Brits Don’t Get Their Kicks With NFL
Josh Brown: Give him the boot
Apparently, New York Giants kicker Josh Brown has been naughty. Very naughty. Possibly even prison naughty.
I will not adjudicate the particulars of Brown’s situation here. I simply wish to note that Brown’s issues left the Giants without their regular placekicker going into this Sunday’s game in London. And how, one wonders, might the Giants solve this dilemma–possibly in a way that would boost the NFL’s profile in the UK at the same time?
After all, where oh where in England could you find someone who is athletic and has experience kicking a ball?
Alas, the Giants chose to sign former Bears kicker Robbie Gould, a safe but somewhat boring choice. Gould was a kicking-shoe stalwart for Chicago for many years, and no doubt he’ll perform well for New York when called upon to put the ball through the uprights.
But the whole reason that the Giants will be playing the Rams in London is because the NFL wants to build their brand overseas. They’re trying to get attention from the British sports spectating public. And what would have gotten the league more attention than signing some Premier League star to handle the kicking duties for the Giants in their game on England’s green and pleasant land?
I’m not suggesting getting some soccer star to join the Giants for the rest of the season; just for the game in London. If Britain’s football fans–that other football–learned that one of their favorites was going to suit up in the NFL’s local dog and pony show, don’t you think more of them would have tuned in tomorrow to see what would happen? And maybe, just maybe, some of those curious few (or many) would have eventually decided that they liked what they were watching, and wanted to see more of it in the future.
Some will object to this idea, saying that putting an inexperienced kicker in the lineup for the Giants would put them at a competitive disadvantage. My rebuttal is simple: the Giants suck, and what difference would it have made anyway?
And, oh by the way, I don’t think it’s guaranteed that having a soccer player as your kicker for one game would necessarily mean you’re in bad shape. After all, we are talking about guys who kick a ball professionally to begin with; I suspect that, after a day or so of practice, a soccer player could acquit himself quite well booting a non-round ball. Few remember it now, but today’s (American-style) football kickers are all what used to be called “soccer-style” kickers; before kickers approached the pigskin at an angle like soccer players do, NFL placekickers were straight-approach kickers. The transition in question was made before, long ago. It could be done again, at least for one game–especially if that one game provides an exceptional promotional opportunity.
It looks, however, like that promotional opportunity is going to go to waste. Gould will do the kicking for the Giants, and most everyone in England will greet tomorrow’s game with the yawns it deserves.
Perhaps this lack of promotional acumen being displayed by the NFL is one explanation for the league’s recent TV ratings decline: they’re just not selling the game very well anymore. They’re certainly not getting it done in London this weekend.