LONDON PATRIOTS

October 25, 2009

Dan Shaughnessy, of the Boston Globe, sent this from London: “Tom Brady, international icon?
Not quite.
Tom’s wife is internationally famous. Gisele is a goddess in Europe and just about everywhere else on the planet. Tom is not even an international man of mystery. Over here, he’s just a good-looking American football player who occasionally shows up on ads for Nike, Glaceau Smartwater, Stetson cologne,
Visa, and Netjets.
London Fog?
That account belongs to Gisele. She’s famous like Jacko and Bono.
Tom? He’s not David Beckham, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Lance Armstrong, Roger Federer, Kobe Bryant, or LeBron James. Over here, he’s not even Serena Williams.
I’ve been checking for three days. Haven’t seen a poster of Tom. Haven’t seen Tom’s photo on the cover of any local newspapers or magazines. Went to
Waterstone’s bookstore in Piccadilly Circus Friday night and there wasn’t a single copy of Charles Pierce’s “Moving The Chains.’’ For that matter, there
wasn’t any book regarding American football, though I did see the Beckham bio in which the uber-star rips the Braintree Sheraton.
The only Brady shirts in town are worn by New England yahoos who have made the flight across the pond for today’s Patriots-Buccaneers game at Wembley Stadium. Hundreds of them assembled last night at a UKPatriots fan club party at the Sports Cafe on Haymarket Street (special guest: Bob Kraft).
Tom spoke with the British media a couple of times this past week. He submitted to an overseas conference call when the Patriots were still in Foxborough Tuesday. On Friday, he stood behind the podium in the Long Room of the stodgy Brit Oval Cricket Club (built in 1890). In typical tacky American form, Tom was positioned in front of a Dunkin Donuts/Mass. Lottery/Patriots logo, which was placed between sconces in front of a wood panel memorializing the club members who lost their lives in World War I.
There were surprisingly few Gisele questions. Tom was treated less invasively than your typical Wimbledon match winner. Sample questions: Has Kraft put any extra pressure on you to impress the locals? Can you pick out one moment when you were growing up that inspired you to become an American football player? I was wondering if you’ve researched your Irish ancestry at all? Any specific concerns with your knee on the field at Wembley? When you came here four years ago, were you recognized?
“The Americans, they recognized me,’’ Brady said. “But the English people, they’re not too familiar with football.’’
A followup question was, “What is it like to think of yourself as a global icon?
“I don’t think of it like that too often,’’ he said. “I’m very much who I’ve always been. There are certain circumstances in your life . . . opportunities that happen in your life that you take advantage of, and obviously with the success of our team, the quarterback gets a lot of the attention, a lot of the focus.
“That’s just part of it. You don’t have success as a quarterback without a great team, great coaches, and great leadership from our owner, Mr. Kraft. Believe
me, there’s a lot of people that I’m very proud to be associated with, and this team, we’re all privileged to play for this team.’’
Typical Tom Teamspeak. No Ali in this guy. And that’s good when you play a team sport.
On Friday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was asked if the NFL has an international superstar in Tom Brady.
“I think so,’’ said the Commish. “I think clearly Tom Brady is a global star. Joe Montana was a global star. Refrigerator Perry was a huge star in the ’80s here.’’
It hurts to think that Tom is not even up to Fridge Fame. I checked the local rags yesterday to see what kind of splash Tom made after Friday’s media sessions at the Oval.
The Daily Mail? Not a single word about American football in the massive tabloid.
The London Times? The paper featured a dozen or more pages on soccer. There was an interesting story on “The humungous sadness of Britain’s fattest man’’ (Paul Mason tips ’em at 70 stone – “displacing the previous record holder, who shed half his bodyweight in preparation for his marriage to some lucky, lucky girl’’), plus a feature on “How we finally fell for Yoko.’’ Simon Barnes wrote two paragraphs on the American football, describing Brady as “massive and modest . . . the Patriots’ main man.’’
In the pullout section of the Daily Telegraph, I found a substantial feature on Brady, written by Ian Chadband, called, “Salute the ‘golden boy’ living American Dream.’’
“The man with a claim to being the finest American sportsman to compete across the Pond quickly had his Limey hosts eating out of his hand,’’ wrote
Chadband. “It was like watching David Beckham using his matinee idol glow to win over LA . . . Becks and his Posh might indeed be a match for you and
your Brazilian supermodel wife . . . he follows that fond tradition of sporting folk heroes such as Joe DiMaggio and Johnny Unitas, beloved for their grace and humility while achieving greatness.’’
The Daily Express featured a column by Andrew Elliott comparing Brady to Beckham: “[Brady is] the most marketable player in the NFL thanks to the
clean-cut image and chiseled good looks (you can see your own reflection in those teeth). If the rumours are to be believed, he was even lined up to replace Beckham as the face – or crotch, considering the poses, of DKNY.’’
That’s more like it.
Finally, Tom gets some love in London. But he can still walk across Hyde Park without being recognized.”

