do the bottom line.

I understand the NFL’s stance on expansion internationally.  They look at Major League Baseball, already an international game on the rosters and heavily involved in the World Baseball Classic. 

They look at the NBA talking about adding a group of international teams to the league, and may soon have their first non-American owner of a team.  The NFL just wants to make sure that they’re game doesn’t get left behind in the expansion race.

The problem is that baseball and basketball are already being played in leagues in other countries, attracting crowds and proving successful.  The NFL’s previous venture in Europe has been extinct for two and half years and irrelevant for much longer.  That’s why the NFL ultimately won’t succeed across the pond, at least in England.

Simply put, there’s no void in British sports that American football fills. 

Soccer is their national pastime, and if you’re looking for blood-and-guts type action, rugby is a better option than football.  Fans can see the players’ faces and it’s a rougher version of the same game without padding.  If the NFL is serious about expanding the league and adding teams, the solution is simple: Invade Canada.

Our neighbors to the north have already proven that they love the sport, albeit a slightly wackier version of it.  They have an established league that’s been a success in the past, and the NFL wouldn’t have to deal with the travel issues of crossing the ocean.

The plan is simple.  The NFL buys out the CFL (or “merges” with it).  The league’s eight teams don’t even have to change divisions.  CFL East becomes the AFC Canada division, CFL West becomes the NFC Canada division.  The only other change the NFL would have to go through is a revamping of the playoffs system which some are calling for anyway.

With five divisions in each conference, the winners make it plus three additional wild card teams based on best record.  The eight teams then get slotted based on overall, conference record, other tiebreakers, etc…

Let’s be honest, folks.  The London game is a joke.  The players don’t take it that seriously, the fans definitely don’t take it seriously.  Why put a glorified exhibition game in the middle of the regular season?  If you want to expand the NFL brand, go somewhere where the population knows and understands the game already.