Roger Goodell is the type of person who would take a bunch of children into a candy store, allow them to peruse all the wonderful goods on display and then march them all out without letting them have anything. That’s my view of his character because, metaphorically, he’s done exactly that to the fans of American football throughout the world.
At the start of the recently resolved CBA negotiations, a lot of things were put on the table that were clearly there to be removed as part of a deal. At least, that’s how I see it now, but a year ago, when ideas were initially being mooted, some options really had me – and many other NFL fans in the UK and beyond – quietly enthusiastic.
For a long time, there has been much talk on this side of the Atlantic about a seventeen game regular season, with one game being deducted from the pre-season schedule. This plan would have allowed eight home games, eight away and one on a neutral field. These neutral fields – and we’d need sixteen of them for the 32 teams involved – could lead to four games a year at Wembley, England, four in Germany, four in Japan and four in Mexico (or Canada: you choose, I don’t care).
Fans in the US wouldn’t lose out on a regular season home game, as some do at present with the annual game in London and, to be honest, would people really care about having one fewer pre-season waste of time? Meanwhile, we in the UK would have four opportunities to pack Wembley Stadium with 80,000 people. German fans would undoubtedly do the same in Dusseldorf or Frankfurt. Hey, I might even travel over there myself for a game or two. As for Japan and Mexico/Canada, the demand is already there.
The NFL needs to look to its future. In America, football is the supreme sport. But America is the Madagascar of the sporting world. Evolution has treated US sports differently, turning a simple children’s game we call rounders into baseball and allowing a marriage of rugby and soccer to develop into football. But America has a limited population and if the NFL wants to expand, it must develop the popularity of the game in markets beyond American shores. To do this, it must take the game to other countries.
But have the “millionaires fighting with billionaires” understood this? Or are they just protecting their members from a further punishing game in an already injury-heavy season? And was this option just too risky for some over-conservative owners? Whatever the reasons, the proposal was removed from discussions very early, it would seem, and when we eventually got a resolution to the CBA dispute, it had disappeared from everyone’s agenda.
Which means that the fans throughout the world who pay our subscription sports channels to view games and buy merchandise by the ton have been duped by a false promise. They have been shown a wonderful possibility and then had it taken from them without any reasonable explanation. We have been taken into a massive candy store to see all that delicious sweet produce, then thrown out. Roger Goodell is Willy Wonka.