Sunday Marks NFL’s First Regular Season Game in London; League Commissioner Braces for “Second British Invasion”
Jersey autographed by deceased Who drummer Keith Moon, a devoted football fan whose efforts at converting his fellow "Brit" rockers into NFL fans fell on deaf ears. Now, thirty-plus years later, the NFL is attempting to change hearts and minds among his countrymen.
LONDON, ENGLAND (Sportsman’s Daily Wire Service) — The Beatles' celebrated arrival in New York on February 7, 1964 (three weeks after they had ascended to the top of the Billboard and Cashbox US singles charts), kicked off the so-called “British Invasion,” as an onslaught of rock bands from the UK – the Stones, the Who, the Dave Clark Five – hit US shores. To this uniquely American idiom, the Brits added exotic accents, stylish haircuts and a somewhat “ponsified” fashion sense. From 1964 to roughly 1967, the British invasion laid waste to the American cultural landscape, dominating youthful hearts, minds and pocket-books (including stylish ones designed for men).
This Sunday, the Giants and the Miami Dolphins play the National Football League’s first regular-season game held overseas, at sold-out Wembley Stadium in London. For the most American of major American sports – the Chuck Berry or Eddie Cochran of American sports, if you will -- it is more than a trial balloon; it represents the first shot fired across the bow, triggering what the League hopes and expects to be a second British Invasion – or as one league official refers to it, “mop tops in helmets.”
Mark Waller, who leads the league’s international operations, believes he can see the N.F.L.’s future – one that does to American football what the swinging British lads of the mid-60s did to American rock and roll.
“We’re already seeing a surge in interest among British youth. Right now it’s anecdotal, but we’re hearing stories of kids gathering after rugby practice playing a version of American football, sans pads, of course, and with a lot more male-on-male bonding in the pileups – a British thing, apparently. It’s like the early 60s, kids playing Buddy Holly records in their folks’ Liverpool flats, learning to play guitar while knocking over furniture and experimenting with their sister’s makeup kit and wardrobe. It’s all very pre-Beatles, but the first stirrings are there – it’s in the air. There’s an almost palpable sexual tension, which one would expect from a cross-fertilization of American football and the British uber-macho male sensibility, one where ultra heterosexuality is often expressed in what Americans look at as ‘alternative’ coupling.”
As England continues its decades-long slide into irrelevance, Waller believes that American football will, over time, win converts among a new generation of hopelessly disaffected British youth, who will take to this pre-eminently violent game and to it add their stylistic, omni-sexual flair.
“This is not just about bringing our game over there and expanding our fan base. It’s also about introducing a new generation of British youths to the game where one day NFL rosters include the football equivalents of the Roger Daltreys, the Ray Davies, the Jeff Becks. It can only make a great game better – though I’m not sure how we’d manage if we were to see the football equivalents of the David Bowies and Mott the Hooples. I expect we’ll see an improvement in musical programming at NFL stadiums, but it remains to be seen how glam will affect play, let alone interaction in the huddle.”
Brendan Mulrooney, a star rugby player with the Leeds Rhinos, the 2007 Super League champion, is a big fan of American football. “Them blokes are huge and play all-out. It’s a properly violent game, much as me likes it. Some think the padding’s a bit on the ponce-side, a bit Nancy-like, if you catch me drift. But our boys like contact. And, much as I hate to admit it, they like the dress-up part too. Me self, I’m partial to the black and silver and the bloke with the eye patch. Put me in some proper gear, put me on the field and I’ll knock heads all bloody day long – till their brains turn to mush and Black Sabbath sounds like Pat Boone.”
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