It was announced yesterday by the NFL that the New England Patriots and the Tampa Bay Bucs would play in the annual NFL regular season game at Wembley Stadium in England.
This is a horrible idea. Not as dumb as the once-proposed Patriots exhibition trip to China (which was cancelled), but it ranks right up there.
Now, for full disclosure, I am a lifelong Patriots fan. I have been through the lowest of lows and the recent highest of highs. But my opinion doesn’t apply just to the Patriots playing across the pond; it is playing games in England.
I know for a fact there are diehard Patriots fans in the UK. I have personally met many of them when they have descended on Foxborough for games and wandered over to the lively tailgate party we had going on. For those guys, I am happy that the NFL is playing games in their country.
But the idea of playing games THAT COUNT in a foreign country across the Atlantic Ocean is beyond idiotic. This year, the Saints and Chargers had the privilege of playing this game. What it meant for San Diego was coming to the East Coast to play a game, and then jump on a plane to go to England, play, then fly back to California.
This trip to England comes on the heels of the Pats playing a pair of two-game road trips to the West Coast. While the Arizona Cardinals also have had a crappy road schedule—and still have to come to Foxborough—the Patriots played the 'Niners and Chargers back in October (which they went 1-1), and now get ready to face the Seahawks and Raiders over the next two weeks.
There is one person in the Patriots organization who IS delighted that the team is playing this game in England next year: owner and CEO Robert Kraft. He gets the chance to expose his brand—and make no mistake, living in New England, the Patriots are a brand, close to the level of the Red Sox, Yankees, and Packers—to a whole new clientele.
If Tom Brady is back playing next year, imagine the jersey, apparel, and other product sales the Pats will see at Wembley Stadium. This trip will no doubt help line the pockets of the owner of the team, plus exposure to an international audience on an international stage, and in prime time in England.
But if you were able to get the players to speak truthfully on the subject—and none of them will until probably the week of the game in 2009—they will all say how upset they are of having to play this game. There was outrage and disappointment from the players and coaching staff when it was announced the Pats would play an exhibition game in China, and that game didn’t count.
The NFL has floated out an idea of having actual teams based in Europe that will play regular season games. This is ludicrous. I know the NFL is a business and is looking for ways to increase its profits and its appeal.
But playing meaningful games in foreign countries across the Atlantic Ocean is not the way to go. It is a dumb idea by the smartest professional leagues operating today.