There is a huge league in the UK, played out by thousands of weekend warriors, with a passionate and knowledgeable fan-base. Sky Sports, to its credit, takes an active interest in same, and frequently shows highlights from the games, and the quality of these is often praised by visiting American coaches and players. Germany has a massive league, which I believe is actually semi-professional, some players earning money out of it, the popularity and standard of play is that high.
Mr Blaine’s comment was not only flagrantly incorrect, it was also very poorly researched. A Basic level of same on the Internet might have suggested to him that there might be more to European American Football than has, to date, met his eyes. Take for example this simple list of teams in Europe. Take a quick look at it. There are hundreds. Look at Germany and France in particular. They themselves have dozens, each!
There are twenty American football teams in Denmark, for example.
We can only wish Mr Blaine had even taken a cursory glance at, for example, the German, British and Irish American football official web pages, before he wrote his regrettable and frankly insulting comment.
The Irish American Football league is a thing of beauty. It is a combative, passionate and talented league, with a very high standard of play. I can vouch for the ferocity of the defense and tackling personally, having played QB for the DCU Saints (now basically merged with the Rhinos) for three years. Let’s just say, those boys can freaking hit. We had some incredible players on defense in particular, guys like Eoin ‘Foxy’ Fox, Joe Carlyle, Connor Sullivan and Irish American Football legends Dave Rothwell and the late, very great, Steve Christian. The team was littered with passionate, knowledgeable and talented football players. In my first season with the Saints we made the playoffs and enjoyed several literally life affirming, uplifting moments, games and wins.
It is an insult to me personally, it is an insult to hundreds of football players in Ireland, and an insult to tens of thousands of football players across Europe. It is an insult to thousands of football fans in Ireland and an insult to hundreds of thousands of football fans across Europe to say anything less than the sport is huge over here, and growing still.
Myself and a few buddies held our annual NFL fantasy draft this week. In a Dublin bar, no less. That's right, fantasy football, in Europe, Mr Blaine. On the way home my good friend Andy said he was going to go to the Lansdowne area (where the game will be) on Saturday, without a ticket (because, if you recall, they are impossible to get), just to soak up the experience. What Andy was tapping into there was the fact there has been a tangible, exciting ‘buzz’ growing across Ireland for over a year now for this game. It is swelling from the ground level up, and the infusion of support, passion and color from the States, combined with the ground-swell of excitement that has been building here, should lead to a great spectacle on Saturday.
Here’s hoping Mr Blaine not only enjoys the game, but perhaps also comes to appreciate just why it is taking place here in Ireland.
Who knows, maybe the football loving European fans might even get an apology.
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