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Globalizing Game A Risky Business

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As far back as the Super Bowl, when Commissioner Roger Goodell gave his State of the League address, rumors have been flying that the NFL could add a 17th regular season game.  The idea behind it, to have each team play a game in some international city, without losing a home game, while making sense at a functional level, makes no sense in a logical one.  Globalization might seem like the next step for the NFL, easily the king of all the American sports, but it is a risky proposition to say the least.

Let's start with the addition of a 17th game.  I am actually in favor of it.  I'll go one step further.  I wouldn't mind 2 additional regular-season games.  Four pre-season games are probably 2-too many.  A tool for owners to essentially make more money, the pre-season has become an evil game of russian roulette, with at least one big name player every year going down.  Adding another game that means something would be good for the game, though I am sure traditionalists will scoff.

On paper, if you add one game, you'd have to add two so that each team plays the same amount of games at home and on the road.  That is, unless, you are taking that extra game overseas, or to Canada, or Mexico.    Goodell even went so far as to say during the draft the it is entirely possible that a Super Bowl could be played outside the U.S. in the foreseeable future.  Are you kidding me?

How has globalization in other leagues helped them?  Baseball has become very global, and lost popularity in the states, partly, as a result.  Basketball has globalized, and lost popularity as a result.  Open-wheel racing, hockey, the list goes on and on.  All of these sports were very popular in the States at one time or another but have lost some of their luster when the governing bodies focused more on international fans, and less on the ones here.

Let's take a look at the NBA.  David Stern is hell-bent on making the NBA a global powerhouse.  In the last 10 years we have seen an influx of international players.  Next season, several NBA teams, including the Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic will spend much of their training camp and pre-season in China.  The League has spent more and more time pimping guys like Yao Ming and Dirk Nowitzki.  Problem is, the NBA has neglected its fan base here, causing a significant deterioration in fan interest in the US.

The result is less and less American kids are interested in, or playing basketball, or baseball than ever.  When parents aren't interested in something it usually means the kids will not either.  Similar things are happening in baseball and hockey, where there has been a huge effort to increase popularity globally at the expense of the fans here.

That brings us back to the NFL.  It can easily be said that the National Football League is the new America's Pastime.  It is the richest sport in the richest country in the world.  The NFL has done a better job of nurturing it's fan base than any other sport.  It is ideally American, right down to the name, football, which has a different meaning everywhere else in the World.  Why globalize when the rest of the world has futbol?

If you purely judge just the time I spend on this blog it is easy to see that I am a huge fan of the NFL.  I'll be honest.  The NFL would lose a lot of the luster to me if the Broncos ever made the Super Bowl and to see it I would have to fly to London, or Berlin, or Beijing.  How would that make you feel?  The NFL is our game, and it is our fans here in the US that has made it what it is.  For the League to turn its back on that, in the name of greed, would be a sad day for us all.