Why UK NFL fans should be cheering for Toronto Wolfpack

Dear UK NFL fans (who don’t already have a rugby league team to support),

Support Toronto Wolfpack.

Why?

Because Toronto are trying to do what any NFL franchise based in the UK would have to do.

Now admittedly there are differences between the two: size of squad, overheads and relegation into and out of various leagues for a start…but you can bet your bottom dollar the NFL are keeping an eye on what happens to the Wolfpack, and they will include it in their calculations about whether a UK-based franchise would succeed.

The hurdles Toronto are having to overcome would also be a problem for a UK franchise:

  • The distance (although, as several commentators have pointed out, the flight time between several US NFL teams is just as long as the US/UK flight time)

 

  • Getting homegrown players into the team.  Toronto have done something sensible and clever, they’ve run trials in Canadian and US cities to find people who haven’t quite made the grade in the NFL or CFL (Canadian Football League) but who could transfer their skills to rugby league.  The homegrown player thing is obviously less of a thing in the NFL because of the whole draft thing (and the franchise thing), but I think it would help embed the putative UK team better in the UK.

 

  • Transport, although that’s not a problem for an NFL team as the NFL pay transport costs.  But because the RFL don’t, Toronto have done another clever thing.  They have signed a sponsorship deal with an airline, Air Transat.  The airline are covering the cost of Toronto’s flights and, and here’s the clever bit, the flight costs of the UK teams that are playing Toronto.  Toronto are also being nice and covering some of the travel costs for the UK fans coming over.  Presumably to keep costs low, the matches are being played in sets of 5, so Toronto have 5 games over here, and then five home games back in Toronto.  The putative NFL team won’t need to do that.

 

  • Competition from other sports teams.  Toronto is a good proxy for London (and the UK in general) because it already has a lot of sports teams.  The Maple Leafs, the Blue Jays, the Raptors, the Argonauts and Toronto FC are just some of the teams that the Wolfpack will need to compete against to gain fans and an audience share.

If Toronto show that a transatlantic franchise could succeed, they might well be a stepping stone to getting the London Jaguars.  

So get cheering for them, UK NFL fans.

An Apology To The Buffalo Bills

I feel I owe the Buffalo Bills an apology.

I fear their terrible start to the season might be partly my fault.

It’s a complete accident I swear. And I meant well.

I brought my friend a Bills painted skull back from Mexico and I think it might be cursed.

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It was bought with good intentions, I even hunted for it when, because of their previous uselessness, Bills paraphenalia was hard to find. I am not kidding. It was easier to find Calgary Stampeders and BC Lions gear. I finally found the cursed artefact of doom on the last day of the trip. I thought it was a sign. And it might have been, but not the good kind.

Possibly the skull should not have been bought.

Although if the Bills somehow win the whole boondoggle from that sort of start, I reserve the right to take the credit for that too.

In which I am willing to admit I was wrong about a factoid

The original factoid was “NFL salary capped teams would, adjusted for inflation, RELATIVE terms, be in the bottom 4 of the premier league”.  Now the friend who said it did admit he couldn’t remember where he’d heard it but the whole proposition sounded dubious anyway.Obviously I try to be a little more reasonable than ‘that doesn’t sound right’ so I’ve been ferreting away to prove the factoid is incorrect.

First, it does not compare like with like.  The NFL and the Premier League operate in very different ways.  The NFL has a salary cap and no promotion and relegation.  The Premier League has no salary cap, promotion and relegation, and has to compete for players with other equivalent leagues, primarily in Europe.  When a player is transferred between NFL teams, it tends to be for other players and draft picks, not for money.  When a player is transferred between football teams, it tends to be for cold, hard cash.

As a general rule, if someone’s making an analogy that involves an apple and an orange being the same thing, and they don’t caveat it like crazy, then they’re being disingenuous at best.  So I presumed the factoid was wrong.

I was able to scare up some data, but it’s the most complete set is not that recent (2011), so the following might no longer be an accurate reflection, particularly in the case of the Premier League where the new TV deal has meant teams going a bit crazy on the spending front.

The 2011 NFL Salary Cap was $120 million (£78 million).  This is for a 53 player team so we’ll call that $2.26 million (£1.47 million) per player on average.

According to this website, the average take home pay for a Premier League player was $2.71 million (£1.76 m), so yes that is more, and I think this is where the factoid comes from.

However, that’s an average, and for the factoid to be correct, even the NFL team paying the most for its players would have to be paying less than the average Premier League team.

According to ESPN, in 2011, the team with the highest salary cap was the Dallas Cowboys with $136.6 million (88.65 million) or $2.58 m (£1.67 million).

So I was wrong, and the average wage is indeed higher for Premier League teams.  I can’t prove all of the factoid because I don’t have an average wage breakdown by team for 2011 so there’s no way of telling what the bottom four Premier League teams were paying, but from these numbers, it wouldn’t surprise me.

* All currency conversion is done using the $1 : £0.649 ratio given as the average exchange rate for 2011 by the IRS.

Champions League Finals, and other sporting finals

I’m a Juventus fan, so my team got beaten by the better team in the Champions League final.  Which is an odd feeling for a fan.  Because it’s not the worst way to lose, it’s not hated rivals, flukey 90th minute goal or anything like that.  But still, it’s aggravating to have to sit their going ‘fair enough, the better team won’.

Because you think back to all those moments, particularly that moment after Morata had equalised and Pogba made that run and got chopped down by a Barcelona player in the box, and that should have been a penalty.  And if the penalty had gone in …

But that’s the nature of being a sports fan, you hang on what could have beens.

However, this line of thinking lead to another thought:-

I may be a Juventus fan, but I am also a football fan, and I think it was probably a fairly good match to watch.  It had flow and stuff.  But a neutral would probably have said that Barcelona were the better team and that they were the more deserved winners.  Now I, for obvious reasons, wouldn’t minded a sneaky Juventus victory.  They’d beaten better teams on the way to the final.

I was reminded of a conversation I’d had with @JTBourne on Twitter (if you like sport, follow him, he writes for theScore and is very funny about a wide range of sports).

It was about one of the semi-finals of the hockey playoffs (if they’re even called that).  There was good team vs less good team and people were saying that less good team were just not working hard enough and their only chance to win was to out-work the better team.  And the point being made that there were limits to what hard work can get you – which is not a popular position, because it obviously should, and we’ve had it drummed into our heads for years that it will – and that sometimes, you just come up against a better team.

And, and this is what set me to thinking, that less good team had even less of a chance, because it was best of seven, and you can out work a team for one match and get lucky at the other end to score, but it’s very hard to do that for seven matches in a row.

So I got to wondering.  Why do some sports have best of seven deciders, and some have winner takes one, takes all deciders?

With some sports, you can see why, because of the physical effort and danger involved in playing the sport.  I’d say both rugbys and American football come under this heading.

Then you have the rest.

There are certain advantages to having best of x series.  You’re more or less guaranteed that the more skilled “better” team will win.  Freak overall results are unlikely.  Tension is maintained over a longer time (i.e. advertising $).

At the same time, there are advantages to one and done series – tension is focus on one night.  Advertisers only have one game to go for (again advertising $).  Each goal counts for more.

So I was discussing this friends, and one of them who is a baseball fan mentioned that in baseball, you need the extra games so you can play your full rotation.  Which was something I hadn’t even thought of, because, with the exception of the Tinker Man, most soccer football managers know who their first 11 + 5 are going to be, so there isn’t the same variety in the teams sent out to play.

I don’t think that football will ever change, nor do I want it to, but if it had been a North American sport, I don’t have a second’s doubt that it would have a best of 7 series final for the Champions League.