Earlier last week, some rumblings from the NFL concerning a European expansion team prompted one reporter to ask Cincinnati Bengal Pro-Bowl left tackle and representative to the NFLPA, Andrew Whitworth his thoughts on the matter. The much rehashed comment was as follows:
“I would hope that I was financially able to quit. That’s what I would hope, because if I was [selected to play on a team based in London], my papers would be the first ones in.”
Perhaps it was the harshness and frank nature of the response that caught us off-guard and made us take note. Certainly in the off-season doldrums of the NFL, this conceptual hypothesis has lingered in the mind of many fantasy-GMs, independent bloggers, and homer enthusiasts. It could be because, partly, the fundamental concept of football is that it is a uniquely American sport; indeed, in England “football” isn’t even football, it’s soccer.
More simply put, the idea of expanding the National Football League to the International Football League simply seems wrong to a lot of folks who would wrinkle their noses at a comparison of a Canadian Major League Baseball teams towards this argument. One must consider all the difficulties that this single franchise would face by placing it across the Atlantic. It becomes far more than a west coast verses east coast ordeal, or even the more minutiae argument that teams like the San Francisco 49ers routinely travel five hours or more on away games; rather it becomes both arguments combined.
The time zone changes for a London-based team would destroy those players associated far more than any team in the history of the League, dwarfing the misfortunes of a franchise that would have to travel overseas within their schedule for a single game. Not to mention that the young American Footballer – his lifestyle and general mindset – are considerably apart from anything resembling European athletics, let alone social constructs. As a comparison for the US military being stationed overseas it is always a possibility for a solider, airman, sailor or Marine, but it comes with hardship pay, full allowances for a spouse or children growing up away from their country of origin, at times incentives, and, in most cases outside of war zones, a SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) with the host country guaranteeing service members American rights and privileges that perhaps are not in line with that country’s legal and cultural prerogative.
Moreover, the US military recognizes these difficulties in a way the NFL seems to brush aside as most young men and women serving overseas only have an obligation of three years maximum before they are allowed to return to the Homeland.