"I have loved football as an almost mythic game since I was in the fourth grade. To me, the game wasn't even grounded in reality. The uniform turned you into a warrior. Being on a team, the mythology of physical combat, the struggle against the elements, the narrative of the game..." ~ Steve Sabol (NFL Films)

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

1976- The NFL Comes to Japan

Japanese Ticket Stub
As a person who loves his football, loves football nostalgia and history, and has also traveled to Japan, I stumbled upon an old newspaper article from the Chicago Tribune about the time in 1976 that the football Cardinals made their way to Tokyo in 1976 to play the Chargers in an exhibition game, the first professional American NFL football game ever played in the Far East.  Of course the Japanese do play football, but not like they do here in North America, and as the reprinted article down below explains, at the time the game occurred, many in the stands were unsure of what they were witnessing.

At the time the game was played, the only real stadium available was old Korakuen Stadium in Tokyo, home of the New York Yankees of Japan- The Yomiuri Giants. Presumably the game was played here, rather than at the Olympic stadium because it would likely attract more fans.  The Japanese did not disappoint in coming out to see the first NFL game played on Asian soil. 

As some one who has visited Japan on numerous occasions, I have always wondered why American football has never really caught on there like baseball and soccer has.  Of course that does not mean it is non-existent there. The sport is played at the semi-pro level with the X-League, as well as the collegiate level with the champions of each level meeting for the national championship in of course (drum roll please)- "The Rice Bowl."

In essence American football is a niche sport that has a decent following, but is not the national rage that baseball is.  For us "gaijin" in and out of Japan, we can follow all the action at the English and German website called "American Football in Japan" where the history of the game has been and is being recorded. Of course, once a Japanese national cracks the starting lineup of an NFL or even a CFL squad, presumably as a kicker, that will likely change and the NFL will one day return to the Land of the  As football is the ultimate team sport, and in Japan the group is much more valued than the individual, I suspect that when that happens.  I sure hope that happens, and it is a topic I will visit eventually at The Autumn Wind.

The Cardinals huddle near the end zone in the outfield
The now demolished Korakuen Stadium

1 comment:

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