Last year, to promote the NFL’s first regular season game in London, the NFL constructed an enormous robot version of then-Dolphins (and current Redskins) defensive end Jason Taylor in Trafalgar Square.
This made for some terrific YouTube videos and amusing Deadspin posts (language warning for Deadspin, although it’s fairly mild), but somehow failed to convey much actual information about the game of American football.
Which, apparently, is something of a problem, as American football is actually pretty difficult to comprehend if you haven’t grown up watching it. The BBC has asked some NFL players and UK sports personalities to explain why folks should pay attention to this weekend’s game; here’s Jake Humphrey, an on-air sports presenter for BBC TV:
There are some big names on show, for the Chargers there’s LaDainian Tomlinson, one of the best running backs in NFL history but who has struggled with form and fitness this year, and Philip Rivers, the quarterback.
The Saints have stars that will be welcomed Beckham-like onto the pristine turf too. Drew Brees is a QB who looks like becoming a legend of the game and is on course to break Dan Marino’s record of most passing yards in a season.
The biggest disappointment is that Reggie Bush – who has been sparkling for the Saints this season and returned two punts for touchdowns, tying an NFL record for a single game recently – will be back in the States for work on an injured knee.
There will be an awful lot of muscle, skill and passion on that field. It’s an amazing spectacle and if you’ve not seen it or appreciated it before I urge you to give us a few minutes of your time on Sunday.
I’m sure that’s exactly how Chris Berman would’ve put it.
Anyhow, in addition to increased press coverage, a dedicated NFLUK website, and 100% less giant robot, the NFL has also launched the Coach Stilo Experience, which sort of has to be seen to be understood. The goal is to teach American football in an interesting and instructive fashion, in this case using a grumpy actor, a dog, and a mop-headed kid, plus cameo appearances from a whole bunch of NFL stars.
The Wall Street Journal calls it “part online seminar, part situation comedy, part highlight film,” which is as good a description of any. It’s also hugely time-consuming, so probably not best to get engrossed with if you’re at work. Much of the early material is going to be basic for anyone who has grown up in America (“the quarterback is the one who THROWS the ball,” that kind of stuff), but it does become steadily more informative as it progresses, and I can imagine it being really helpful if you’re trying to explain things to a younger kid or someone who has fond memories of the craze for CD-ROM “edutainment” titles from the mid-nineties.
It’ll be interesting to see if this approach converts any of the hardcore “it’s like rugby but boring” types, but I can’t help but think that an enormous robot Norv Turner stalking the streets of London would’ve been all kind of terrific.