by Sam Winston
With the NFL's Giants/Dolphins game officially deemed a "success" in London this past Sunday, there is the very real possibility that the Saints could go to play a game in Europe in the coming years. What more logical place for the Fleur De Lis toting New Orleans Saints than Paris?
While the skeptics on both sides of the pond seem to chorus in unison, "There will always be their football and there will always be our football," the reality of the situation may point in another direction.
The NFL has already passed a resolution for the coming seasons to play up to 2 regular season games internationally with talk circulating from Commissioner Roger Goodell about international Super Bowls and the likes of more expansion. Having already played 40 pre-season international games over the last 20 years and with NFL Europe having officially sank, its seems that Pandora's box is open. Are you ready to go through customs and bring your passport to see your Who Dats? Are you ready for a Super Bowl to be taken away from New Orleans for Berlin?
Perhaps the expansion will be more like baseball and basketball, two purely American games through and through, that have sprouted their own independent foreign leagues and had the reverse effect by sending an influx of foreign players to the United States to play with the big dogs.
Before any of that happens, the football versus soccer comparisons should be left at the boarding gate. Living in Germany right now, despite being the one quasi "strong-hold" for NFL Europe, I can tell you that soccer as you may well have heard is a big deal here in the old continent. Yet its not a big deal in the way that American sports are a big deal to Americans. The assumption one gets from a distance seeing footage of the occasional soccer riot, stampede, or melee is incorrect. I would argue that while fanatical soccer fans can be identified in every stadium as the sub cultural of "hooligans", the general public is not nearly as engrossed the way Americans are to their beloved sports. Additionally, if Americans had as many regular events putting their national pride and their best athletes on the line as the rest of the world does with soccer, then you could really see just how much more seriously Americans take their sports.
So with the widespread popularity of the Saints last year, the French heritage connection, and a desire to give that goodwill Katrina rebound story another spin, maybe Goodell will call the Saints number pretty soon. Not that the French themselves would likely take anyone but the Saints from America's most American of sports (anybody remember Disneyland Paris or "Freedom Fries" post-911?). If the Saints keep winning, that'll help to.
However, no matter how much we may loathe the idea, now matter how much the players and the coaches hate it, it's all about how many people show up the stadiums in Europe. Because you and I aren't about to stop watching the Saints, nor is the rest of America about to stop watching its football just because 2 games a year take place somewhere where they cheer extra loud for the kickers. And if the Saints are a hit in France, then maybe the Benson clan will start clamoring about moving the Saints there. Then we'll really be begging France to buy us back.
- The New Orleanian Abroad