FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — You can talk NFL tactics, or you can demonstrate. Even if you're wearing a suit.
Trying the Philadelphia Eagles' “tush push” on the floor of the studio is all part of a day's work for the TV crews whose entertaining and educational shows have played a big part in Germany embracing the NFL.
Patrick “Coach” Esume has been the face of NFL broadcasts in Germany for years, alongside players like ex-Indianapolis Colts defensive end Björn Werner and former New England Patriots offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer. The Patriots and Colts play Sunday at Deutsche Bank Park in the second of two regular-season NFL games in Frankfurt.
Esume said German fans, who typically grow up watching soccer, need the rules and the on-field action explained, but it has to be fun, too.
“Björn Werner and I, even (though) we were wearing suits, we got in the four-point stance and tried to explain the ‘tush push,’" Esume told The Associated Press.
“There’s a lot of laughing and explaining and it’s not too serious in the sense that we are solely focused on the technical part of the game. We try to make it entertaining.”
Esume and his colleagues have seen their audience soar over the last few years, first with the ProSieben network and now with RTL from this season with free-to-air broadcasts. The NFL has estimated a rise of up to 10% this year alone. Tickets for the two games in Frankfurt sold out in minutes.
"If you’re one of the on-air faces that have been on air even with ProSieben, (its sports broadcast) RAN and now RTL, if you step on the street anywhere in Austria, Switzerland, especially in Germany, every other minute somebody comes and tells you, ‘Hey, I watch you, you explain football to me,’” Esume said.
“It doesn’t matter whether you're at a grocery store, the pharmacy, the bus driver on public transportation. It feels like everybody, or at least I would say 20% of the population, has seen and heard about it."
Like most of his audience, Esume was a soccer fan before he ever discovered American football. Growing up as a German-Nigerian teenager in Hamburg in the late 1980s, he encountered the game through a neighbor who played on a local club team.
Since then, he's been spreading the word about football in Germany from a wide range of jobs — first as a player in the amateur club football scene, then as a coach in NFL Europe, the NFL's former development league, which had its most popular teams in Germany. Esume was invited to NFL training camps on what was then known as the Minority Coaching Fellowship and through a connection with former Raiders coach Art Shell, who had worked in NFL Europe.
These days, Esume splits his time between NFL broadcasts and his role as commissioner of the European League of Football, which is based in Germany but has 17 teams across nine countries.
The ELF plays a June-September season, giving fans a chance to see live football outside of the two NFL games in Frankfurt this year, and has licensed old NFL Europa brands like the Frankfurt Galaxy and Berlin Thunder. It attracted 31,500 fans for its championship game in September and is aiming to break the 16-year-old NFL Europe (then known as NFL Europa) attendance record of 48,125 next year.
“Even as the commissioner of the league, my job is to explain to the audience what makes this game so fascinating and you’ve got to do it in a different way if not everybody is familiar with every detail, or even the bigger picture of the game,” Esume said.
“You have to make it different than soccer, and that’s one of the key success points of football here in the media in Germany. It’s entertaining.”
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