Commentary: Do Bears fans like the idea of a game in London?
Joe Camporeale - USA Today Sports

Commentary: Do Bears fans like the idea of a game in London?

by - Senior Writer -

For the past decade or so, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has made it clear that he wants to continue to expand the NFL game abroad to new countries. Whether preseason games in Canada, a regular Buffalo appearance in Toronto, or even Mexico City now hosting NFL contests, the global expansion of this game is heading in the direction that Goddell has envisioned, and it will only continue to get better.

However, that vision all started across the pond as the NFL and London reached an agreement to host an annual football game at some of their soccer venues during the season. What began as a single contest per year, has now grown to four as each season eight teams travel to London to embark on one of the four games to be played their annually.

Whether a team loses a home game or loses a road game for this opportunity tends to have fans react differently, but the fact of the matter is every organization will soon enough be playing a game in London, and that won't change. With several teams having their second or third shot abroad, the Bears will be making their first trip to England this season, as this will count as one of their road games. I have always wondered if fans of these teams like the idea of the London game, but here are some pros an cons as to what makes this event good or bad depending on where you fall.

Pros: One of the most significant advantages of this event is bringing this great American game abroad. We know how football is receptive in the states, but we don’t always know what other countries think of this game. Playing in London gives both players and owners an opportunity to see how widespread not only the NFL fan base is, but the team fan base also.

Every season it seems like more and more fans turn out to watch one of the four NFL games in London as they look to show their football spirit. However, it isn’t the game itself that makes this opportunity unique, but instead the entire week of festivities that lead to each of these games. In some cases, it acts as a mini Superbowl as both the players and coaches are involved in many interactive activities throughout the week.

Another pro happens to be that you will be the only game watched. The way the NFL works now is what ever team is closest to your region; that is who you must watch play on Sunday, whether they are good or bad. For Bears fans, that can be somewhat tricky because those fans who live in Wisconsin especially must settle for Packer Games much of the year.

That won’t be the case in England this weekend. Yes, soccer is still the number one game overseas, but when the NFL shows up, make no mistake about it people watch. Not only do people watch, but it will also be shown on every television set in the United Kingdom, allowing non-Bears fans to see precisely what Chicago football all is about. This could be huge financially down the road as the newer fans you attract, the more revenue you bring in.

The final pro that I will focus on is the overall experience of this game. Not only is this a chance to bring our great sport to another country, but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for most of these players as they may not have been to this region before. Yes, they have a game to play and a job to do, but they also know the fans will be more receptive to them, knowing this is the only real chance to see them in person.

I often view this as the toughest week to prepare for games. Not just because of the travel, but because of everything going on as both the Bears and Raiders want to make lasting impressions on their international fan bases. Whether the two teams ever are invited back remains to be seen, but for now, they need to cherish this moment and make the most of this opportunity.

Despite several pros to this game, there are also some cons. One of the biggest Cons must be the grueling travel schedule, as this is not just an ordinary road trip. When you look at the course of an NFL season, most teams don’t have to travel more than five hours by plane to get to their game. This week not only are both sides above that, but they are approaching 8-11-hour flights as they must cross an ocean to reach Tottenham.

The biggest issue with this type of travel schedule is adjusting to your jet leg once you land. When you finally get your legs back under you, you then have a major time change to adjust to, which is five hours for Chicago and seven hours for Oakland. That alone takes a tole on you the first couple of days, and by the time the week is up, it takes you a little while to readjust to an ordinary football schedule.

Another Con that most people don’t consider is the game time in London. Yes, for the Bears, it will be a regular 1 p.m. kickoff for them, which would be an 11 AM time for Oakland. However, that is London time, not American time. If Bears fans want to watch their team live on Sunday, they must tune into NFL Network at either 8 or 9 am, while Raider fans must be up even earlier at 6 or 7.

This not only takes a toll on the viewership depending on how many people will watch at that time but also NFL Network limits who can view this game due to being a premium channel. Should FOX, CBS, or NBC cover this game where more people could watch, I don’t think Kickoff time would be an issue. The fact that a premium channel hosts this game takes viewers away from this game, which is never good for big markets.

The final Con I always take into consideration can also be considered a pro depending on when you play the game. Since the Bears are a part of this game, this will be viewed as a con as both teams will be granted a bye week next week. Let me explain what I mean by both a pro and a con.

A lengthy trip like this for a special event is good an all, but it really does take a toll on you both physically and mentally. That is why the bye week following this game is necessary to recover and get back on your own schedule. The only problem is, the later you play this game, the better it is for your season.

No team likes early bye weeks, in my opinion, as that means an extra-long season with out a break down the stretch. For the Bears, they will fall into that category as they will have a bye week next week and will have to play 11 games straight to end the season. Sure, the Bears have a mini-bye week later in the year with a Thursday night game, but that is not the same as a full week off from action.

In this case, the Bears may be happy to have this early week off as several of their key defensive and offensive players are out with injuries meaning they will be good for the stretch run. Any way you look at this week, you will see pros and cons, but for the Bears, I see more pros than cons this year.

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