Last fall, we told you about the China Bowl — the NFL preseason (American) football game between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks scheduled for early August in Beijing. In February, we told you about all the China Bowl plugs we saw during the international broadcast of the Super Bowl. And just one month ago, we told you about the three Chinese kickers (one named “Rambo”) the NFL was training with the hopes that at least one of them could suit up for the China Bowl. We even had one reader email us to see if we could confirm the date (we had heard anywhere between August 7 and 9) — because he had already booked plane tickets for his brother-in-law, a huge Pats fan, to come to Beijing, but was worried he had him schedule to fly back before the game even started.
Well, looks like none of that matters now, and brother-in-law will get an extended tour of the Great Wall and the Forbidden City — Sports Illustrated‘s Peter King is reporting that the NFL will announce today that the China Bowl has been postponed two years. If there was a Super Bowl for PR blunders, we think this one would have a shot at the trophy. King reports:
The reason for putting off the China Bowl, according to those familiar with the league’s thinking, is twofold. The NFL is devoting tremendous manpower to the first regular-season game ever played outside North America — Miami and the New York Giants will play Oct. 28 in London — and the league doesn’t want to risk cutting corners on either of the massive projects in order to stage both games 11 weeks apart. And though the Chinese would have put on a fine show this summer, doing it with more preparation time two years later — particularly in a stadium that critics are already saying will be the finest outdoor sports venue in the world — fits more into the NFL’s vision of what its China debut should be. …
The NFL rarely is caught with its pants down on a major story like this one. But why they had to pull the plug on the China game is easy to explain. The league announced the China Bowl last August, and it was expected that this would be the only international game of 2007. It took many at 280 Park Avenue by surprise in October, when owners voted to play an overseas regular-season game as early as 2007. And then again in February, when the league announced the regular-season game between the Giants and Dolphins in the new Wembley Stadium next October. And it soon became apparent, particularly with the England game being a regular-season one, that it would be impossible for each game to be the standard NFL production. Which is to say, big and brassy. “And there’s no way the league would have gone to China for the first time unless they felt everything would be perfect about it,” said one league insider.
Perfect? It is apparent the NFL has never planned an event in China. King adds that while the owners of the Seahawks and Patriots may be unhappy their franchises will miss out on the global exposure, coaches and players are likely jumping for joy. No one was looking forward to such a time- and energy-consuming trip while they were trying to prepare for the real season.
While we doubt many Chinese people really care one way or the other about the China Bowl, we wonder how many irate fans will be calling NFL headquarters asking if they’ll refund their plane tickets to China. We say come anyway — China has more to offer than just American football.
Thanks to the anonymous reader who tipped us on this!