‘Falcons sign Japanese reciever from NFL Europa’

Perhaps you remember what I said about surprising headlines, but this is probably at the top of the list of surprising headlines.

Apparently, the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons just signed a Japanese wide receiver, Noriaki Kinoshita, who had been playing in the Europe league. And though I can’t even tell you how many ways this surprised me, here are a few.

First, I had no idea that anyone in Japan played American football. I didn’t know anyone other than Americans and maybe Canadians played the sport. Aside from the geographic issues, I would never expect a Japanese man to play football. I always thought that Japanese men were smaller more docile than most. The article specifies that Kinoshita is 5-10 and 179, which isn’t exceptionally small for a wide receiver.

Second, I had no idea that NFL Europa was a place that American teams would even think to scout. I’d heard of players moving to the American game from Canada, Doug Flutie is probably the most notable example of that. Or moving from the Arena Football League, like Kurt Warner; but Europe? I’d admit the possibility that I didn’t know this was common, I didn’t even know how many teams there were in Europe.

And the last reason I’ll list right here is this: how did a Japanese man come to play on a European football team? I suppose it’s probably not so uncommon, but I assumed that most NFL Europe players were either Europeans or expats.

Interestingly, Kinoshita is not the first Japanese player signed by an American team. Nachi Abe was the first in 2000, though apparently he only made it through 10 days of camp.

And as a side note, I just discovered (thanks to Wikipedia) that just last week the NFL closed the European league because it wanted “to develop a new international strategy” (read: it was hemorrhaging $30 million a year).

If nothing else, this story proved to me that even when I think I know a lot, I really do not.

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