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.

Comments (11)

  1. No offence, but this isn’t even worthy of a semi-lengthy blog and a discussion, even though you make valid points.

    Football is simply not an international sport. The only countries that even participate in the sport are America and Canada and it obviously wouldn’t be close if the two countries were to play each other.

    Gold: U.S.A.
    Silver: Canada
    Bronze: N/A

    • Well, 64 countries play American football if we are to believe Goodell. But yes, none on the same level as the U.S. or even Canada.

      However, as I wrote in a previous post, couldn’t we say the same thing about basketball just a few decades ago? It would have sounded foolish to even think that the United States could lose at an international tournament, but that happened in 2004. If international growth is Goodell’s goal, the Olympics are obviously an ideal stage.

      • Well, if what Goodell means by “play” is that somewhere in 64 countries, some guy has purchased an American Football from a sporting goods store and tossed it around with his buddies, then I believe him. However, if Goodell actually thinks we’re going to buy the idea that there are 64 countries with any type of high-level competitive leagues then he must think we’re pretty naive.

        Your point on how lopsided Basketball was 20 years ago is valid, but the sports aren’t really comparable because American Football is probably at least 50 years behind where Basketball was on an international level even in the early 90s.

        If Goodell is serious about getting his sport in the Olympics, he must first start working to help build other pro leagues in other countries over seas that don’t simply consist of Americans who can’t make the NFL or CFL. Then, in 20 or so years we can start having international competitions on a smaller stage and build up to the Olympics. Then, in 50 years when Goodell has passed away, it might be a plausible idea to put the sport in the Olympics. Don’t get me wrong. The U.S. would still easily and hopefully Canada would still win the silver, but it wouldn’t be a horrifically embarrassing tournament like it would if the sport were to be instated in the next two or three Olympics.

        Also, I have a hard time getting past the awkwardness of a sport being referred to as “American Football” in a sporting competition that is supposed to celebrate the athletes and sports from around the world. Something would need to be done about that.

        • Well said, and all very valid points. This is clearly all very much in the idea stage right now, a stage it may never advance beyond.

          It’s very, very small, but maybe right now we’re seeing the seeds for other serious pro leagues with the potential expansion of the regular-season series in London. Maybe someday that leads to a more competitive league overseas that can produce a high caliber player. But yeah, my hand is filled with straws now, and the demise of NFL Europe definitely isn’t helping here.

  2. rugby sevens is not a new sport dummy..it’s over a 100 years old..

    • I didn’t say that it was new, or for that matter make any reference to how long it’s been around. I used the preference to have seven players instead of the more traditional 15 in the Olympics as an example of an adjustment football may have to make in the highly unlikely event that it’s included years from now.

  3. There actually is an American Football World Cup that’s been around for a few years. The latest one, in 2011, featured groups of US, Mexico, Germany and Australia; and Canada, Japan, France and Australia. Believe it or not, Japan has won this event twice!

    Here’s the page for the tournament itself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Football_World_Cup
    And for the 2011 tournament: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_IFAF_World_Championship

    You’ll see in 2011 they played every 2 days in a short two-group tournament. While football will never be in the Olympics it’s cool that a World Cup actually exists.

  4. Wouldn’t a better and more logical step be a “World Cup”-type scenario?

    • They already have one. The latest was in 2011. The US team was made up of Division III guys. Adriano Belli was on the Canadian team. Japan has actually won the tournament twice, and the games are played every 2 days. I posted a link to the Wikipedia page here but it says my comment is still under moderation so just go to Wikipedia and put in “American Football World Cup” and you’ll find it

    • I should point out, Japan won it in the first two tournaments which did not include the US. But in 2007, Japan took the States to a second OT in the final before falling 23-20, which is nothing short of astounding. And that’s way better than Canada losing to a bunch of Division III garbage 50-7 in the 2011 final

  5. However, if Goodell actually thinks we’re going to buy the idea that there are 64 countries with any type of high-level competitive leagues then he must think we’re pretty naive.

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