It is merely a couple of sleeps until kick off between Notre Dame and Navy in the college football game in Dublin this coming weekend. All around Ireland and indeed Europe the anticipation is building. Naturally, as we say here in Ireland, ‘There’s always one!’ meaning, there is always someone who is unhappy with the situation, despite everyone else looking forward to, in this case, the big game. Step forward Mr Rick Blaine, a writer for Yahoo, who penned this angry article proclaiming that the game is only going ahead as a ‘merchandising’ exercise.
To further anger the Notre Dame faithful, Blaine has also suggested the Fighting Irish could be in for an upset against Navy
Naturally, it goes without saying that Mr Blaine is entirely entitled to his own opinion, and if he doesn’t think the game should be played anywhere but the USA, well, good for him. Unfortunately, he uses a completely erroneous statement as the main basis of his assault on the decision to play the game here in Ireland. Blaine says, and we quote;
''Europe has shown little interest in American football, no matter how hard the NFL tried to force it on them.''
Woah, woah, woah. Hang on a second there. With all due respect to Mr Blaine, this is an incredibly stupid comment. I say that with authority. Stupid. There is an enormous fan base for Football American style in Ireland and the rest of Europe. It has been growing steadily since the 1980s and the NFL in particular is one of the most popular sports in Europe not called ‘soccer’.
Let’s delve a little deeper than Rick chose to.
First of all, and on a most basic level, the game on Saturday is sold out, and has been for the best part of a year. If Lennon and Harrison came back to life and the Beatles reformed, the tickets for their first gig would only be marginally harder to get than for this game. People in Ireland have been trying for months to get them, and there is absolutely none left. The game is being played at a shiny new Aviva Stadium, however it could easily have been played at the much bigger Croke Park, they could have sold the home of the GAA out twice, without any great difficulty.
That fact in itself should be some indicator as to the public excitement about the game here in Ireland.
Furthermore, football is all over Irish, English and European television. It has become one of the most popular sports to gamble on, a fact that illustrates in dollar figures how popular the sport has become over here. Everywhere you go there are NFL and college jerseys worn by fans all over Ireland, the UK and Europe. Sky Sports, the biggest sports station in Ireland and the UK, has several live games weekly. Last season Chanel 4 showed the Monday night games, and there are countless football related programs on ESPN and ESPN America. College football basically takes over the ESPN America schedule on weekends.
Everywhere you go in Ireland and mainland Europe, football is front and center in terms of popularity amongst sports fans.
Further to this, football is being played by tens of thousands across Ireland, the UK and Europe.
| Notre Dame players relaxing with a
giant chess set at their Irish hotel