What’s the most popular NFL team in Mexico? As ESPN SportsCenter news anchor Toni Collins learned, it’s the Dallas Cowboys – by a wide margin.
And the NFL itself, while not surpassing soccer, also has a rabid and growing fanbase south of the border.
With ESPN’s Monday Night Football airing the first NFL regular-season game in Mexico in 11 years on Nov. 21, Collins and producer Barry Abrams traveled to Mexico City last week to shoot a report on Mexican NFL fans (see below). The piece debuted today on SportsCenter and will air on NFL Countdown on Sunday.
Collins, who provides news updates and conducts interviews with guests during SportsCenter editions airing between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., spent part of her childhood in Mexico and is bilingual. She knew the Cowboys were popular in Mexico but didn’t realize how popular.
Through a contact in Mexico City, she became aware of a local Cowboys fan club that was planning a large gathering for this past Sunday’s Cowboys-Pittsburgh Steelers game.
“The fans regularly meet every Sunday but this one was extra crazy and different because of the Steelers and the Cowboys,” she said. “In the 70s when they started broadcasting the games in Mexico, the Steelers were the biggest rivals for them. And for Mexican fans, many in the group go back to the 70s.”
– ESPN’s Toni Collins on her experiences with NFL fans in Mexico
The fan club met at Monumento a la Revolucion, a landmark commemorating the Mexican Revolution, for a pep rally, with some 500 members present, and then migrated to a sports bar to watch the game.
“They took over the club,” Collins said. “And there were all ages – babies of two months, three-year-olds, young people, parents.”
With Dallas pulling out a 35-30 win, the back-and-forth contest gave Collins a close look at how much the game meant to the fans.
“You saw the roller coaster of emotions and just the passion that they have,” she said. “You would usually relate Mexico to soccer or boxing but everyone I talked to decided to start liking football because their father used to watch it or they just started watching it.
“They were beyond kind,” she said. “Everyone was so nice and happy – it was a really good experience. It was a long day but it was fun.”
The game between the Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders airs at 8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN and Spanish-language coverage will air on ESPN Deportes and in Latin America. The game will also be broadcast on ESPN Deportes Radio.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Watch Collins’ report on youth football in Mexico in the video below.