RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
OK, luxury brands investing in new markets - that, says commentator Frank Deford, is just what the NFL appears to be doing in London.
FRANK DEFORD, BYLINE: United States leagues love playing games abroad. At first, it was more just to show off our indigenous sports and hope the simple-minded foreigners would see what they were missing and start playing the red, white and blue games themselves. Even the likes of King George V and George Bernard Shaw came to watch touring major leaguers. Although, Shaw's sarcastic assessment was that the best thing you could say about baseball was that it didn't take as long as cricket. I always thought that was pretty nervy of Shaw inasmuch as anyone who sat through something as interminable as "Saint Joan" has no business complaining about time's-a-wastin'. Anyway, eventually us Yanks stopped playing mere exhibitions abroad and started scheduling regular-season games in Europe, Asia, even Australia. But never mind the odd game on foreign soil. The great dream has been to have an actual franchise from another hemisphere play in an American league. Basketball, of course, has long been our prime athletic export. But while our football has never caught on around the world, now we mostly hear about foreign expansion from the NFL, which keeps sending the woebegone Jacksonville Jaguar's and some other teams to play games over in London. But realistically, until we can catch up with "Star Trek" and we can beam entire teams up and over the Atlantic Ocean, it's logistically ridiculous to even imagine any European franchise competing in a North American league. However, the NFL has now signed contracts with three London stadiums. And London will soon be hosting up to eight NFL games each autumn. So London is becoming sort of an NFL pied-a-terre. Hey, it's a great market for peddling souvenirs, and we all know that American football is as good on television as British actors are on the stage. Certainly, televising real NFL games live on European time is a lot smarter than financing an actual European bush league, which the NFL tried and which was a disaster. Our own American soccer fans are addicted to watching the best European teams. Gazillions of Chinese watch the NBA, so it's good business to get the rest of the ignorant football world watching the NFL - and hey, even better for those lucky foreigners since they don't have to play the game and get concussions.
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