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NFL International: The Most Popular Sport in America and You Can’t Watch

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For the second time this season and the third time overall, the National Football League scheduled an overseas game that kicked off at 9:30AM Eastern. As I indicated in a recent blog post, that particular time slot is a tad inconvenient for pretty much everyone who lives anywhere on North American soil. Not to be picky or anything but that’s the continent the overwhelming majority of NFL fans call home. The league knows that and obviously doesn’t give a hoot. In fact, this past week, they took their indifference to an entirely new level. They didn’t just alienate their American audience but their television audience as well.

international flagsThe first game on the Sunday schedule for Week 7 was a London scrum between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars. It started at 9:30 in the morning, and someone must have decided it would be a good idea to try to set a new record for fewest viewers of a televised NFL game. It was broadcast by CBS, but only available in local markets. I do mean local, too. I live three and a half hours from Buffalo and I couldn’t watch. Did I mention that I’m also a NFL Sunday Ticket subscriber? In case you’re unfamiliar with it, that’s DirecTV’s premier football package. They charge exorbitant prices with the promise you’ll be able to watch every game. Well guess what. I couldn’t watch that one. In fairness, what I mean is that I could not watch on any of my 300+ television channels. So, even though it was early on a Sunday morning, I couldn’t stay in bed or even sprawl out on my couch. If I really wanted to see that game, I had to go into my office, plunk myself down in my desk chair, fire up the old PC and stream the feed from the Yahoo sports website. Ah, comfy. Suffice it to say I didn’t bother with that. I wasn’t alone either. Only about fifteen million “unique viewers” watched any of it. That’s very low by NFL standards, especially when no other games are being played. And of that fifteen million, roughly a third of the viewers were international and the average time spent watching was less than thirty minutes. I would call that a failed experiment. Of course, I’d say the same thing about London football in general yet that contract was just extended through 2020. The NFL also has a new open-ended international contract which runs through 2025. In addition to England, there might be games played in Mexico, Canada and/or Germany.   I’m sorry but haven’t we already tried this? There was an entire European league sanctioned by and with the full support of the NFL. It died miserably. Do we really have to go there again?

Incidentally, there is yet another London game scheduled for Week 8. It’s between the Lions and Chiefs and will once again kickoff at 9:30AM. I believe this one is being broadcast exclusively on ESPN Deportes and will only be available in Chile, Costa Rica, Venezuela, New Mexico, and the Dave and Busters in Miami.

 

And in honor of the Vikings’ less than inspiring Week 7 win over the cowardly Lions, I give you a Football Flashback from Week 6 of the 2008 season. What can I say? The more things change the more they stay the same.

   One of the days I look forward to most each football season is the one Sunday that I get to sit down and watch the Vikings with my father-in-law. We really have a great time together. I watch the game while he tells me how much the Vikings suck. We drink a lot of beer and that somehow makes it fun. Beer notwithstanding, I was very much looking forward to the Vikings not sucking yesterday, as they were playing a team nearly as dysfunctional as the Rams. Of course I’m talking about the Detroit Lions. They’ve struggled of late, and by ‘late’ I mean any season recent enough that you might actually remember it. I’ll put it this way. The Lions haven’t won a game at Minnesota since 1997. That would be remarkable if we weren’t talking about Detroit. I mean, how many games have they won since 1997? It can’t be very many. They certainly haven’t won any this year.

     Anyway, it should have been a good day for the purple and gold. Their offense has been struggling lately, you might even say nonexistent, but they’d surely get things going at home against the league’s worst defense. They came out guns blazing and, with 2 minutes to go in the first half, the score was 2 – 0. I’m not bragging or anything but the Vikings were the ones with the 2. That’s when my dear father-in-law said, “Christ, Sova, these losers couldn’t even fart without screwing it up.” I love that man. Of course he was singing a different tune in the second half. The Vikings may have only scored 2 points in the first two quarters but they put five times as many points on the board in the last two. It was an offensive explosion and they won the game 12 – 10. In fairness to all the Lions fans out there, I should point out that it was a very bad pass interference call that put the Vikings in position to win that game. But, I’m not proud. I’m a Vikings fan. I’ll take a win any way I can get it.

 

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