By: Eddie Hawkeswood
Let’s get a few things out of the way first, shall we? The Olympics could absolutely add football – starting with eight countries – to its slate. Just like in the Winter Olympics where it is called ‘Ice Hockey,’ it is a small concession to call football, ‘American Football’ (more on that later). There should definitely be men’s and women’s events. Finally, read on for a surprise twist, my friends.
Eliminating the Problems First
The Schedule. Many observers point to the complication of football games needing a week between each contest as a primary reason this would not work. All events have qualifiers…just get these out of the way much earlier. I bet people would check out Germany vs. England the week after the Super Bowl. The college football regular season wraps up in November; The National Championship takes place (around) the first week of January. The simple answer is to start the Olympic event right at the quarter final mark on the first Sunday. If the event blossoms, elimination games could start even earlier than that first weekend. Tokyo 2020 had been scheduled to start events on Wednesday, July 21st. If the top eight nations each play a quarter final game, that sets up a semi-final weekend mid-Games with the Gold Medal Game to take place just as the Olympics are wrapping up. Or… a Monday Nighter!
The Name. The IOC is unlikely to call the event ‘American Football,’ so why don’t I turn it over to my readers to help us with the naming? ‘Modern Football?’ ‘North American Football?’ ‘The OFL?’ We have three years folks, let’s nail this! (Maybe one year if IOC President, Thomas Bach becomes a fan of Blue Lake Drive’s pieces) The best suggestion will win network swag, when we get some.
The Venue. A legitimate question centers on the presence of fans at the Games. What if we ran an end-around on this dilemma and went old school? A team on each sideline with the game played on a large rectangle of grass. In other words, don’t put the game in a stadium if there will be empty seats. If rectangles of grass are at a premium, share the turf with the rugby folks on their off days (I am sure that will go over well). Added bonus: No jumbotron telling fans to ‘Make some noise!’
On To the Fun Stuff
The Participants. Men and Women? You bet! Everything about this is cool. The national uniforms could be sweet. The different style of games between the genders would make for interesting analysis. And what’s to say that it would be a sure-fire gold for U.S. women? Now, here comes the twist. For the first year of the event, do not include the U.S. men. The NFL, College, and CFL seasons are busy to varying degrees at this point in the calendar, so none of those individuals would be free. Plus, the injury risk would be a deterrent. For argument’s sake, let’s imagine that it was a normal year and the U.S. did try to patchwork together a squad. Would recently retired QB Eli Manning look to solidify a potential Hall of Fame career with an Olympic Gold? A list of recent retirees reveals that Manning would have a couple of nice TE options to throw to, as chronicled by Aaron Hager. But the questions loom large. Would players, many of whom have stepped away due to the wear and tear on their body, prepare for a short, intense tournament? What kind of depth would their roster have? Coaches have styles of play…could they find chemistry and success in that system? And finally, could they adapt to … THE FUN RULE CHANGES?
The Rules. Just like the name ‘American Football,’ the IOC is unlikely to completely adopt the U.S. game without adding a few international rules. Who knows what they could be? Many dislike how the punting/kick-off game has been neutralized. The CFL has some cool wrinkles, most of which are geared towards a scoring boost. What about this, in the fourth quarter, instead of ‘going-for-two,’ what if countries could ‘go-for-three?’ after a major…again, readers if you have an idea, feel free to let us know.
The Early Favourites. Let’s set the stage properly, if the first go-around features Canada, Mexico, Japan, as the top 3, those are fantastic viewership markets. Factor in some European nations and Brazil, and perhaps China as the last quarter finalist and the stage is set for high ratings just as football season in the U.S. is ramping up. Also, consider those Mexican uniforms! You can bet Twitter would start trending with ‘Mexican helmets offensive,’ only to have the Mexican delegation proclaim that, ‘they are proud of their heritage.’ This in turn will lead to some Twitter Twits to say, ‘I’m offended’ from their fake account in Saskatchewan … and everything will shut down.
The Officiating. NFL fans know the current state of officials. For the sake of the integrity of the game, let’s hope that the Olympics use the finest referees that it can find. For the sake of comedy, let’s hope they find the replacement refs from the 2012 NFL season.