When Sam Geoghegan of Dublin, Ireland was ten years old, his father, a New York resident and Jets fan, tried to expose his visiting son to American football. Geoghegan was not impressed.
“My dad tried to explain the rules. ‘It’s a first and ten and there are a few opportunities to get ten yards, blah blah blah,’ Geoghegan remembers. “It didn’t make sense to me. It was slow and kept starting and stopping. I didn’t like it.”
Then a few months later one of Geoghegan’s friends received this game called ‘Madden.’ Through the magical powers of Madden, Geoghegan learned the NFL’s rules and for years he preferred the video game to the real thing. It was not until Geoghegan was 14 that he became, as he states, “a proper Jets fan who watches as many games as possible.”
The key culprit in Geoghegan’s delay from virtual to real fan was the lack of NFL accessibility in Ireland at the time, approximately 10 -15 years ago. As he explained, much of Dublin’s general television programming comes from Britain so as the television packages became more robust in the U.K., they did in Dublin as well.
“Ten years ago you’d be lucky to get one game. Now there are three channels showing NFL games,” Geoghegan said.
Specifically, Sky Sports shows a select 1PM and 4PM eastern game, equating to 6 and 9 PM in Dublin. Sky also broadcasts Thursday Night Football, the playoffs and the Super Bowl. Channel 4 shows Sunday Night games, and BBC shows Monday Night Football. Between those offerings and watching the Jets on NFL Game Pass, Geoghegan has a delectably comfortable Sunday setup.
The only element of American football that Geoghegan has yet to come to grips with is the unforgiving nature of fans.
His first exposure to the seedy underworld of fandom was in 2005. The Jets were hosting the Jaguars and Geoghegan was here. Chad Pennington was the Jets starting quarterback and during the game re-aggravated his surgically repaired shoulder. Backup Jay Fielder took over and injured his shoulder in even more severe fashion. Out of quarterbacks, Pennington was forced to re-enter the game, and the Jets stuck to a painfully conservative, almost exclusively run focused offense. Jets fans proceeded to do what they do best: they booed Pennington and the coaching staff.
“It was really unfair. You wouldn’t see that in soccer or rugby,” Geoghegan said.
Geoghegan (r) with his father and little brother.
Despite the Irish being a bit more emphatic toward their athletes Geoghegan suggests Dublin as the perfect location place for an additional NFL game. In fact, he believes they already have a leg up on the competition.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the Steelers play a preseason, or even a regular season game in Dublin soon,” he predicts.
That is because the Chairman of the Steelers, Dan Rooney, also served as the United States Ambassador to Ireland from 2009-2012. Rooney already set the precedent for a Dublin game when his Steelers faced the Chicago Bears in a 1997 exhibition in the Irish capital. Geoghegan says that throughout Rooney’s ambassadorship stories would surface every few months about a possible game. And he believes Rooney will make it happen.
While Geoghegan waits for the NFL’s return to Ireland, he will for now enjoy all the modern access to Jets games and news. And he knows he has one important item remaining on his Jets fan checklist: attend the NFL Draft and boo.
“Even if it’s the reincarnation of Dan Marino, I know I still have to boo.”
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.