London game is great reward for UK fans
Next Sunday, the 49ers and Broncos travel to Wembley Stadium for the 4th International Series game. There will be the usual vested complaints about travel logistics, schedule disruption and the loss of a home game for San Francisco fans, but please take time to look at the bigger picture.
The NFL is big business in the UK. Viewing figures for live games are comparable to any other sport outside of live soccer, and the knowledge of the average NFL fan is well on par with that of any American.
Yes any TV producer can easily find a guy in the street who doesn't understand the game, but the real fan here knows which side of a strong side formation the TE will line up, what a red dog is, and Erin Andrews is so hot.
Since 1982, televised NFL games have been important staples in the schedules and we now have four live games each week, a double-header on Sunday evenings, switch channels for the late Sunday game (1-4am over here) and then the Monday Night game (1.30-5am) if you still have the stamina.
The Wembley game is a celebration of the NFL for all the fans over here. It doesn't matter who plays, it is the event that is huge. You will see fans of every one of the 32 NFL teams represented, college jerseys, British team colours. A colleague from NFL Films has described the atmosphere as unique outside only of the Super Bowl.
12 months ago the Tampa Bay Buccaneers went beyond the call of normal support in what they did to thank their British fan club for 25 years of support, sending cheerleaders and alumni to a touch football event against the UK Patriots that turned out to be the first Buccaneer win of the season.
The Miami Dolphins did similar things for their UK club in 2007 and the San Francisco 49ers have many fan events planned during their week in London.
When you only have eight regular season home games a season, losing one is hard to the home fans and I sympathise with them for that. But in terms of the big picture, there are 256 regular season games in each NFL season so allowing one to come across the pond is not a massive sacrifice.
And if you had seen the effect it has on the British fans, you would not begrudge the effort at all.