On Sunday, the San Francisco Giants and the Denver Broncos played a brutally game (shite?) football game at Wembley Stadium in London, England. The game was the fourth installment of “NFL goes to Europe,” a plan to increase the sport’s popularity across the pond.
In that sense I resemble someone handed tickets to a game at USA ’94 who enjoyed the day out but drove home scratching his head at the offside rule and relative lack of scoring. I spent many a Friday night a decade ago driving to watch high-school football in invisible towns in rural Kansas, and before that accompanying football-mad friends to watch nascent gridiron teams clash in the incongruous setting of Sunday summer afternoons in England, but it never stuck beyond the spectacle and sense of occasion. It can be hard to fall in love with a sport you have not played.
If soccer and football were racing to conquer America and Europe, respectively, you’d have to give the edge to the former sport. Major League Soccer saw attendance jump four percent in the recently completed 2010 seasons and college soccer is seeing unprecedented interest, while the NFL can’t get more than a game abroad. Both sports will eventually crossover, but don’t expect either to happen anytime soon.