As the summer Olympics in London march ahead with its bouncing dongs and investigative discussion of one-night stands, the NFL finds itself in an unfamiliar early August position. Usually the league has all of the sports spotlight, all of the time. Now, during a time when excitement over training camp and the beginning of preseason games is at its peak, the NFL is conceding part of said spotlight.
Roughly, I’d estimate the league’s spotlight coverage to still be at about 80 percent, because there isn’t much overlap between those who are intensely following the Dolphins QB battle, and anyone who’s currently pretending to care about badminton. Still, that’s not sufficient, as one day when our world is united under a single flag, Roger Goodell will be declared king of humanity. This is our manifest destiny.
Goodell is already taking steps to begin his world domination, and the early measures involve trying to include the American version of football in a summer Olympics to be played in the not-so distant future. We learned about this last week, and the idea was, to say the least, intriguing.
And of course, Goodell is intrigued and excited too, and said as much during an interview with Mike Florio as he noted that 64 counties are playing American football. The players? Not so much.
When the prospect of football being in the Olympics in 2020 or beyond (way, way beyond) surfaced last week through Albert Breer’s report, the focus — or at least our focus — was on the logistics, and the quality of competition. Would the United States be playing against several versions of the London Silly Nannies? Probably, but man, I could really get used to hearing that pre-game song…
Then of course there’s the matter of how the hell a tournament involving a sport that’s meant to be played about once a week would be organized in a 17-day window. The best guess is that only some warped version of football could be played, and the tournament would look similar to the rugby tourney we’ll see during the Brazil games in 2016. Instead of 15 players per side, each rugby team will have seven, and the 12-team tournament will last four days.
Rugby enthusiasts are surely, um, enthused, but that’s a pretty massive shift away from the sport’s more traditional form, and football would likely be dealt the same blow. But while it’s fun to imagine football being featured on the world stage and dream glorious dreams, it seems there’s one little detail that’s being overlooked as we picture offensive linemen — any offensive linemen, any at all — on an Olympic podium.
The players won’t play, and they won’t care.
That’s what a player union rep told CBS’ Mike Freeman, and that response shouldn’t be remotely surprising. While Goodell may have global aspirations and is eager to brag about sold out games in London, and the expansion of that series, the players don’t care about his lofty goals, and have no motivation to raise their level of caring above zero.
Injuries can happen in any form of athletic competition, including hockey, basketball, soccer, and tennis, the four Olympic sports that currently allow pro athletes to participate. But the risk is quite clearly more significant in football, and we’ve seen that in just the first week of training camp as players continue to go down and suffer injuries with varying levels of seriousness, even though the first preseason game is still two days away. The allure of a gold medal is strong, but not nearly strong enough to motivate players to sacrifice their livelihood and the opportunity to make many more millions, and risk the possibility of their careers being altered on one ultimately meaningless play.
Is there a solution? Well, college players won’t be interested for the same reason, with their NFL aspirations dangling. The only remaining alternative then is to recruit either arena players, or former pro or college players who weren’t good enough to maintain a roster spot or make the NFL.
Basically, we’d get an American team filled with JaMarcus Russells. They’d probably still beat the London Silly Nannies, and we’d watch, because not watching football is impossible when there’s football available for our eyes to see. But would that really be a good representation of Goodelll’s product on the world stage? Nope, and there wouldn’t be nearly enough purple drank to fuel Team Amuurica’s QB anyway.