NFL in London: Teams must learn to treat trip with normality

LONDON -- The New York Jets began their trip to London with a surprise Friday after discovering fascinating amenities at their temporary training facility: modern plumbing, electric and hot water! Oh my!

What a treat it must have been, given all of the team's preparations that went into this expansive three-day trip, to learn there are more similarities between the United States and England than the players might have thought -- even if the language sounds a bit funny.

But hey, better safe than sorry, apparently.

In a New York Times article published Thursday, the Jets explained the planning that went into this trip to London to play the Miami Dolphins in the first of three International Series games this season. The most sensational part of the plan included bringing 350 rolls of toilet paper "to replace the thinner version used in England."

One Londoner has since explained during an exclusive interview with, "Good news, we actually have double-ply." But does England have aloe-infused toilet paper? "But of course!" the local exclaimed. Ah, the excitement of an English accent!

The Jets also packed extra clothes and shipped over "condiment staples that could be difficult to procure, like hot sauce and barbecue sauce." After all, how could an American football team possibly be expected to succeed without the home comforts of barbecue sauce on a trip that includes a whopping three days of meals?

OK, so maybe we're just having a little fun at the expense of the Jets right now, given how they treated their quick hop across the pond more like a one-month trip to the North Pole. And no, there is no harm in packing some extra goods if they've got the resources to pull it off.

But this hilariously over-planned trip speaks to more than a lighthearted level of American arrogance and naivety about traveling to a country that was established nearly 800 years before the U.S. It expresses the need for NFL teams to start realizing this trip to Europe isn't all that much more daunting than, say, the Seattle Seahawks flying to the East Coast for a game.

That's not to say there's anything wrong with consulting with sleep experts about the best way to prepare for a game played a few time zones away -- just as there's nothing wrong with West Coast teams trying to deal with the struggles of cross-country jaunts.

But not until NFL teams start to treat this trip with a little more normality will the league be able to truly succeed in its efforts to cultivate the American game in England. For now, it still feels too much like a novelty every time a game is played out of the United States -- which, to be fair, could be the result of this being the first trip for teams. This is often the case, as 17 of the league's teams have made the trip since the International Series began in 2007, and three more will be added within the next month. Five teams -- Miami, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, New England and San Francisco -- have made the trip twice, with the Dolphins and Jaguars upping that number to three this season.

No doubt there are plenty of logistical challenges worthy of attention, especially since the NFL wants teams to participate in extracurricular events aimed at broadening the awareness of American football in London. But if teams continue to exaggerate the extent of this trip, good luck ever convincing overly skeptical players to eventually sign with a London-based team, if the NFL ever gets its long-awaited wish.

Generally, you might be surprised by how smoothly the NFL runs these games after eight years in London. Quite frankly, the NFL's U.K. outfit is ready for just about every task thrown its way, including this year's first-time efforts to have games played in London on back-to-back weekends.

Yes, London has it figured out. It never feels like too big of an undertaking when the city hosts NFL events. It always feels just as seamless as the games that are played in the United States. Perhaps some Americans will have trouble believing that.

Those same Americans might be in store for another treat if they ever visit London: Horse-drawn carriages have been replaced by something called the automobile! Who knew?

Follow Jeff Darlington on Twitter @jeffdarlington.

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