What will I remember about NFL Europa and its two previous incarnations — NFL Europe and the World League?
The highlighter-green jerseys of the Orlando Thunder. Its players looked as though they’d been dipped in a vat of lime sherbet.
One word: Yikes.
The ill-fated Pro Set trading card company placing one World League card inside every pack of its 1991 series. I’ll trade you a Kerwin Bell and a Mike Perez for a Ben Bennett:
The Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks, the only professional football team in modern annals to go 0-for-its existence.
Jim Valvano, sideline reporter.
Nate Jackson’s tales from the Shoney’s Inn.
Wesley Duke riding an elephant.
And perhaps the wackiest, most dyspeptic football uniforms ever concocted (images from OurSportsCentral):
As for the future …
Count me among those who’s all for the globalization of the NFL. In addition to opening new markets, this endeavor could well be necessary for the league to maintain its place among the world’s, as sport itself becomes more international in nature. All you have to do is click around the dial, where more and more soccer games from far-flung leagues find their way onto the American cable and satellite airwaves. It’s almost an exchange program of sport — we get overseas soccer, while we send the world the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL. In Britain, for instance, NFL coverage is a late-Sunday cable/satellite staple.
The result? It is almost as easy to be a Broncos fan in London as it is in Denver … just as it is almost as easy to be a Chelsea fan in Denver as it is in London.
As for overseas games, think of it like NASCAR. Based upon television ratings and national interest, it, and not hockey, is probably the fourth side of the big-time pro sports quadrilateral in the States. But as widespread as NASCAR interest is in certain markets — Charlotte, Orlando, Tampa, Birmingham, Dallas-Fort Worth, to name a few — the circuit doesn’t take its premier Nextel Cup series to any venue more than twice a year, with eight of the 22 host tracks only holding one race per annum.
So who knows? Someday in the future, we might be talking about the “NFL Tour.” London, Mexico City, Frankfurt, Glasgow, Berlin … they’re not going to receive NFL teams anytime soon. But they and other cities just might be worthy of an annual NFL visit.
The opportunities are endless. Demetrin Veal spoke recently of the crowds of people gathered at restaurands at midnight in Italy to watch the Super Bowl. The audience could be there for live NFL games in ways that we haven’t yet imagined.