BRONCOS VS 49ERS AT WEMBLEY STADIUM
The hallowed home of England's most revered sporting spectacles goes All-American on Sunday. It will host the annual NFL-comes-to-England bowl. This time around the Denver Broncos are part of it. Both "The Star Spangled Banner" and "God Save The Queen" will be performed before the kickoff. We will all be watching here in Colorado! (11 am on KKTV) Will anyone care over there?
In general, not really.
Friends across the pond tell me there is certainly some pre-game hype for a few days before kickoff. That has probably started. Based on that there is some curiosity among the Brits. In fact the NFL is expecting the game to sell out, about 81,000 (this newly built version of Wembley is a huge stadium). Many of those fans may be Americans who live in Britain. When my family lived there from 1975 to 1978 I would have loved to go to an American football game.
I asked around among some of the people I know in England...many of whom are big sports fans, none of whom give a ...fish and chip about American football.
Darrell is my age and follows English football (soccer) religiously. He's a big fan of Liverpool. He has no interest in the Broncos or the 49ers or what they may or may not do on Sunday. He did follow our sport loosely for a time in the 80's and early 90's. There were live games on TV at times, and taped games on late at night. He knows names like Elway and Marino. He told me our sport did enjoy a surge of popularity in his country back then.
Here's what changed. In the early 90's the top division of English soccer became the Premier League. With that change, TV rights changed, satellite entered the TV picture, and live games became available in living rooms all over Britain. Remarkably, until then, it was very rare for any English league soccer game to be televised live, in its entirety....ever. When their own sport started to dominate their TV time, our sport was relegated to distant also-ran on the English sports scene.
Darrell's son turns 16 the day the Broncos play, about a one-hour train ride away from his house. He doesn't care. Patrick put something on his facebook page for me last week asking his friends if they had any interest. They did not. There were a few comments in support for the Broncos, in deference to me probably, a few jokes about altering the name of the 49ers to make it dirty..(these are teenager) but no real concern over who would win.
My friend Rebbecca works for an airline. She says her husband Steve doesn't care about the game. She hadn't yet heard it was happening in her city.
Lisa is a travel agent..so she's kind of plugged in to big events that bring in visitors. She didn't know about it. Her husband Mark loves Tottenham Hotspur (English soccer). Lisa told me, "Neither Mark or I have any interest in American football. I have never actually seen a match or part of one and, to my knowledge, nor has Mark.." She's not being mean, just honest. By the way Lisa, we call it a game, not a match!
Ian is an Englishman who lives in Colorado. He told me he doesn't have any friends back in England who care at all about American football.
My long-time friend Petrie is a radio talk show host in London on a very popular station. She covers politics and social issues not sports. I asked her to "take the pulse" in her circle...to get some thoughts on the big match...I mean game. She hasn't gotten back to me yet. I'm hoping it's just because she's busy.
So the NFL sends two teams to battle every year in London. It's not a bad idea. The game will sell out, we'll all watch it here..some will watch it there because they like it. Others will watch it there because of the novelty. Maybe the NFL will gain some popularity in England...maybe not.
Many sports fans here consider English football (soccer) unworthy of their time and dismiss it with disdain. At least when the English ignore our sport....they'll probably do it more politely.
Go Broncos...and God Save The Queen.
We'll talk again soon.