From time to time we give one of our writers the opportunity to offer a very personal view of a subject that's weighing on their minds. This time it's the turn of Julie, who's been spurred into print by the hoopla surrounding tonight's big NFL showpiece and the return of the league to our city later this year.
Happy Superbowl Sunday, London NFL fans! Things have been looking up for you lately, eh? You get awarded the first NFL regular season game outside of North America, the news is greeted by strong enthusiasm and a sell-out crowd at Wembley, the NFL commissioner dangles another lovely carrot in front of you – the possibility that London could play host to a future Superbowl – and you learn that you’ve been awarded another regular season game for 2008. All very good reasons for mirth and merry-making this Superbowl Sunday. Raise a glass to this most gluttonous and overhyped of unofficial American holidays! Here’s to the future of the NFL in London!
Sorry, but I won’t drink to that. Why, you ask, when we were getting on so famously? Well, there are any number of arguments I could make, and probably none that you haven’t already heard. For someone who grew up in the Gridiron Nation (there, now you know), I’m about to make a shocking admission: American football’s really not my bag. I prefer rugby myself (well, basketball above all), but that debate is one that probably doesn’t need revisiting.
Disinterest isn’t in itself enough of a reason to object to a sport’s expansion. If I dig a little deeper, I realise that my objections are rooted in something more personal and paradoxical. As an American in London, I wouldn’t find it too difficult to continue shopping at the same stores, eating at the same restaurants (yum, and what a healthy venture that would be), and drinking the same coffee as I do in the States. But why would I? And while I miss my friends and family tremendously, packing them up and moving them all here seems to defeat part of the purpose in choosing to live abroad. So the antipathy with which I greet the NFL’s presence in London is selfishly motivated. I’m dismayed by the idea of one more American export following me here. But then as an American export myself, I could reach the unsettling conclusion that I am the problem. The circumstances which allowed me to move here – namely, a free and open society – are the same ones that encourage the leeching of certain aspects of American culture that I’d rather didn’t spread; I can’t out of the one side of my mouth celebrate London for its cosmopolitanism while out of the other I worry about the homogenisation of cultures. It’s a counterproductive argument.
So am I picking on the NFL? Yes. Is gridiron just the stand-in for an argument I could make about any number of other globalising American mega-businesses? Absolutely. Check back with me the next time I see a new American Apparel opening up – you’re likely to hear a similar gripe. Am I fighting a losing battle? Uh huh. Do I expect a good knuckle-rapping for this? Indeed.
My point, then? Well, I’m a New Englander – so, Go Pats? But then please go back to Foxborough and keep a good distance from my adopted home. I’ll check in with you the next time I’m in the neighbourhood. We can eat some clam chowda, go autumn leaf-peeping, and do all those other things for which I get absurdly nostalgic while I’m away. Doesn’t that sound brilliant? Wicked awesome, even.
Image courtesy of JonHall’s Flickr photostream