Watch an NBA game today, and you'll see a plethora of stars from different countries.
The NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, for example, have several impact players that are from different countries that include Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Boris Diaw and Patty Mills.
Spearheaded by former NBA commissioner David Stern, the NBA is an international game due in large measure to Stern's drive to bring the NBA overseas by having regular and pre-season games played in other countries. The 1992 "Dream Team" also had a tremendous impact on globalizing the NBA and making is just as popular in countries like China as it is in the United States.
Unfortunately, professional football is not played in the Olympics, so the NFL can't market their game on the largest stage of international competition like the NBA can. But the NFL is using other avenues to try to make the sport an international game. Under commissioner Roger Goodell, the NFL began playing three regular season games a year in London. Despite mixed results (players have complained about field conditions and the fatigue caused by traveling overseas for games), the NFL is now looking to add additional games in Mexico and Germany by 2017. The NFL isn't sure whether or not these games will be pre or regular season games, but playing in these countries in two more years in some capacity is happening, as long as Goodell is pushing the buttons.
Now, back to London. The NFL says they are "on track" to have an NFL team based there by 2022. Forget moving a team to Los Angeles; Goodell wants to move a team internationally.
I'm a supporter of the NFL's first idea, having more games internationally. The biggest reason being that I want to see if the greatest athletes from across the world would consider playing our most popular sport over their country's adopted game. Since the "Dream Team" helped expose the world to the NBA, many international players chose basketball over rugby and soccer and are now starring in the NBA. The NBA is in a much better place because of the globalization of the game, and it could be said that the influx of international stars has helped the game continue to strive in the post-Jordan era.
The NFL could benefit in the same way. It would be something to see colleges recruit on the interntional level, to see players from other countries competing against American-born players. You'd get the feeling that you were truly watching the very best in the world compete, and that the words "World Champions" inscribed on the Super Bowl champions' rings would mean a little more. Exposing young fans to the NFL's best players by having games in these countries will surely make the NFL more popular, and it could also make the game a better product.
Now, here's where the inevitable if comes in: more NFL games overseas is a good idea if done correctly. The international fields must be held to the same standards as the NFL fields here in the states. Teams that participate in these games should be given their bye week either before or after the week of international competition. In order to ensure that NFL fans aren't gipped from seeing their teams in person here in the states, there should be some rotation or order to ensure that one team isn't playing more international games than the other teams.
Goodell has always reminded me of the phrase "he wants his cake and eat it, too." Goodell lobbied for several Thursday night games a year and before long, there's at least one Thursday night game each week. Goodell says he's dedicated to making the NFL more safe but also wants to add two more regular season games. In regards to the international games, Goodell should be satisfied with added international games, but he should dump the idea of having a team based in London by 2022. Simply put, most NFL players are not going to want to live in London, not at this time when virtually every NFL player is American. I can already see potential rookies lobbying against the London team to not draft them, causing Goodell more headaches and more negative publicity to the NFL.
Goodell has enough on his plate right now. He should be happy with the progress he's made in regards to adding more international games and sites to the NFL schedule. With that said, Goodell should put the proverbial cake (an NFL team in London) down, and focus on the other pressing matters that are effecting his legacy as NFL commissioner.