Football remains an Olympic long shot

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With the Olympics getting started in the same week NFL training camps are opening, hardcore football fans have no real reason to pay attention to the Olympics (despite their presence on NBC), because football isn’t part of the Olympics.

The question is whether that ever will change.

We’ve addressed the issue from time to time over the years.  The primary challenge flows from the notion that not enough countries play the game.  In a brand-new article, Albert Breer of NFL Network cites an unnamed Olympics source who says it’s “not even in the realm of possibility,” due to among other things American domination.

But USA Football executive director Scott Hallenback explains that the International Federation of American Football has satisfied a pair of Olympic requirements.  The sport now has 50 worldwide federals and at least one on each continent.  (At least the Antarctica teams can boast that they use “frozen tundra” every single time they play.)

The IFAF also has applied for recognition with the International Olympic Committee; per Breer, a decision is expected by the end of the year.

As Alex Marvez of explained last month, IOC approval could be derailed by the ongoing absence of HGH testing.

“It directly hurts us,” IFAF president Tommy Wiking told Marvez. “You can’t think the IOC doesn’t know what happening. They know exactly what’s happening. They would like to see [testing] in all sports in the US.”

Even if HGH testing is implemented (more on that later), IOC recognition would simply be another step in the process.  Before landing in the Olympics, football would appear in international competitions likes the Commonwealth Games and the Pan-American Games.

Even then, football needs to be played in enough countries both by men and women in order to gain full acceptance into the Olympic community.

There could be good news via a recent loss by the United States to Canada in the U-19 IFAF World Championship.  That development comes a year after a team of U.S. unknowns tattooed Canada 50-7 in the finals of the adult version of the world-title event.  The progress shown by a non-American team shows that other countries may be getting better at “our” brand of football.

Before any real strides can be made, the NFL needs to get behind the effort, fully, completely, and overtly.  While the league surely supports groups like the IFAF, the NFL rarely is front and center when it comes to the inclusion of football in the Olympics.

Yeah, Peyton Manning has said several years ago he wants to win a gold medal, and Aaron Rodgers has said he’d like to compete in the Olympics.  To get football included in the Olympic games, however, the NFL needs to be waving the flag aggressively and unequivocally.  Though the league may have some concern about diluting attention to the NFL every four years, especially since the Olympics routinely falls within the window of NFL training camps and the preseason, the goal of converting the NFL from a billion-dollar national business into a trillion-dollar worldwide enterprise would be advanced by the presence of the sport in the games that somehow manage to get using caring every four years about a wide range of sports we otherwise routinely ignore.

31 responses to “Football remains an Olympic long shot

  1. Canada might score a couple of points. Germany would put up a valiant effort. American Samoa would be the only team with any chance of keeping it close for a quarter. Every other country it would be like 70-doughnut.

  2. You aren’t giving Canada enough credit. There is a much larger love for football in recent years than ever before. We also do have college teams and the CFL by the way. It’s not like it would be as shocking if Bangladesh beat the USA. The other top teams in the IFAF were Germany, Japan and Mexico but none of them could compete on a consistent basis. There would be no fun in watching blow out after blow out against other countries with no care for the sport. Face it, there isn’t enough love for our football overseas. It’s never going to happen.

  3. Beyond the fact that America would win every time and Canada would finish second every time, logistically it seems impossible. The Games last 17 days, and even if you go the soccer route and have it start a few days before the actually Games, at most you could play 5 games in 20 days, and even that would be very difficult physically.

    Factor in the likelyhood nobody outside North America would care, and that NFL teams would never agree to let their multi-million dollar investments risk injury, and this one seems dead in the water.

  4. Is it even logisticly possible for football to be an Olympic Sport? You’d have to have at least a few weeks for teams to practice. Then you’d have to have a week between games. If it were strictly a 16 team tourney you’d have to spread it over 4 weeks. Not to mention they’d probably want pod play and then medal rounds. It would have to start in the spring for it to end and the end of the Olympiad.

    Not saying it’s not possible. Just some other things to think about.

  5. Futball-already an Olympic sport

    Rugby-way more popular around the world than football, doesn’t require 6 or 7 days between matches, has a much better chance to become an Olympic sport

    MMA-Although I personally don’t care for it, it has appeal to a younger demographic, and doesn’t carry the baggage of boxing

    Football-Never going to happen

  6. Definitely not going to happen anytime soon considering Rugby which is played in many more countries and already has a lot of national teams isn’t an Olympic sport anymore.

  7. The problem is, even though Canada is becoming more competitive with the U.S at the junior level, that is still only two competitive teams. Canada has only been playing in the IFAF tourneys for a couple of years, before that it was Japan getting beaten even worse in the finals against the U.S.

  8. The dropped baseball just to kick America in the nads – why would they add football? And what would they call it? Soccer?

    Why would the NFL want to have anything to do with it? In any case, football isn’t an all-star game. And how much time would come out of NFL schedules? Stupid through and through. The NFL is more important in the United States than the Olympics. Nothing else matters.

  9. I love hearing rugby fans talk about how much tougher and more skilled rugby players are than NFL players.

    “American football players wear armour!”

