Why Are The Falcons The Home Team In Their Game Against The Lions In London?
Neutral-site NFL games are bullshit, at least until every team has to play one every year. As of right now, only six teams take the trip to play in London (a record three games will be played there this year), and those six teams take on the burden of dealing with jet lag and becoming their own cheerleaders at publicity events.
Worst of all is the concept of a "home" team, which the Falcons will pretend to be this week. Not only does it confuse the shit out of media members who keep forgetting that this isn't an Atlanta home game (and yes, I'm including our staff and contributors to this mess), but volunteering to be the "home" team appears only to benefit the owners rather than the players. "Home" teams in London are reimbursed for lost profits (the Jaguars, thanks to an extended commitment, get a full Wembley Stadium share, which is more than they make in Jacksonville) and get an extra $1 million bonus, plus the rights to compete to hosting the Super Bowl.
Meanwhile, unless you're the Patriots -- who by some metrics (including literally a seeing-eye test) are the most "popular" team in the U.K. -- you don't get any kind of home-field advantage, even as the "home" team. In fact, the "home" team has only won three of the nine games played in London so far.
That's a bad sign for the Falcons, this week's "home" team. Atlanta hosting Detroit is even funnier when you consider two things: One, Atlanta is actually further from London than Detroit is. And two, Atlanta appears to have no idea where the U.K. is located. Or how to count?:
— Matt Jones (@mr_mdjones) October 22, 2014
Yep, that's Spain, not England, and what is supposed to be England looks nothing like England. Welcome home, guys! (Yes, the team has since updated the graphic and apologized, but it still says "three plans to London" which is wrong.)
The goal, supposedly, is that every team will eventually make their way over to London as either a visitor (no benefits) or the host (some benefits, for the organization, not the players themselves other than nice accommodations) in a five-year period. But asking one team to give up a home game in a season where one game could mean the difference between a playoff berth or staying home, or home-field advantage and going on the road for the conference championship, seems like a raw deal. The Falcons suck away from home -- now they have to play essentially nine road games in a season where they'll be fighting to stay relevant?
But the NFL fan base is growing in London, and tickets at Wembley Stadium sell out within hours, and that means the NFL is making serious bank (not to mention garnering more leverage over teams that want to host the Super Bowl), and money is everything to a league that pulls in $9 billion a year. So unless you have a better idea on how to make more money (and no, asking $44-million-a-year-man Roger Goodell to step down doesn't count), don't expect this ridiculous system to change anytime soon.
Photo via Getty
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