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Zooropa
Joe Lemire
July 16, 2007
The zany history of the NFL's overseas experiment
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July 16, 2007

Zooropa

The zany history of the NFL's overseas experiment

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THE ONGOING IDENTITY crisis of NFL Europa—a.k.a. the World League of American Football, a.k.a. NFL Europe—finally ended when commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the league was folding after 16 years. Though it produced two-time NFL MVP Kurt Warner (left) and Super Bowl hero Adam Vinatieri, NFL Europa will be better remembered for its financial difficulty (it was reportedly losing $30 million per year) and gimmicks: In addition to the four-point field goal (for kicks of 50 or more yards), the league introduced the helmet cam to the world in 1991. "It makes for great viewership," said league president Mike Lynn. "Unfortunately, we're not getting many people to view it." Herewith, some European football milestones:

March 23, 1991 The historic first points in league history are scored—on a safety, when Frankfurt Galaxy defensive lineman Chris Williams tackles London Monarchs running back Judd Garrett in the end zone.

June 9, 1991: After winning the first World Bowl before a sellout crowd of 61,108 at Wembley Stadium, London offensive lineman Paul Berardelli says, "The atmosphere in the stadium was electric; it was very close to sex."

June 6, 1992 Before the second World Bowl, in Montreal, a ticket scalper says, "Business is horrible." On game day fans boo a rendition of O Canada when singer Nancy Martinez switches from French to English. Still, the players' spirits remain high. After winning, Sacramento Surge receiver Eddie Brown says (left), "When I'm older, and they've played 50 or 60 World Bowls, I can say, 'Hey, I was a part of the team that won the second World Bowl.'"

April 25, 1995: The Monarchs leave Wembley for the very cozy confines of White Hart Lane—and its 93-yard field.

June 23, 1996: After the World Bowl, Glasgow native and Scottish Claymores receiver Scott Couper, then 26, says of winning the championship of a five-year-old league, "This was a childhood dream for me."

Jan. 22, 1998: WLAF is rebranded NFL Europe.

April 1998: League president Oliver Luck on the league's talent pool: "A lot of guys have household names only to their mothers."

Nov. 10, 2006 The league changes its name for the final time. Managing director Uwe Bergheim explains, "Just one letter has been changed, but going from NFL Europe to NFL Europa shows how important the German and Dutch markets are for the NFL. It expresses the roots we have established over the last 15 years and that we want to stay here for a long time."

June 29, 2007 A week after the Hamburg Sea Devils beat the Frankfurt Galaxy 37--28 in the World Bowl, NFL Europa ceases operations.

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