I hate summer.
Hear me out. Baseball is fine and the Summer Olympics are keeping my interests, but I really miss fall and winter sports.
I watched reruns of games I knew the ending to. I have picked my fantasy lineup. I have been keeping up with offseason news in anticipation for the season to arrive.
Unfortunately, I’m a Saints fan.
It’s been a rough summer.
So to pass the time, I turned on ESPN to watch soccer. I was desperate, but I had to watch something other than baseball and Tim Tebow coverage. European teams have made their way to the States to perform for the Americans at the World Football Challenge. Teams like Real Madrid, AC Millan, Chelsea and Celtic are preparing for their regular season in the United States.
And then it hit me.
The NFL preseason has struck a chord with fans as far as charging full price for meaningless games. Season ticket holders scoff at the idea of attending a game to see the third string play. A game where the score does not matter will not measure up to the hype of true NFL football. Commissioner Roger Goodell has also expressed putting an NFL team in London to bring in a European audience. But travel costs would kill a team who has to play eight away games in another country.
So kill two birds with one stone. Play some of the preseason games in Europe.
Instead of having every preseason game played in NFL stadiums, have a select number of teams make a European tour.
This isn’t a new idea. The American Bowl started in 1986 and showcased NFL teams in places like Dublin, Tokyo and Berlin. In 2005, Goodell shut the series down, expressing a desire to play regular season games on the international stage.
I am all for innovation, but this is not the solution to overseas expansion. Regular season games are a right given so there is an even playing field. To take that away from one team takes away income and hurts playoff chances. There has to be another option.
The NHL has been doing this well in the past. Four teams would head to Sweden and Finland to play against local teams and then open the season early. The teams got their preseason prep, the local teams received exposure and the fans paid for and saw real hockey. Everybody wins.
My proposal is simple. Take eight teams to play all of their preseason games internationally. Set up sites to host games (London, Barcelona, Berlin, etc). Have players make the appearances to sign autographs and such. And voila. Multiple cities across the world had the NFL on their doorstep. The eight teams that have done their time overseas would sit out of the international tour for the next three years. Eight new teams tour and the process continues.
Soccer and the NHL have shown a great example of preseason exposure. It’s time for the NFL to stop trying to innovate and follow a plan that actually works.