American football, as an Olympic sport?
If Roger Goodell gets his way, eventually, yes.
Goodell wants to see the sport grow internationally to the point where American football would join its European cousin as a sport contested during the fortnight of the Summer Olympiad every four years, with the winners garnering a heavy load of gold.
The sport is already well on its way internationally. The International Federation of American Football (IFAF) has 62 member nations, including the US, Canada, Mexico, and Japan among many others. In 1999, the IFAF put on its first World Cup, with Japan being the victorious nation.
The 2011 World Cup, which was played in Austria, was won by a United States team that was headlined by players such as former Colorado quarterback Cody Hawkins and former West Virginia defensive lineman Johnny Dingle. The future stars of the NFL these are not, which actually lends some potential credibility to the idea that this could be an Olympic sport.
There would be a number of obvious logistical challenges in pulling off an Olympic American football tournament. Everything from anti-doping compliance to travel arrangements to the fact that no NFL owner in his right mind is going to let his stars travel overseas during training camp to play in a format that isn't going to allow for much rest between games. Throw in the fact that future Olympic outdoor venues would have to allow for both football and soccer to go on, possibly at the same time, and you're looking at a mountain of hurdles that need to be overcome.
But it wouldn't be the first time. American football was featured as a demonstration sport in both the 1904 and 1932 Olympics.
While the idea has its associated challenges, what good idea doesn't? If the game is to be grown internationally, this is a step that should be pursued, and Goodell is right to do it. The fact that America would not be sending its best isn't a bug, but rather, a feature in my mind. It would increase the competitiveness of the tournament while raising the profile of the sport, which isn't a bad thing. This could eventually pave the way for the pros, or at least, our very best collegians, to head to the Games, thrash the competition, and raise the profile of the NFL and American football abroad.
Although, on the women's side, we would be sending the best. In the inaugural IFAF Women's World Championship, the US team won the title with a 66-0 thrashing of Canada, and didn't allow even a field goal in three games.
The NFL and the game in general could benefit greatly from the worldwide exposure of the Olympics every four years. While I don't agree with Roger Goodell on every initiative he takes, he's right on the mark with trying to add an additional set of rings to the NFL.