The '18 NFL London Games kicked off yesterday with Seahawks-Raiders at Wembley Stadium, and NFL Exec VP/Int'l Mark Waller is "bullish on the city’s readiness to have its own team," his confidence "built off of 12 years of testing of the market," according to Albert Breer of THE MMQB. Waller does not know "which team it might be that relocates, something he made clear" when asked about reports "indicating the Jaguars are lining things up for a move." He said the league is "building a marketplace" in London, and eventually the owners "will decide if they want a team" there. He added there would then "be a process for who that team might be.” Waller: “I don’t believe we’re in the narrowing down phase. ... The market looks like it’s in great shape.” Games will be played at Wembley Stadium in three consecutive weeks, which Waller said will "be a good test" for the field conditions. He noted a London team would play "three or four games" in a row at home, and then "three or four games in the U.S." Waller said of Jaguars Owner Shad Khan's bid to buy Wembley, "An NFL owner owning a stadium that works really well for us is obviously great. But I don’t think it’s logical to say, ‘Oh, since (Khan) owns it, then if there’s a team to go to London it’ll be the Jags." Meanwhile, the '19 NFL London Games "will be announced at the same time as the rest of the schedule, not ahead of time," marking "another step in an effort to 'normalize' these games." As for the league's international efforts more broadly, the "idea of going somewhere other than London or Mexico City" in '19 is "off the table" (SI.com, 10/15).
FOLLOW THE MONEY: NBCSPORTS.com's Peter King writes the NFL is "all about growing the pie," so the league is "going to act in the interest of expanding, doing something different -- and making a boatload of money." King: "That means a franchise in London. Or two." Two London teams are not "anything close to a sure thing, but it certainly is interesting" that the league and the owners of EPL club Tottenham Hotspur are "working on a stadium refurbishing that would accommodate an American football team." This while Khan is "trying to close a deal to buy Wembley." England is "not the only place where the NFL is increasing its footprint around the globe." TV ratings are up more than 10% in Mexico, Canada and Germany, while "live-streaming of NFL games in China has doubled" from '17 to this fall. NFL owners are "continually looking at new ways to make money," and London "might look like an ATM to them" (NBCSPORTS.com, 10/15).
Sacramento's bid to land an MLS expansion team was "handed a serious setback" Friday when the league announced it was "making progress with an ownership group" that would keep the Crew in Columbus while also remaining committed to launching a franchise in Austin, according to Ryan Lillis of the SACRAMENTO BEE. That could mean one of two expansion slots "still up for grabs in MLS would go to one of those cities," leaving Sacramento to compete with Detroit, St. Louis, Phoenix and others for the "final available franchise." USL club Republic FC has been "searching for a lead investor for nearly a year who could lead its expansion effort" after MLS officials said that its ownership group "needed more financial weight." Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg tweeted, "I am as confident as I've ever been in our chances to become an MLS expansion franchise. We are working with the @SacRepublicFC to bolster our ownership group and strengthen our bid. I could not be more committed to finishing the job on behalf of our community" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 10/13).
GATEWAY CITY: In St. Louis, Benjamin Hochman writes Enterprise Holdings Foundation Senior VP & Exec Dir Carolyn Betz, who is helping lead the city's MLS expansion bid, has become an "instant role model, posing for photos with little girls in soccer shirts." This "wasn't necessarily her intention," but it has been "quite a cool development, seeming to happen at just the right time." Since announcing the bid Tuesday, Betz has been "omnipresent on TV and radio." Betz said that it has been "a little overwhelming ... but it's fun." The St. Louis franchise would have the "first female-majority ownership in the history of the league." Betz: "We live in a time where it's very sensitive, if you will, (regarding) women empowerment, opportunities for women. So to kind of take a look at that and say, 'Wow, we really could be making a difference? We could be good role models and an example to -- whether it's young girls or women in high school or college -- that you can do what you want to do'" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/14).
"Moneyball" author Michael Lewis said MLB's analytics movement and on-field technology have "drained" the sport of its "emotional content," according to Daniel Roberts of YAHOO FINANCE. Speaking last week on Yahoo Finance's Sportsbook podcast, Lewis said MLB's perceived lack of marketable stars in '18 is because baseball "used to have big personalities," but it "hasn't accommodated them recently." Lewis: "Baseball has steadily been drained of emotion." When a manager came out of the dugout to argue with umpires, it "used to be a source of great drama." But with the expanded use of instant replay, there is "no point in doing that anymore." Lewis: "It's become much more slickly professional" (FINANCE.YAHOO.com, 10/14).
TAKING CENTER STAGE: In Houston, Brian Smith wrote once Astros 3B Alex Bregman "starts speaking, he doesn't stop." Dubbed "Bregman the Showman," he can "talk and talk and talk." Astros RF Josh Reddick said that Bregman is "simply enjoying the stage" and that his "'antics' also make him one of the best players in the sport." Reddick: "You're told not to express yourself as a rookie in the older days. Times have changed. This game is really quickly turning into a younger player's game and these kids are taking over. ... This guy's hitting homers every other day and he's yelling at the camera" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/13).