SBD/Issue 16/Leagues & Governing Bodies

49ers-Cardinals Game In Mexico City Sets NFL Attendance Mark

Last night’s 49ers-Cardinals game at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, the NFL’s first regular-season game outside of the U.S., set an all-time attendance record of 103,467, according to Tom Weir of USA TODAY. The league’s original attendance estimate of 90,000 “was off because it didn’t include the fans in private boxes who buy a yearlong package for Azteca events.” Many fans finished watching the final of the Junior World Cup in Peru, where Mexico’s under-17 soccer team played Brazil, “before heading to Azteca.” The NFL provided updates of the soccer game on Azteca’s video screens “and showed replays of goals after Mexico took a 2-0 lead” (USA TODAY, 10/3). At the beginning of ESPN’s broadcast of the game, ESPN’s Mike Patrick said, “Some of the local media are calling this the Mexican Super Bowl.” Pro football HOFer Anthony Munoz, whose parents are from Mexico, was the NFL’s ambassador for the game, and he said of the pro-49ers crowd, “It looks like they’re in (S.F.). A lot of 49ers fans (here)” (ESPN, 10/2). In San Jose, Ann Killion writes “the energy, the passion and the soul of the night, came –- as it always does here — from soccer” (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 10/3).

49ers-Cardinals Game In Mexico City Sets NFL Attendance Record

ESPN INTRO: ESPN’s intro for the broadcast showed a Mexican boy waking up in the morning as a Mexican radio host speaks about the upcoming NFL game. After he wakes, the boy chooses a football over a soccer ball and runs out the door, telling his mother he is going “to play futbol.” The boy is shown running through the streets of Mexico City, with a football under his arm, amid various people discussing the game. One man selling newspapers shouts, “The NFL comes to Mexico City.” The subtitles for the voiceover said, “They’re playing futbol at Azteca Stadium, but not the game we know and love. Yes futbol ... but American. Do you understand the importance? It’s the first time we’ve ever hosted a regular-season game.” The piece ends with the boy coming up to a group of friends playing soccer and yelling, “Let’s play some football” and throwing the football to his friends (THE DAILY).

ROOTING INTEREST: In Phoenix, Chris Hawley writes, “Mexico gave the [Cardinals] a reception on Sunday like they have never gotten at home. ... It was a spectacle with flashes of nationalism, as Mexicans bellowed their national anthem, cheered Aztec dancers during the halftime show, and basked in the international television attention” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 10/3). But USA TODAY’s Weir notes jerseys of “virtually every NFL team were worn by fans, but among those least visible” were those of the Cardinals. One vendor was selling only 49ers jerseys (USA TODAY, 10/3). Hawley notes Cardinals jerseys in the stand were “woefully outnumbered by 49ers jerseys” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 10/3). In L.A., Billy Witz writes Cardinals jerseys were “hard to come by, unless it was the No. 69 of Rolando Cantu — the Mexican tackle on their practice squad — or injured [QB] Kurt Warner.” At a pregame news conference, Cardinals VP Mike Bidwill “held up a Mexico soccer jersey and ... wished the national team luck” (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 10/3). The MERCURY NEWS’ Killion writes while many fans wore jerseys of former 49ers like Jerry Rice and Steve Young, “plenty of current jerseys were on display. In fact, there were far more [QB Tim] Rattay, [RB Kevan] Barlow and [LB Julian] Peterson jerseys than one would normally see” in S.F. (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 10/3).

DID THEY DO ALL THEY COULD DO? In Phoenix, Dan Bickley wrote under the header, “Cards Miss Shot To Win Over Mexico.” Bickley: “There is no celebration of the Cardinals anywhere. ... If the NFL really wanted to make this a big deal, it would’ve treated it like a big deal. Both teams would’ve come early, and when not practicing, they would’ve been out kissing babies. The league could’ve staged an interactive exhibit for Mexican fans just like it does at the Super Bowl, and really made an impact” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 10/1). But in Sacramento, Marcos Breton writes it was a “wildly successful foreign foray for the NFL, an exclamation point on Mexico’s status as a football-crazed country, and a fabulous spectacle of sport where the quality of play, or lack thereof, was secondary to a nation ready to open its ears to Americans and American football” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 10/3). In Ft. Lauderdale, Sarah Talalay reported in conjunction with the Mexico City game, the NFL is “expanding its merchandising targeted to Hispanics with special items related to Sunday’s game being sold in Mexico, as well as in the Phoenix and [S.F.] areas.” The league has also “expanded its T-shirts with Spanish words or expressions from eight markets ... in 2003 to 14 this season” (Ft. Lauderdale SUN-SENTINEL, 10/2).

49ers Gear More Popular
Among Mexican Fans
ANNUAL EVENT? NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said that it is his “goal to play a regular-season game outside the [U.S.] once a year, continuing in 2006 — most likely in Toronto, London, or a city in Germany.” Tagliabue: “If we can’t get there, then we’ll look at the year after that.” He added that it is his “intention to set a mandate that, moving forward, each team play an international regular-season game once every eight years, and ‘host’ a game — i.e., give up a home game — once every 16 years.” Tagliabue said that the idea has been “warmly welcomed by the league’s owners.” But Eagles Owner Jeffrey Lurie said last week that he was “unsure whether hosting an international game was economically feasible for his team” (Ashley McGeachy Fox, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/3). Tagliabue said that he will encourage owners “to make ‘an institutional commitment’ to exporting the game, perhaps even twice a season.” Tagliabue said that the international games are a “precursor to foreign franchises” (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 10/3). While the NFL is reportedly considering having the Bucs play a regular-season game in London’s Wembley Stadium next year, team GM Bruce Allen said, “It’s never been discussed. It’s all pure speculation right now. To my knowledge, there are no plans” (ST. PETE TIMES, 10/2). In Seattle, Chris Cluff noted the Seahawks “would not have been interested” in participating in last night’s game in Mexico City. Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke said, “They didn’t need to ask us because they knew what the answer would be. Our football guys wouldn’t have been crazy about it. I think it’s one of those things where the guys who aren’t playing in it think it’s a great idea” (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/2).

TAKE A PAGE FROM THE PLAYBOOK: A USA TODAY editorial states, “If football can be marketed abroad, and to different cultures at home, then so too can other products and ideas that have enjoyed only a domestic, and somewhat limited, appeal. All that is needed is a long-term strategy, patience, a willingness to deal with setbacks and a knack for exploiting opportunities” (USA TODAY, 10/3).

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