THE LONDON EYE – Pass the Meh

The NFL has announced an increased slate of London games for 2017, but someone just isn’t satisfied… 

Big NFL announcements are two-a-penny nowadays. Once upon a time, a player being suspended or a game time being changed was big news, but not in the Goodell era, where both are commonplace as the commissioner strives to both maintain the No Fun League reputation and appease the broadcasting gods.

Every once in a while, though, a really big bit of news sneaks out, and the NFL’s announcement of four London games for 2017 ought to have been it. Except that, somehow, they muffed it.

The first big mistake was choosing to make the announcement via a Facebook Live feed, rather than doing something obvious like, say, putting the news on their actual website. This meant that several thousand interested people were left scrambling for a slightly grainy video of the ubiquitous Neil Reynolds and a voice track that seemed to be several seconds behind the action.

Eventually, though, it became clear that we were going to be treated to two games at Wembley (huzzah!) and two at Twickenham (MEH!), these being:

Baltimore Ravens v Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley

New Orleans Saints v Miami Dolphins at Wembley

Minnesota Vikings v Cleveland Browns at Twickenham

Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams at Twickenham

Two things strike you immediately about those lineups. The first is that, between them, those teams have won a whole 30 games out of a possible 78 this season. Only the Ravens, Dolphins and the Vikings boast winning records, and the latter are 2-6 since their bye week. Nothing about this slate suggests that we’re in for some great football.

Then there’s the Twickenham question. The game day experience in the TW postcode was distinctly underwhelming this year and, whilst it is clearly a convenient option for many fans, the venue is demonstrably older and smaller than Wembley, to the point where it is hard to see the NFL’s logic in using it with the new, purpose built, White Hart Lane due to come on stream in 2019 at the latest. To put it bluntly, the home of England Rugby is going to have to significantly up its game to come close to a comparison with the home of England Football.

On the positive side, this slate does offer the chance for NFL fans to tick off three more teams – Baltimore, Cleveland and Arizona – as well as to have a chance to see Drew Brees for one last time. There’s also the prospect of seeing two potential stars of the future in Jared Goff and Teddy Bridgewater as a way of alleviating the Twickenham gloom.

Fans of the Packers, Seahawks and Panthers will be disappointed that their sides remain among the six who have never made the crossing to London, making it another year to wait before they get their chance to see Messrs Rodgers, Wilson and Newton in the flesh. At the current rate of progress in this romance between the NFL and England’s capital, they may not have to wait much longer.

Richard O’Hagan

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Richard O'Hagan
Writer on such diverse topics as sport, music, theatre, law and politics. Author of 'Eddie the Sheep'. Supporter of underachieving teams, including the Chicago Bears from before that brief, heady, period in the mid-1980s when they were actually any good. All I want for Christmas is a Jim McMahon away shirt.
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