32 Fans, 32 Countries is a look at the global reaches of the NFL. For this project we have attempted to interview 32 different fans of all 32 teams in 32 different countries all around the world (UK, Canada, and Mexico excluded). As readers will find, the paths to fandom are as varied as the cultures and customs of each country. Check back every day for a new profile. Next up: A Cardinals Fan in Australia.
Despite the striking phonetic similarity between “G’day” and “Goodell,” Australia is light years away from being a bastion of NFL fandom. So for David Buller of Toowoomba, Queensland, it was not marketing by the league or friends or actually watching a sliver of NFL action that piqued his interest; it was the television show, “Friday Night Lights.” Buller had been a fan of the 2004 film and was naturally sucked into the small screen version. Eventually he started casually checking out some NFL websites, all timed around the buildup to the 2011 Draft.
“I found the coverage of that to be quite novel, and filled with its own storylines, only this time for real,” Buller said.
Given the controversy and doubts surrounding Cam Newton at the time, Buller could not have picked a better event for the dramatic. (Except for actual NFL games. of course.)
Soon after Newton donned his first Panthers cap, Buller underwent an intensive indoctrination into NFL rules, fantasy and the draft via www.ussportsdownunder.com’s NFL 101 series, but he still faced a severe problem. After a year of watching random games and highlights, he still didn’t have a team.
“I knew I needed a team to get behind, to really get the full experience of the highs and lows that come with being a fan of any sport,” he said.
Buller was truly a clean slate fan-in-waiting. Being in Australia, he had no geographic loyalty, nor any coattails of American friends or family to ride. All 32 teams were undrafted free agents and Buller knew he had to sign one. His process for doing so, which was published last December on the same site that taught Buller the game is foreign, strange, and yet completely logical.
Step One: Eliminate teams with unappealing logos and/or uniforms. As Buller put it, “I really don’t want to end up looking like Tony the Tiger with a Bengals shirt on.” He said good riddance to the Bengals and about thirteen other teams.
Step Two: Eliminate teams not in the middle of the pack. He was “wanting neither a team that was unbeatable or awful.” Goodbye New England and St. Louis.
Step Three (in my view the most logical): Eliminate American cities that would surely disappoint after a fourteen-hour flight from Australia. In other words, he didn’t want a team from a locale with little to offer beyond the team. Goodbye Detroit and Atlanta.
Step Four: Eliminate teams without a loveable superstar. At this point Buller was left with Dallas, Seattle, Arizona and Oakland. He narrowed it down to two finalists, Dallas because he “loved Tony Romo’s passing game” and Arizona because “Larry Fitzgerald is just one of those outstanding players that you know you can always count on.”
Buller’s fifth and final step was a bit of personal one. As a kid he went through an NHL phase. And, for random reasons, a Phoenix Coyotes phase in particular. Buller owned both a jersey and a Coyotes belt buckle that he says “would bring a tear to the eye of the most outback of outback cowboys.”
Speaking of Cowboys, Buller does have a “mate” who is a Dallas fan, a consideration in choosing between his NFL finalists. But ultimately he decided to marry his youth with adulthood and therefore selected the Arizona Cardinals.
Now a bonafide Cardinals fan, Buller is looking forward to the upcoming season despite his team having to face San Francisco and Seattle twice. He joins a growing NFL fan base in Australia, although the AFL (Australian Football League) and NRL (National Rugby League) continue to reign supreme. And then there’s cricket and soccer.
Most countries without a natural NFL presence feature fans with extreme variations of passion and engagement, and Australia is no different.
Buller is filled with joy on the rare occasions he sees someone prancing around town in an NFL cap or jersey, but often disappointed to learn they “just bought it because it looked good.”
One jersey he never sees is Larry Fitzgerald’s. “I think I may be the sole representative of the Cardinals in my area,” he said.
In fact, Buller only owns a Cardinals cap, as seen in the photo above. But he is working hard to drop hints in hopes that someone buys him a #11 jersey for Christmas.
Are you listening, Larry?
See also: A Note About “32 Fans, 32 Countries.”