As explained in my previous post yesterday about how I became a Giants fan, I wanted to give you guys an idea about American football in France.
First of all, let's look at the general opinion in France on American football. Most of people would tell you that American football is:
- A very violent sport where anyone may hit whoever he wants
- Too complicated and chaotic (no strategy except for beating the hell out of whoever is on your way)
- Too long because there are too many commercial breaks (on that they are right!)
Before I took the time to learn more about this sport (thanks the Internet and thanks Madden 08), I had the same opinion. To understand where this come from, you have to understand that most people there base their opinions on what they saw on American movies and TV shows but usually it's not the good ones like Any Given Sunday or Friday Night Lights. And for those who say that it's too long, that's just because they are used to 80-90 minutes rugby-soccer games with only one commercial break during halftime.
Now even though there is a majority of persons in France who have a bad opinion on American football, this sport has a small but growing community of fans.
It's hard for me to say how much the NFL Europe is responsible for that as I was not following football ath the time. I am from the generation of fans who discovered football because French television was broadcasting the Super Bowl since SB XL. Now French television (but it's not a major channel anymore) broadcasts the Super Bowl, the conference championships and the London game.
Sometimes American football is mentionned on major channels. A recent exemple was when the Metrodome roof collapsed because of the snow in 2010. There is also a weekly sports show called Stade 2 that mentions the NFL or American football in general whenever there is something major like the playoffs, an incredible play (eg. the Jerome Simpson front flip TD) or some controversy (eg. the commotion debate). Also, l'Équipe, the major sport newspapers in France, would talk about it but not on a regular basis.
Now, it's on the Internet that you can have a better idea of the NFL fan community in France. There is a couple of message boards where fans talk about the NFL and NCAA (can't say that the CFL or other leagues are really popular around here). I am an active member of TouchdownActu.com forum.
Besides the message boards, you have a handful of sites and blogs talking about American football. In my opinion, TouchdownActu.com is the most popular website about the NFL. Since 2011, its founder has started to make a weekly podcast which is really good. There is another one about the NCAA who is called TheBluePennant.com and you also have other websites about American football in the US and/or in France.
On the blogosphere, there is a lot of blogs about NFL franchises and even NCAA teams. Some of them are inactives but if you take a look at the blogroll on my blog, most of the blogs linked are active.
My own blog - Big Blue Blog - was created 4 years ago and over this period of time I have seen the audience grow. It's nothing comparable to a blog like Big Blue View obviously but considering the size of the French community following the NFL, it's a good audience. Just to give you an idea: between 2011 and 2012, the audience of Big Blue Blog almost doubled. And by looking at the stats yesterday, the numbers of visits over the 5 first months of 2013 is almost reaching the number of visits in 2012. So as you can see, the Giants popularity and American football in general is growing in France.
I think that it's through these websites and blogs that the NFL is gaining in popularity because they are the main source of news about the NFL and NCAA in French (and if you've ever been to France, you know that French are not really skilled with foreign languages).
Now what about people actually playing American football in France?
Well I will admit that I don't know a lot about that as I didn't have the opportunity to play there (only played rugby in college one year) nor took the time to go watch a game. But I can tell you that there is a structure dedicated to American football (Fédération Française de Football Américain - http://fffa.org/ ) and there is a championship with different divisions. I think that the most popular team right now is the La Coureneuve FLASH ( http://www.flashfootball.org/ ) which will be playing the semi-finals of the 1st division playoffs in 3 days. There is also a Team France that competes in any European, International tournament that is organized.
And finally, if you ever go to France, you might see a few people wear NFL/NCAA jerseys, caps, hoodies or that sort of things. Unfortunately some of them don't even know what they are wearing and think that the Raiders is a baseball team... (insert facepalm here). The thing is that these people wear such things because they saw some rapper wearing that same cap in a video clip. But thank god, there are also guys that know what they are wearing. Even when I meet someone wearing an Eagles jersey, I like to have a chat with him and joke around about the NFCE rivalry. Some time you meet guys that you wouldn't talk to in other circumstances but since you share the same passion, it's like you are in the same fraternity.
So there you have it: there is a small but growing football fan community in France. I hope that one day this sport will become popular enough in France. With more people playing it early this will inevitably increase the level of competition (it seems like the style of play in France today is like the NFL when it started: awful passing and a lot of option read or heavy running offenses). So maybe one day there will be some guys good enough to make it to the NFL and have success there (we are not aiming for a future Hall of Famer right away but at least a guy who becomes a solid starter) a bit like basketball. There is actually one French guy who made it to the NFL: Richard Tardits was drafted by the Cardinals in 1990 (5th round I think) and played 2 seasons at LB with the Patriots but that's the only example we've got today. Recently there was a French DB who was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Rams (he played college football in Canada) but didn't make the 53 men roster cut.
If there are some French fans reading this, I invite them to correct me in case I got something wrong or just give their own input because in the end this only my vision of American football in France. Would be also interesting to have comments from fans in other countries. Well you guys know how to use the comment section anyway ;)