When it comes to North American sports, I’m pretty much a straight ahead baseball fan. I don’t mind watching some NFL action occasionally and I’ve been known to catch a NHL game on Five every once in a while, but baseball is the only sport from across the pond that really captures my imagination.
For those of you who do like other North American sports, there is plenty to be excited about in 2007 though. The NFL announced in the week leading up to the Superbowl that Wembley would host a regular season game between the Dolphins and the Giants later this year. That promises to be an amazing event (as Zara Phillips would say).
If that wasn’t enough, the NHL has confirmed today that their 2007-08 season will kick-off in “merry old England”. The Anaheim Ducks will face the L.A. Kings in two regular season games at the O2 Arena, formerly known as the Millennium Dome. This has been brought about by the owners of the O2 Arena who happen to be the parent company of the Kings. It’s exciting news that, like the NFL, the NHL are not just staging an exhibition match over here but are actually giving British fans a taste of the real competitive action.
As I quickly scoured for British reaction to this news, I came across a report on the BBC website that also casually mentions that the O2 Arena will be staging a pre-season NBA game between the Boston Celtics and the Minnesota Timberwolves. I missed the initial announcement of this news, largely because I’ve never been much of a basketball fan. It just seems too easy to score points to me, something I struggle with having been brought up on 0-0 football matches and five day Cricket Tests that end in a draw. Still, I know there are lots of people who enjoy playing basketball over here so they will be happy.
All of this is fantastic news for British fans of North American sports, but it does make me wish even more that MLB could play a game or two over here. The trouble is, baseball is a more difficult sport to stage. You can mark out an NFL pitch on a decent sized football/rugby pitch, and many arenas can be converted to stage ice hockey and/or basketball games, but a baseball diamond and outfield is a bit more specialist. The timing would be difficult as well. I don’t see the groundskeeper at the Oval being too keen on some Yanks digging up his pristine turf in March!
There may also be a few political obstacles in staging a baseball game in London as it would bring the International Olympics Committee’s decision to scrap baseball from the 2012 Olympics back under the microscope again. That wouldn’t be a bad thing in my view of course (and MLB’s no doubt) but London needs to keep the IOC on-side in their attempts to make sure the Olympics is not a complete financial disaster (“we should have let the bloody French win the bid” is my Dad’s opinion every time another billion gets added on to the projected bill!).
I hope the NFL, NHL and NBA games are all a big success as that will only increase the possibility of a Major League Baseball game being played here one day. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that the fact that these events are taking place in the two biggest examples of our “waste of money” uselessness isn’t a bad omen!