The NFL Might Soon Stay in London
London is calling, and the NFL is listening.
It's thinking of putting a franchise here. Forget what you may have heard about warm beer and pickles on pizza, London would be a great spot for an NFL team.
A few candidates come immediately to mind. Buffalo, St. Louis, even Oakland unless Al Davis demands his old job back as the warden at the Tower of London.
But one franchise is at the top of the relocation list -- Jacksonville.
According to latest NFL attendance figures, the Jaguars couldn't do much worse if they moved to Phnom Penh. Meanwhile, Wembley Stadium will be rollicking with 90,000 fans for Sunday's game between the Patriots and Bucs.
The Brits have gone ga-ga over real football at the old soccer pitch. That's all of three games in three seasons now.
"If we brought more than one game here," Goodell said, "and it continues to have the same kind of enthusiasm and growth of interest, I think that's about as good an indicator you can get that it could successfully support a franchise."
I can't guarantee the NFL will thrive in London but I do know King Henry's wives had a better chance of survival than the league does in Jacksonville.
The Jaguars lost 17,000 season-ticket holders in the off-season. They're averaging 43,874 fans this year in a stadium that can hold 77,000.
"We know we can't be a viable NFL city if we sell only 46,000 seats in a 66,000-seat stadium (game-day capacity)," Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver told the Orlando Sentinel in September.
He was floating the idea of playing games in Orlando. A few days later he started openly campaigning for the Jaguars to draft hometown icon Tim Tebow.
Never mind that Tebow could be ranked the 13th-best quarterback on Coach Jack Del Rio's draft board. Weaver is so desperate to revive this mummy he'd start hometown boys Lynyrd Skynyrd on the offensive line.
As a hometown Jacksonville boy, I wish it hadn't come to this, but it's time to face reality. Pro football is a lost cause and the Jaguars should call Mayflower.
Forget moving to L.A., which misses the NFL about as badly as Kate misses Jon. Every American sports league knows the future is global, and London is the best place to plant the first flag.
Sure, the NFL currently ranks somewhere between croquet and flossing in popularity among English sports fans. And NFL Europe died of apathy two years ago. It was an NFL retrenchment, not a withdrawal.
"The reason NFL Europe failed is because British fans were knowledgeable enough to realize it was second-rate football," said Paul Stewart, who runs a Bucs' fan site.
That's why soccer fans are far more likely to pay to see Manchester United than the San Jose Earthquakes. But unlike the MLS, British fans wouldn't be asked to support an entire league. They'd have Manchester United every week, or whatever the Jacksonville equivalent of Man U would be.
If you can't quite picture that, imagine if a city had London's track record and potential. Three overflow crowds have shown up for three trial games. There are 13 million people to draw from, scores of Euro Fortune 500 companies to sell skyboxes to and a two-year-old stadium at the ready.
And not to denigrate the North Florida Agricultural Fair, but London gives the NFL a tad more cosmopolitan cachet.
"It would be nice if we could hang around a little longer and go see the Tower of London and all that," Bill Belichick said.
When was the last time anyone said they wanted to hang out a little longer in Jacksonville ?
But I am not here to bash my hometown. I am here to dispel any xenophobic notions you may have for London.
It's too far.
London is a six-hour flight from the East coast, which is not much worse than going to Seattle.
The weather is blah.
You prefer Cleveland ?
Players wouldn't want to live there.
If they can adjust to Green Bay, they can manage in London.
The people have funny accents.
You ever been to Jacksonville?
The average Brit doesn't even know who Tim Tebow is.
If the Jaguars moved here, they wouldn't need a savior. It would be good to lose the teal and get Union Jack colors. Then change the nickname to something more fitting, like London Fog or Bridges or Blitzes or Cavities.
The Jaguars already have Maurice Jones-Drew, whose very British name should roll right off BBC tongues. And imagine how many "Jack the Ripper" headlines Fleet Street would crank out after Del Rio 's first meltdown.
Granted, at first the idea of an NFL team in London is, as they say around here, a bit queer. But with all due respect to Tebow, the city would be the No. 1 pick in a global draft.
The NFL sees all that potential. If Weaver can't, he should ask himself a simple question.
What would the Jaguars have to lose?
Certainly not a lot of fans.