It's been difficult for Germans to relate to their very few countrymen who are playing in the NFL. Most of them are linemen such Sebastian Vollmer of the Patriots or Björn Werner of the Colts, so there are not many statistics for fans back home to digest. When there are, they can be confusing. Tackles in American football are good. Tackles in soccer get you kicked out of the game.
But scoring points, well, that doesn't get lost in translation.
So when the Giants' Markus Kuhn became the first German player to score a touchdown in the NFL on Sunday, it was big news back in Germany.
The story was covered in all of the major German papers and sports magazines, including the country's largest newspaper, Bild. The clip of him rumbling into the end zone after scooping up the fumble also was shown on several television news broadcasts.
"This touchdown basically put the NFL and Markus even more on the radar of the German public, which is a good thing," wrote Marc Schüler, a journalist who covers American football in Germany, in an email to Newsday. "German players are usually covered infrequently and mostly only by their respective hometown papers as they are usually no 'Nowitzkis' . . . Actually scoring for your team is something the public can really relate to and his touchdown being the first for a German player was widely acknowledged. The German football community celebrated this accomplishment as it sure helped putting word out about the NFL and the sport itself."
The coverage still has a way to go. While Kuhn has made ripples in the Rheinland, he is not exactly a superstar. Nor is American football easily comprehended. Schüler said one journalist trying to capture Kuhn's exploit claimed that he recovered the ball and scored for the offense. "So, lots of room for improvement there," Schüler said.
But it is getting better. And bigger.
The NFL has garnered headlines in Germany this season, although as it was here, some of the biggest were related to the off-the-field issues of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson. While the league focuses on London as its foothold in Europe, the sport continues to gain acceptance at a slower pace in Germany. For it to continue to grow, it takes plays such as Kuhn's that are easily understandable (if not always accurately described). The Weinheim Longhorns, an American football team in Germany, passed out flyers this week trying to recruit players with the phrase, translated into English: "Come where Markus Kuhn started in 2001."
"Personally I hope that this will be the season where the first German player will hold the Lombardi Trophy," Schüler said, noting that Vollmer and Werner might get the chance in Arizona in February. "I think this would generate plenty of public interest in the game itself if one of them qualifies and even more for the future if they become the first German to win it. In my opinion, Markus' accomplishment helped pave the way that more media outlets will watch the rest of this season closer then they usually would have."