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This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.
Football fans screamed until they were hoarse as history was made at Aztec Stadium in Mexico City this past Sunday. It was history on two accounts. First, this game wasn't Mexico's brand of football. It was the NFL's first regular season game ever played outside the United States. Second, it was the biggest crowd to ever watch an official NFL game--103, 467 people. The National Football League has invested significantly in football overseas, with an eye on globalizing the brand. American football leagues carry on in Canada and England and Germany and other European countries. But screen passes, endzone dances, and fierce rivalries, such as the one between the Aguilas Blancas and the Pumas of National Autonomous University are a rage and many decades old South of the border. The University League is hugely popular, with hundreds of thousands of spectators jamming stadiums all over the country. The NFL has played exhibition games in Mexico before but this was the first time since the start of the all-so-American League, 83 years ago, that a foreign country hosted a game that counts. And players from both sides, the Arizona Cardinals and the San Francisco 49'ers, called it a rollicking, raucous experience. The Mexican crowd had to pay up to $80 a ticket, when they're used to getting into even big soccer matches for maybe one dollar. But they showed high energy intensity throughout the action, won by the Cardinals 31-14. The fans were so knowledgeable that they booed and whistled loudly each time a field goal was kicked--a response many of us American fans have when a team settles for a kick instead of gunning for a touchdown, a real score.
The opportunity for black quarterbacks in the league was denied for much too long. It will be interesting to see how hard the Latino community is going to have to fight when it comes time for Mexican quarterbacks to take their first NFL snaps.
And now that we're talking quarterbacks, how about that Brett Favre? Favre turns 36 next week and talk of his retirement has not only buzzed around the league for several years now, but escalated over the beginning of this season, as the Packers are now a desperate 0 and 4. Retirement for elite champions is always a delicate issue. Do you go out on top, always remembered a winner, as did John Elway and Pete Sampras and Bjorn Borg? Do you play as long as you still feel the passion for the game, as is Andre Agassi, as did Arnold Palmer, even if your best days are behind you? Do you try to play part-time, as Mike Piazza might do in leaving his beloved Mets now and perhaps finishing his career with his bat only, as a designated hitter in the other, the American League? The rough-and-tumble Favre hasn't been at his peak for several seasons now but if you witnessed him Monday night, you probably weren't at all concerned about his hanging on too long. Even in the midst of a fourth straight loss, this is a good ol' Mississippi boy who goes about the professional game like a Southern Pop Warner star. He rumbles in the huddle like a little boy in a state of exalted delight. I had the chance to interview Favre a couple of times in the locker room at Lambeau Field. The gleam in his eye when talking about the game he loves literally sparkled. And that sparkle hasn't faded one iota. The ultimate compliment Monday night was opposing, and winning, quarterback Jake Delhomme's unusual move of not resting on the bench when his defense was on the field. He stood at the sideline to watch one of the most passionate quarterbacks in the history of the game. Delhomme said after the game, "It was an honor to be on the same field with him."
Briefly on the subject of retirement, would I be a jerk to mention that it was 30 years ago today that I broke the record for swimming around Manhattan Island. Jerk... or not? You be the judge.
This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.
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