Why American Football Will Never Make it in England & Other Failed Attempts to Share Our Culture With the British
Let’s be honest. The only people not enjoying this “London Bowl” or whatever the NFL is calling it are the Patriots. For the British, it’s a chance to see real football played by real men, not kickball played by diminutive pipsqueaks like David Beckham who aren’t athletic enough to make a high school JV lacrosse team here in the States. For Tampa Bay, it’s a vacation to take their minds off their own incurable suckitude. And for the NFL, it’s a chance make tons of Euros selling merchandise.
Because that’s all this is about. The Patriots, who alone among those going on this foreign exchange trip abroad are driven by the desire to win a championship. And flying 6 hours east and adjusting their bodies clocks to Greenwich Mean Time is a major disruption. For sure they’re not going to complain about it. We just play the schedule they gave us, One game at a time, yada yada yada. But this is an unnecessary distraction brought about only so NFL Properties can hawk replica jerseys to a nation of gap-toothed, unhygenic, tea drinkers. The league can cut the crap about “growning the game.” England will never embrace American football. Football is too complex, too nuanced and too goddamned exciting to ever catch on in a land of drunken hooligans accustomed to watching guys flop on their backs for 90 minutes during nil-nil friendlies.
Besides, how often have uniquely American ideas ever caught on in Great Britain? Like it or not, no matter where your ancestors are from, the US is the bastard offspring of England. We’re it’s red-headed stepchild. Virtually all our cultural ideas descend from them, not the other way around. Getting the British to like our stuff is like trying to get your mom and dad to wear your clothes, listen to your music and watch your TV shows. It rarely takes works and when it does, the results are never pretty. A brief history of American attempts to introduce our culture to the British:
In 1757, Ben Franklin went to London to try to persuade the British Crown to loosen its grip on the Colonies. He also spent a good deal of time doing what he always did when he traveled abroad: receiving doctorates for his scientific works, getting wined & dined, charming the bloomers off every hot chick in the “Women of the 18th Century” pin up calendar, and speaking out against tyranny.
The Result: Parliament passed The Stamp Act and war was on.
Freedom of Religion
Britain is a nation that has a state-sponsored religion for the sole reason that King Henry VIII was sick of his dried-up hag of a wife but the Pope wouldn’t let him upgrade you a younger, hotter one. (Note: Imagine if President Clinton had that kind of pull.) For generations after, Britains make passage across the Atlantic so they worship (or most often, not worship) any damned way we want (or don’t want). Three centuries later, the idea caught on back in England.
The Result: Swell, except for the fact that the British government now recognizes The Church of the Jedi as a real religious faith.
Rock ‘n Roll
The British called our Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis, and raised us The British Invasion. And a half a century later, both sides continue to raise the stakes.
The Result: A mixed bag. Depending on your tastes they gave us The Beatles, The Stones, Led Zeppelin, Elton John and Queen. But they also gave us Herman’s Hermits.
I’ve never been to England, but I’m pretty sure our TV shows don’t catch on there nearly as much as the other way around. Sure they were probably all watching stuff like Baywatch, Star Trek and Dallas back in the day. But half of the most celebrated shows on US television are either direct or indirect ripoffs of British shows. All in the Family, Sanford & Son, Three’s Company, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, The Office and American Idol, just to name a few. As well as dozens of reality shows where a smarmy douchebag with a British accent belittles Americans.
The Result: The plagiarism runs east-to-west, not the other way around.
Americans invented the Broadway show. The British took the medium and gave it back to us in the form of Andrew Lloyd Webber shows, thereby doubling the number of tedious, unwatchable spectacles you have to spend $150 a ticket on so your wife will know you love her.
The Result: We all suffer.
Married with Children
In 1992, the Bundys went to England. American style family dysfunction turned out to be too much, even for a nation used to the Royal Family.
The Result: Al’s feet killed all the fish.
The Naked Gun
Frank Drebin was assigned to protect the Queen, and he accepted it. Because no matter how silly the idea of having a queen might be to us, as Americans, we must be gracious and considerate hosts.
The Result: Her Highness went to an Angels game and almost got shot by Reggie Jackson.
From 1991-98, the London Monarchs were one of the most successful franchises in NFL Europe. Their average attendance was over 40,000, and they had the likes of a geriatric William “The Refrigerator” Perry and Brad Johnson, who would later lead the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl win.
The Result: Attendance dwindled to under 6,000 and the Monarchs became the Berlin Thunder.
The New England Patriots Playing a Game in Wembley Stadium
Believe it or not, this has been tried before. On Family Guy, when Peter Griffin joined the Pats and they flew to England to take on the London Sillynannies.
The Result: An unqualified success.