Traveling is something many people do for fun, basketball players do and turn the ball over and other athletes try to avoid. Home is where the heart is — and home-field advantage is certainly hoped for in sports. In the NFL, the home team wins 57.6% of the time. When it comes to the new market, though, there is no home team.
The NFL played another game in London this weekend, featuring my Chicago Bears versus the Oakland Raiders. The bad guys won. I can say that because this is a column. Regardless, the NFL is trying to bring the game of American football to other countries with games in Mexico and London. Countries that have been playing football where the ball is actually passed by the feet are getting introduced to the football whose name makes, let’s admit it, little to no sense.
Expanding the league’s influence is a great business move, as football has become the most popular sport in America yet still has basically no hold on an international market, having the fewest players from other countries as of a decade ago. A decade is a long time, but this seems to be consistent. The London games have been successful and have clearly made a cultural impression, as shown by our lady Sansa Stark showing her true colors. Gaining traction in one new market could be a start to make American football a sport around the world.
This multi-market integration would be a long process, but it brings up the question of traveling. With this week’s game in London, the Raiders have continued their incredible journey. Twenty-one thousand miles and 49 days away from home, the Raiders have a traveling schedule as grueling as a political campaign. While this clearly did not affect them negatively enough to let the Bears beat them, the constant hotels, time changes and travel plans must be tough.
Now imagine a team that has to travel from California to the Midwest to London and back to the Midwest, then the South. Then back to California. That is a long time away from your own bed. With more international success, the whole schedule may have to change. It’s no cheap trip shipping equipment either.
There is also the question of when to go to these international games. While the Raiders flew in a week before, the Bears got there only a couple of days before the game. There were plenty of reasons the Raiders won and the Bears lost, but some questioned if jet lag could have had anything to do with it. Yet another decision for organizations to make.
The cons of traveling aside, international popularity would be great for the league. Not only would it bring in more revenue and create more fans, it could bring in a whole new pool of talent. And with a kicker problem like the NFL has had recently, it could use as many former soccer players as possible.