The NFL In Germany

Yesterday was the first time the NFL played a regular season game in Germany; the Bucs and Seahawks met in Munich and played in front of a crowd of 69,811 folks.  Back in the days when the NFL was trying to cultivate interest in Europe with the WLAF and NFL Europe, Germany was a place where fan interest seemed strong.  Yesterday’s game drew great interest as measured by the fact that the NFL created an electronic queue for those who wanted tickets for this inaugural “Germany Game”.  When that queue opened, the league says that 800,000 people tried for spots in that queue.  [Aside:  Of course, there were individuals who tried to sign up multiple times so that figure is inflated, but it does indicate ”fan interest” in the NFL product in Germany.]  Yesterday’s game provided a sample of one event, but that attendance figure tells me that “Germany” is now on the NFL’s list of “places to play regular season games” with a check mark next to it.

The NFL is serious about extending its fanbase beyond the US borders.  I read a report several months ago that said the league has assigned international marketing rights to 19 of the 32 teams in the league.  Germany, Mexico and the UK have now hosted regular season games; those three countries are targeted by specific teams for marketing opportunities.  However, the league’s “reach” is much more ambitious; for example, the LA Rams have been assigned the task of marketing the NFL to Australia and China.  In addition, when the NFL expanded its season to 17 games, it also slipped in a rule that every team must play at least one regular season game at an international venue every 8 seasons.

Commissioner Goodell is on record saying that he thinks London could support one and possibly two NFL teams on a permanent basis and that if the idea is to expand with two teams in London – or Europe – then maybe the idea should encompass a European Division which would minimize the number of trans-Atlantic crossings for the teams based there.  That makes intuitive sense, and it also makes for a complete realignment of the existing divisions within the league.  For example, you cannot just expand to 4 European cities and label them as the “European Division” because the current structure has 4 divisions per conference and adding “fifth one” to either conference would be awkward at best.

For the time being at least, the NFL is probably happy to stage a half dozen or so of its 272 regular season games outside the US.  There are revenue streams to be tapped “over there” …

Next up is an unusual happenstance in MLB…  The Houston Astros won this year’s World Series and were in last year’s World Series as the AL champs.  In 2021, the Astros drew 25,537 fans per home game; and in 2022, that number increased significantly to 33,198 fans per game.  In case your cell phone is not handy, the 2022 attendance for the Astros was a bit over 2.6M patrons.  So, the team was successful on the field and at the box office.

It turns out that both manager, Dusty Baker, and GM, James Click, had expiring contracts at the end of the season.  About a week ago, the team announced that Dusty Baker would be back in the dugout next year on a one-year contract.  After two World Series appearances in a row, he gets a one-year deal?

Thinking about that situation a bit more provides a possible explanation:

  • Dusty Baker will be 74 years old in the middle of the 2023 MOB season.
  • MAYBE Dusty Baker only wants to commit to managing a team for a year at a time?

However, the oddity of the story does not end there.  The Astros announced late last week that they will not give GM, James Click, a new contract.  According to reports, he too was offered a one-year contract, but he wanted a longer deal and the owner, Jim Crane, was not willing to do that.  Given the team success in the past two seasons on the field and at the box office, I have to wonder why the owner and the GM could not come to terms there.  The GM had to have been a significant part of the effort to construct the rosters of the last two Astros’ teams that played in the World Series; and even if he had nothing to do with marketing the team to the fans, the success of the team had to be part of the gate attraction that drew 2.6M fans last season.

There just has to be more to this story and I suspect it will come out in dribs and drabs.  Click is only 44 years old, so he is likely to be in and around MLB for a long time.  His “GM credentials” are well-polished.  Unless he is a royal pain in the ass and impossible to work with, James Click will get another shot at building a team.

Finally, here is a note from Dwight Perry’s weekend column in the Seattle Times that you should keep in mind as the FIFA World Cup gets underway:

“At ‘Former FIFA boss says giving the World Cup to Qatar was a mistake. It sure took a long time for that check to clear.’”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



4 thoughts on “The NFL In Germany”

  1. Click only got to the Houston organization in 2020, so most of the team was in the organization before him. It still looks a little funny.

    The manager is much more visible to the fans, and they will get attached to him much more than the GM. I’d assume Dusty is only going year to year on his wishes. If he turned down that deal and announced he wanted a multiyear deal he’d likely have had offers already.

    1. Ed:

      Yes – – lots of good players for the Astros were already there when Click arrived. But he had to deal with replacing George Springer and Carlos Correa wo left town and those are two people who were big contributors to the team.

  2. Jack,

    Greetings from Houston. The talk here is that Baker got $35 million for one year but he is year to year and it is up to him how long he wants to stay. For Click, there was some internal tension and that there was disagreement between him and Baker when it came to a trade for Wilson Contreras. Baker was against believing it would upset team chemistry because Contreras would have wanted to be the starter over Maldonado. Jim Crane intervened and vetoed the trade and they picked up Vasquez instead. However, and this is interesting, the Astros are now interested in Contreras and are looking for an upgrade at catcher.

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