Saturday, October 01, 2005



My Week 3 performance in the Window Lickers' Challenge was, to put it mildly, quite depressing. But don't assume Archer is walking away with the haven't seen the last of me in your rear-view mirror. There's a reason they're labeled with the warning: "Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear."

Unfortunately, I thought Jimed and Wikkid looked quite small in MY rear view mirror.

I'm not sure what the NFL was thinking when they organized the Mexico City shindig for Sunday night. Hey, Tags, wasn't the reason you staged this south-of-the-border tilt because you wanted to SELL your product? Then why send two historically subpar-quality teams, the Arizona Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers, down to the Mexican capital to appear before 100,000 Mexican fans who put down valuable pesos with the expectation of being entertained with a top-quality product? Luke McCown, technically, will be the NFL's face in Mexico City. (Tim Rattay doesn't count. He gets injured as often as Robert Downey snorts cocaine.)

Back in the days before Cortes and his Spaniards razed the former Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan in 1521 and renamed it Mexico City, the Aztecs liked to slaughter their own countrymen and offer them up for sacrifice to their gods. They even had a sport somewhat akin to field hockey called "tlachtli", where the losing team killed themselves to preserve their honor, and their blood was smeared on the steps of Aztec temples, including the Great Temple in Tenochtitlan (where the Zocalo now stands). That's not a bad idea for the loser of the 49ers-Cards tilt. I have none of these players on my fantasy teams anyway!

Honestly, I hope the NFL doesn't field a team outside the United States in the future. Major League Baseball tried to do it first with the Montreal Expos. However, once Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, and Tim Raines moved on, it was obvious there was little loyalty for a baseball team in the home of Les Habitants, where the passion for the puck reigns supreme. The Toronto Blue Jays are only doing a little better, because they try to stock themselves with a star or two to stay serviceable to their home base, such as Roger Clemens not too long ago. In basketball, the trade of Vince Carter to the New Jersey Nets robbed the Toronto Raptors of their fans' favorite face -- so unless they find another marquee player, they'll find their going tough in Toronto. I never thought it was a good idea to name a team after an extinct dinosaur species. Los Angeles Brontosaurs, anyone?

As many American consumer products companies have learned, it's extremely difficult to export your product to other countries without consideration for the sensitivities and idiosyncrasies of local culture. Coke learned this early -- if you go to Germany or Japan, the way Coke sells their cola in these local markets is very different from what's done stateside. Whirlpool tried selling their washers and dryers in Europe in the 1970's, but they realized, too late, that European kitchens and pantries are very small compared to their American counterparts. Whirlpool's American-sized washers were way too big to fit in, and the company's European sales crashed. Perhaps the most classic case of American hubris is the case of the Chevy Nova. With lots of marketing fanfare, Chevrolet launched the Nova in the Spanish market. Soon enough, it became apparent there were no sales in Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, and the rest of Spain. Why? The word "nova" in Spanish means, "won't go."

American football is very closely tied to American culture. Most football fans grew up watching their parents root for their favorite teams, whether college or pro. In the fall and winter, many social conversations, especially among men, revolve around the NFL playoffs and the college bowls. Can anyone visualize a tailgating party in Paris or Berlin?

As the 1994 World Cup in the US, and the increasingly competitive US soccer teams can attest, it takes generations for a sport to rise to the level of football or baseball in the US. Although American sports fans are more aware of soccer than they were 35 years ago, you never see mobs of flag-waving fans rush to cheer their American professional soccer teams. This will never happen. Major League Soccer's most successful team, DC United, markets itself to Washington DC's international population.

When I was in San Francisco in 1994, I attended a World Cup game between Brazil and Cameroon in Stanford Stadium. You wouldn't believe the crowd FIVE hours before game time. In the parking lot across El Camino Real, there were mobs of green-and-yellow-painted Brazilians hopping and dancing to the beat of the samba drummers. It was one hell of a good party. After the game ended, it was more of the samba dancing for five hours afterwards. Their passion for soccer equals our passion for football.

The most entertaining part of the Mexico City game will be how far Neil Rackers can punch in field goals in the city's high elevation (7,400 feet). That's saying a lot about the quality of football I expect in the game.

Buenos dias, amigos!
Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.

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