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ACKERMAN: The NFL…and London

Tom Ackerman
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LONDON (KMOX) – Greetings from England, where I’ll be following the Rams for the next few days, leading up to their game Sunday against the New England Patriots at Wembley Stadium.

They call this the NFL International Series, and really, it’s a natural place to show off America’s most popular sport to the rest of the world.

In this city filled with history – and the lastest trends – life moves pretty fast.  Its residents, both temporary and permanent, have settled here from around the globe.  Here, you’ll find royalty.  Music and fashion icons. You’ll see structures that date back to the 11th century.

But make no mistake about it – this is a sports town.

London is coming off a summer in which it hosted the Olympics.  It is home to Premier League soccer, some of the best players in the world.  It’s called football here, and they take it seriously.  Why not put our product on display, the one that is the undisputed king of American sports?

The interesting thing about the NFL (and college football): it’s the only major team sport in our country that is not played professionally outside of North America.  Baseball is taking over Latin America and Japan.  Basketball has gone global, with leagues thriving throughout Europe and China.  Hockey is very much a world sport.

The Super Bowl is the biggest sporting event in the United States.  But football, which is enormously popular in the U.S., hasn’t caught on outside of Canada.  Never has.

So when will we see the first NFL star from London?  Paris?  Tokyo?  Will there be fantasy football leagues in London some day?

Personally, this is the first time I’ve been to London in 25 years.  I was here with my family in 1987, at the age of 12, visiting with some friends.  And I recall a conversation at that time, when I brought up the sport of American football.  The observation then, from a local: “They look like astronauts out there.”

Twenty-five years later, the NFL is making more of a concerted effort to connect with international fans, to grow this game globally.  It’s been said that over 300 languages are spoken within London’s city limits.  This isn’t just an NFL event for England.  It’s for the world to enjoy.

How much impact will it actually have on these sports fans?  That’s something we’ll review throughout the weekend.

I’ll also get into the impact this has on the Rams and the fans in St. Louis.  That’s coming in a column tomorrow.

For now: Cheerio.

Tom Ackerman is Sports Director at KMOX.  He can be heard weekday mornings at :15 and :45 past the hour on Total Information A.M.  Follow him on Twitter: @Ackerman1120

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