 

 

This is from Ron Borges of the Boston Herald, “If any man on the street, or on the job for that matter, was likely to know about the NFL, it seemed like it
would be Gaheem.
It wasn’t.
Gaheem punches betting slips out at a William Hill betting parlor on Edgeware Road in a section of London that seems in some parts to resemble Baghdad
more than Britain. The streets are filled with Iranian, Lebanese, Iraqi and Turkish restaurants, and women wear not only the Islamic hijab but also the
fundamentalist black niqab that covers them from head to toe with the exception of a thin slit around the eyes.
Many signs are in both English and Arabic, and each night men gather at outdoor tables drinking tea, smoking hookahs and talking about football – but not your kind of football.
“Why do you call it football?” Gaheem asked, quite logically when you think about it, after a visitor sought the odds for tomorrow’s NFL International, Volume 3, between the Patriots and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Wembley Stadium.
“You hardly use your foot. I don’t understand that. Why football?”
Maybe because handball already was taken?
“I don’t understand the game, really,” he added, somewhat unnecessarily.
Gaheem, though, understood the odds because he works in the business of odds. So while he didn’t know much about American football he did know one team playing tomorrow at Wembley must be a lot better than the other.
“That’s about 10-1,” he kept saying as he read the various numbers from a computer screen, the winless Buccaneers being on the sad end of those odds and rightfully so.
“The Patriots must be quite good. Some people like your football over here, but I don’t really understand what’s going on. I like basketball. Easier to follow.”
Maybe that’s why basketball is bigger internationally, including here in the United Kingdom. But this is now the third year a regular-season NFL game has been played at Wembley – Europe’s second-largest “ground,” as they call the stadiums here when they’re not calling them a “pitch,” which sort of sounds like Jon Lester should be involved – so they’re getting there.
A crowd of around 86,000 is expected for the 5 p.m. kickoff tomorrow (that’s 1 p.m. in New England or Tampa), the game having become a bit of a cult
gathering in these parts. According to all reports, it sold out in a half-hour, which makes it the sporting equivalent of a Springsteen concert except that not everyone there understands the music.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell explained yesterday that regular-season games were substituted for the preseason ones originally used to sell the sport here three years ago after the local sporting public, not including Gaheem obviously, came to understand the difference between exhibition games and the real things.
It will be televised live on Sky Sports tomorrow because, unlike Jacksonville or Oakland, they don’t have to black out the game because the stands are full.
One reason the NFL likes coming to England is because the American game has been entrenched here for many years, beginning when former Patriots kicker John Smith, an ex-English soccer player, used to narrate a weekly highlights show before the NFL Game of the Week.
As the years passed, the sport grew on television and the Internet, until now, once a year, the NFL knows it can jam Wembley.
Yet two days before kickoff, few of the dozen or so daily newspapers had much to say about the game. The ones that did, the Times and the Guardian,
focused on Pats owner Robert Kraft’s dalliance with buying the Liverpool soccer club in 2005. What that meant is they were writing about futbol not football, but if you’re the NFL you take the pub where you can and then go to a pub.
Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner bought controlling interest in Aston Villa a while back. The Glazer family owns both the Bucs and Manchester United (and is doing far better with the defending Premier League champion than with the winless NFL team, which suggests they and Gaheem may have something in common).
Kraft, however, was quoted in the Guardian saying he balked because “in the end we only go into business ventures where we think we can compete at a high level because we like winning and we like to win consistently. I love competing with fair management – how well I can manage against you – but I don’t like losing and at some point it’s not economic, people just throwing money at it.”
In other words, they have no salary cap here so they have no Kraft here.
“Maybe one day,” he said.
Until then, Bob Kraft will be content with bringing the NFL around until even guys like Gaheem get it, which didn’t sound like it would be any time soon.

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