    No way it will be come an Olympic sport because America would destroy every team they played.

  10. There is zero percent chance this would ever happen. It would be the USA gold every single olympics. Followed by a Canadian silver and Germany/American Samoa fighting for bronze. Even Germany would win 40-0 against almost all the other nations.

  11. @hyzers:

    You mean like the US Rugby team gets destroyed by almost every team they play?

    New Zealand has the about the population of the NYC metro area and their team crushes Team USA every time they play.

    The reason the USA is dominant in football is because it is our national sport. There are probably more active football players in Toledo, Ohio than there is in all of China.

    So the fact that the US is better at football has nothing whatsoever to do with whose athletes are tougher.

  12. One of the best written articles here Mike. American Football would indeed be enhanced by inclusion into the Olympics. Allowing NFL players in, perhaps representing their country of origin like in basketball would be good, but allowing only college players might make it more competitive.

    The USA would likely win the first few times, but like all other sports, eventually the competition rises. I doubt that the NFL owners would strongly push for it though since they’d be little or no direct profit for them, and several games in a few days would indeed put players at risk. Maybe a bigger than NFL roster?

    In the end a good idea, and a well written post.

  13. As a non-American who loves American football and lives overseas, I can quite confidently say that American Football will never become more than a novelty sport in most countries, and there will never be a serious international competition. It can certainly have an international following, and fairly legitimate leagues (although minor) in other places, but it’s a sport that will always be dominated by Americans. Your national team is full of guys that aren’t even scrubs in the NFL. Imagine what that score would be if you put your BEST team together from the NFL (like every other country does). 200-0?

    There will never be a true competitive international competition like there is for soccer, but that’s ok! Love Football for what it is and don’t try to make it something it’s not!

  14. NFL is pretty much the only sport I watch. And while it’d be cool to have football as an Olympic sport, america would dominate even more so than the dream team did in basketball. Aside from that, I’d fear for the safety of the other countries teams.

  15. This might be fun to watch one day and actually plausible if it was college players only, a la pre-Dream Team Olympic basketball and Olympic baseball when it actually existed. It would shorten the amount of years the rest of the world would need to catch up – in theory. Wouldn’t impact the NFL and it would create more pre-draft fodder for media and fans alike.

    Too bad Tebow missed his chance. He could have been Captain America.

  16. The odds are very long on american football in the Olympics. They removed baseball which is clearly a top-5 team sports on three continents: north america, south america, and asia and therefore should be one of the most prominent team sports in the Olympics. The Olympics hate to add sports where America is strong, which is why they ridiculously dropped baseball. At some point American leaders need to stand up for our national pride and say that if our countries sports are excluded, we will drop out and bankrupt the event.

  17. This is an even worse idea that making softball an Olympic sport. “Let’s get sports that only Americans play included in the Olympics so we can win Gold medals!” It still irks me when I see members of those softball teams of past Olympics glorying in their status as past Olympians and gold medal winners. Softball an Olympic sport my ass. Fortunately the Olympic powers that be finally came to their senses and revoked softball’s status as an Olympic sport. Let’s not repeat that farce with American football.

  18. Seeing as the U.S isn’t a Commonwealth nation I would find it very hard to see football being played at the Commonwealth games, unless you fast forward 100 years and it’s the dominate sport in Canada, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Samoa etc.

  19. The headline on this article is actually far more charitable to the actual circumstances than they currently exist.

    While American football was once a demonstration sport in 1932 when LA hosted the Summer Olympics, it was a novelty then (within Olympics) and will forever remain one, unless the sport explodes across the world, a rather doubtful prospect.

    Let me phrase it this way. Olympic baseball was for a while semi-competitive, with Japan and Cuba as legitimate threats to the US, followed by some minor teams. And yet the IOC dropped the sport, because even this constellation proved to be unsatisfactory. Can you show me a nation that would even come close to challenging the US in American football the way Japan/Cuba challenged the US in baseball? Absolutely not!

    Tellingly, rugby is back in the Olympics, come 2016, but only the people in charge of rugby changed the game to 7s (rather than 15), a faster version of the game to accommodate the Olympic timetable. Will football accept such changes? I doubt it.

    Coverage of US-based sports such as American football is spotty at best in large parts of the world. Indeed, foreign coverage of American football is increasingly critical of the violence associated with the sport. Readers of the Spiegel, a leading news magazine in Germany, for example, know of Ray Lewis, but only as someone who once faced charges for murder!

    This is what the headline of the story about his trial read: “Killing Machines Out Of the Ghetto.”

    Die Welt, another leading publication, recently published a piece around Junior Seau’s death which noted that nobody, absolutely nobody, raised the issue of head trauma/concussions during his memorial.

    Such attitudes will be difficult to overcome for the NFL and for that matter anyone else pushing football in the Olympics.

    Ultimate Frisbee, which I play competitively, has a much better chance of making it to the Olympics, as the sport has already made it to the World Games, a kind of waiting room for would-be Olympic sports.

  20. Most people are overrating USA and underrating Japan and Mexico. Japan is rated to be the best american football team, USA is the second best and sometimes beat by Mexico but third place is fought by Canada, Germany, and Mexico.

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