Will American Football Ever Be In The Olympics?

Caught this article on Twitter this morning. Basically, how realistic is it to envision American Football played internationally and ultimately in the Summer (or winter!) Olympics?

In short, don’t hold your breath.

Read More for reasons for and against, plus making fun of soccer.

It isn’t impossible. American Football is actually played all over the world. The Patriots’ starting right tackle, Sebastian Vollmer, played high school football in his native Germany. It isn’t as though our football has no presence overseas, it just isn’t the behemoth that the NFL is.

The inherent problem with playing football on an international stage is that Team USA wins by approximately one million points. If Drew Brees is tossing bombs to Calvlin Johnson over some 5’9″ Danish dude and Terrell Suggs is lining up against a 200 lb. Austria tight end, the game is not going to be a very close one.

So what if you can only participate if you aren’t under contract in the NFL? Or perhaps if you haven’t been for over a year or something (I have a hard time imagining free agents just opting not to sign with a team until the Olympics would be over). It would likely level the playing field if only college players and free agents could play. Suddenly it isn’t DeMarcus Ware chasing down some German quarterback; it’s some 21-year-old from Boise State.

That might be disrespectful to say of European athletes, but all their best athletes spend their time standing around on giant fields not kicking a ball at a net.


Also, they don’t appear to be very stable.

It’s hard to imagine our nation’s [actual] pastime becoming a fixture internationally. Sure, the Fuhrer keeps putting a game or two in London, but what appeal does that actually have across the pond? Some gimmicky American sport that comes over once a year? How many British kids see a showdown between the Browns and Cardinals and decide that’s what they want to do when they grow up?

If the NFL wants to grow its brand, Goodell is going to have to put some marquee games overseas. That simply isn’t going to ever happen. If you have the Giants and Eagles facing off in Week 14 with the NFC East on the line, you are absolutely going to keep that game in North America. Could you imagine if the Steelers’ home game against Baltimore were suddenly moved to Stockholm?

You aren’t going to capture an audience with a bad show. But that’s exactly what the NFL is trying to do. It won’t work. The onus has to be on other nations to develop their own American football leagues. Will they? Maybe. The game is picking up steam in Germany, and if it catches on in one or two nations, it will spread. Being a two-hour drive from six neighboring countries will do that.

The macho American stereotype in me wants to spend the rest of this post making fun of soccer because seriously, THESE are the best athletes they have?


(I can still spend a decent portion of this post making fun of soccer)


I want to see this guy just be in the same room as James Harrison.

But then I realized that the NFL can be almost as bad with that sort of thing. (Sorry I had to link to Bleacher Report but it’s worth it to remind everyone how much Tom Brady sucks as a person)

But hey, I think I found an ambassador the NFL can send to Europe to get this started:

In all seriousness, don’t fall in love with idea of worldwide American Football like Goodell is so eager to. By the time you can even put it in the conversation for the Olympic Games, your great grandchildren will be the ones blogging about it. We are a long, long way from American football being a competetive international sport. It would be really interesting to have the kind of dynamic you see in hockey, with talented players from all over the world mixing nationalities on their professional teams (I bet Finnish players would make awesome slot receivers, just trust me, they would) but the gap between football’s popularity here and overseas just make it impossible.

While in hockey, you might have a Russian talent like Evgeni Malkin on the same level as a North American star like Sidney Crosby, but can you honestly envision a British kid bull-rushing a 275 lb tackle who grew up in Texas? It would take generations to even the playing field, aside from the obvious outliers like Vollmer and Amobi Okoye (remember him?).

We would all like to see American football reach the same popularity worldwide as we have here. But we won’t. Our granchildren might. 

Brian Schaich

About Brian Schaich

Brian studied computer engineering long enough to know he just wanted to talk about sports all day for a living, so that's what he does.