Pond hopping: Would London franchise be successful?
The annual Raiders-49ers preseason game was cancelled due to fan violence. (USATSI)
Roger Goodell, who runs the NFL Death Star for his 32 overlords, announced Thursday that the Raiders will host Miami in London in 2014.
This means two things.
One, Oakland loses a home game, and two, the 49ers will still play in Oakland next year.
This in turn means two things.
One, England, with its long history of dealing with hooligans, will tolerate Raider fans firm in the knowledge that they are likely more agreeable. And two, England has already been through standing alone in World War II is not interested in commingling Raiders and 49ers fans.
This, then, is why England once ruled the world, and even now hangs in there as a nation.
There is probably no country, indeed, that would willingly cope with 49ers and Raiders fans in one place, and only a few that would truly deserve such a febrile combination.
Goodell, who in fairness does not have as many flaws as he sometimes seems to, knows that the league has put in a lot of years trying to convince the people of England that the National Football League is really as popular as, say, Stoke City and Fulham. And he also knows that there are some NFL traditions that simply don’t translate over the pond.
And we needn’t tell you how England would view a 49ers-Raiders game once its citizens became aware of the fact that the man who runs the 49ers doesn't want a 49ers-Raiders game, and in fact has halted the annual preseason game.
Now I don’t want to be judgmental here ... well, yes I do, but what the hell. If Jed York thinks this is a bad idea -- and Jed should know -- then why on Earth would Roger Goodell think, “Oh, no, Jed’s overreacting, but just to humor him a bit, we’ll give it a go in another country and wait for hilarity to ensue?”
The answer is, he wouldn't. Indeed, I’d bet that the thought either never entered his head, or horrified him so quickly that he looked for any other opponent on the Raiders schedule to foist off on our allies.
A 49ers-Raiders game is, frankly, a worrisome prospect in any country, including this one, at least until such time as the memories of the last 49ers-Raiders game fade. This will mean that the game next year, which is as yet unscheduled, will require the very best behavior of both fan groups, and of that we are somewhat skeptical.
And when I say “we,” I mean all of mankind.
It will mean extraordinary precautions and security measures. It will mean warning 49er fans not to wear their gear, which is typically a fruitless hope, and convincing Raider fans not to make the game about turf.
Now not all 49ers fans are maniacs, and not all Raider fans are lunatics. We are talking about the thin edge of the wedge here on both sides. But before the NFL can even consider the notion exporting this game to another state, let alone another nation, everyone involved will have to be convinced that it can be exported over the Bay Bridge.
Instead, the people of London will receive a nothing-much game between a faceless Miami team and an under-construction Oakland team -- a matchup which, while having all the aspects of Stoke-v.-Fulham, at least will not present the specter of China-v.-Russia.
Put another way, our fan bases will have to tidy up their behavior before they can be exported to other lands, which, if you think of it, isn't all that appealing an incentive.