Starkey: Steelers in Ireland? Brilliant!
By Joe Starkey
Published: Thursday, July 12, 2012
It made for a good radio topic, anyway: Would you be OK with your beloved Steelers relinquishing a regular-season home game in order to play one in Ireland?
The collective response was the most resounding “No!” heard in these parts since HBO asked Bill Cowher if he'd like his team featured on “Hard Knocks.”
As it turns out, you needn't worry. Here is the email I received from Steelers headquarters: “We will not give up a home game to play in Ireland.”
That's fairly clear.
So let's move on to a couple of questions left in the wake of Steelers chairman emeritus Dan Rooney — the United States ambassador to Ireland — telling the BBC he'd love to see his team play a real game on the Emerald Isle, even if it isn't a “home game:”
• Is it a worthwhile idea?
• Will the NFL be the first major North American sports league to position a team overseas?
Addressing the second question first, I'll go with a definitive “maybe.” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has made no secret of his interest in placing a team in London, where the NFL draws massive crowds to Wembley Stadium for an annual regular-season game.
Here's the problem: One game does not necessarily translate to sustaining an actual team.
You'd think after centuries of torturing themselves with soccer (no, I won't call it association football), the English would wake up one day and say, “My God, what we have done?” and turn to real football, once given a taste. But it's not that easy. Start with the fact that the United Kingdom is positively united in the fact that its children do not play American football. They grow up playing soccer.
In England, the English Premier League (that's soccer) rules the sports world, and its season runs concurrent to the NFL's. People prefer soccer's constant “action,” or flow, to American football's frequent stoppages. When the Steelers played a preseason game 350 miles from London, in Dublin in 1997, the sport blew people's minds.
Not necessarily in a good way.
The Associated Press quoted a Steelers fan as answering the following repeated questions from a bunch of teenage Gaelic football players:
• “Why do your players wear so much equipment?”
• “Why does the game take so long?”
They weren't familiar with the concept of commercials. So, yeah, even 15 years later, American football would be a tough full-time sell in England, Ireland or other possible targets for NFL missionaries, including Munich, Frankfurt and Edinburgh.
However, one should never underestimate the NFL public-relations machine. It's not a $9 billion-a-year business for nothing. The league continues to take incremental steps overseas, and powerful owners such as New England's Robert Kraft are bullish on placing a team in London. The St. Louis Rams recently signed a three-year deal to play annually there, starting against Patriots on Oct. 28. So this is real.
Within two years, it's likely the NFL will play two games overseas. That's where Ireland comes in, and even if the '97 Steelers-Bears exhibition hardly was a raging success — only 30,209 fans showed up — you can bet a real game would fill the seats at Croke Park Stadium (capacity: 82,500) in central Dublin.
Notre Dame and Navy will play a sold-out game in September at Dublin's smaller Aviva Stadium (capacity: 50,000). NFL officials recently visited Croke Park, and, according to the BBC, found the site “very attractive.”
It would be that much more attractive if packed with Terrible Towel-waving fanatics, which is precisely what would happen if the Steelers were invited.
Why shouldn't they go?
What better franchise to spread the gospel of American football?
Besides, the tailgate parties would be unbelievable (I hear they have beer in Ireland).
Some fans will worry about how the team rebounds from such a long trip. They shouldn't. The New York Giants played in London in the middle of the 2007 season and wound up winning four playoff games, including a Super Bowl upset of the unbeaten Patriots.
Surely, somebody will give up a home game to join the Steelers in Dublin. There is money to be made.
It might make for an incredible “Hard Knocks”-like show, too, though I'd bet Mike Tomlin's “No!” on that idea would be 10 times louder than Cowher's.
Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 “The Fan.” His columns appear Thursdays and Sundays. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers restructure Brown’s contract to become salary cap compliant
- Keisel might be at end of Steelers career
- Steelers create cap space by re-signing Polamalu, Miller
- Steelers’ Worilds signs transition tag
- Steelers use transition tag on LB Worilds
- Robinson: NFL getting younger at RB
- 6 players the Steelers will be watching at NFL Combine