Tuesday, March 15, 2005

NFL heads to Mexico City

I couldn't believe it when I first heard it. I was half-asleep this morning when I heard on The Ticket that the NFL is going to announce within the next two weeks a regular season game to be played in Mexico City.

The game would be played between the San Francisco 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals with the Cardinals playing as the home team.

When I first heard about the game, I thought this was terrible because it would essentially take away a home game from one of the teams. If I was running a team, I wouldn't mind an away game in Mexico, but no way would I forfeit a home game. But that's what Arizona is doing.

Then I found out that the Cardinals organization volunteered to have the game be their home game. Uh ... what?

The Cardinals front office has said that because 27 percent of their fan base is hispanic, a game played in Mexico City should bring in a lot of Cardinal fans. Here's what the Cardinals VP told a local newspaper:
"About 27 percent of our fans are Hispanic," Cardinals vice president Michael Bidwill told The Arizona Republic. "We think playing a game in Mexico City would be a great opportunity for us to continue to cultivate our Hispanic base as well as to develop new fans. It would be an historic and unprecedented event."
Okay. Go for it, buddy! Like I said, it's not my team, and I sure wouldn't be willing to lose a home game - especially a game against a division rival -- especially against the division rival who twice beat you to keep you out of the playoffs and a division championship. (But I'm not going to complain about the Cardinals lack of success against last years worst team in the NFL anymore. It would just make me too angry!)

Don't get me wrong, an NFL game in Mexico City should do wonders for promoting the league. Preseason games are played in Mexico all the time, and fans usually flock to the events. But if I'm running a team, I don't forfeit a home game. And in a Len Pasquarelli article on ESPN.com, he points out why an annual game would be tough to pull off.

The league would like to make an international regular-season game an annual event. But, as one league source noted, it might be difficult finding volunteers every year who are willing to forfeit a home contest. The Cardinals annually rank among the league's poorest teams in terms of annual home attendance and that almost certainly played some part in their decision to volunteer for the Mexico City contest.

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