Global Gridiron: Keep the NFL in the United States

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Global Gridiron: Keep the NFL in the United States

The NFL needs to abandon this silly international experiment. This is not the World Football League or NFL Europe. It is the National Football League and it needs to stay that way.

The New York Giants vs. Miami Dolphins was one thing—an uninspiring matchup that pitted two East Coast teams against each other not too far from their home cities.

But why in the world is the NFL sending the San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints to London this year? A West Coast team and one from the middle of the country? Why would the NFL put a potentially great matchup pitting quarterback Drew Brees against his former team at Wembley Stadium, which proved to be a less-than-hospitable host field for the Giants and Dolphins last October?

The NFL is already the most popular professional sports league in America and has a growing legion of international fans. But why make teams play games that count outside the United States?

Commissioner Roger Goodell's plan to globalize the NFL is just a get-richer-quicker scheme for a league that is already a multi-billion-dollar operation. The only thing this newfangled idea figures to accomplish is to ruin the NFL's product, if only for one game of one week of the season. Until Goodell dispatches a couple more teams abroad, and a couple more after that. He has said he wants to play several games a season outside the United States.

But why? It's like expansion—it can only weaken the product. There is no way those players are going to be 100 percent ready after flying as many as 12 hours and playing up to eight time zones away just days after they played a previous game.

Some teams apparently have no problem with it, or at least won't say they do. The Chargers and Saints wouldn't confirm they are the ones playing in London this year because they don't want to ruin the commissioner's announcement Friday, but both teams expressed excitement over being given the opportunity.

But is that what they really think?

Chargers president Dean Spanos said he wants his team to go, but would he say that if his team was the one that had to give up the home game?

The Saints are the ones giving up a home date for this contest, which seems unfair considering they had to play the entire 2005 season on the road after Hurricane Katrina displaced them.

Whether it is the party line or the Saints truly are excited to play overseas, a team spokesman said, "We are very much aware that we are being considered for this unique and exciting opportunity to represent the league internationally and look forward to the decision of the commissioner this Friday."

Other teams have expressed reservations about playing overseas, particularly if it means losing a home game. But it doesn't matter—Goodell is committed to sending his teams abroad to spread the NFL brand.

Goodell should not make teams give up home games just so the NFL can market itself overseas. Exhibition games? Fine. The league has played many American Bowls across both oceans. It should even float the Pro Bowl and give other countries a chance to see the best players the NFL has to offer.

Goodell also has talked about holding the Super Bowl overseas, and that would make sense too because the Super Bowl is always at a neutral site anyway and is more of a corporate event than a fan experience. What better way to market than to hold the league's title game in another nation? Because the teams have two weeks to prepare, they would have plenty of time to adjust to the travel and time change. It wouldn't affect the quality of the game.

But playing regular-season games outside the United States is a bad idea, as would be expanding outside the country—something that also has been brought up.

Goodell can market his league internationally without making his teams suffer, and hopefully he'll figure that out.

Remember—this is the National Football League, and Goodell needs to keep it that way.

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