The Importance of American Football

A football coach instructing four of his players.
Opponent players in the red team try to tackle the quarterback as he is about to throw the ball.
An illustration of a football field. The numbers 10 through 50 show the number of yards from the respective end zones. (1 yard ≈ 1 metre.)
Two female football players in full gear.
Young football players practicing tackles.
A sample of food and drinks which could go with watching football.
Players struggling to get hold of the ball in the Legends Football Lague.
Players lined up and ready to go.
Cheerleaders cheering for an excited football player.

Playing football or watching football games is many Americans’ favorite pastime. Football, in fact, is so engrained in American culture that it permeates life in families, schools and towns. Cheerleading, parades, media broadcasts and town gossip all revolve around football, and as a consequence, the best players on as low a level as male high school teams can become mini celebrities.

Because so many people care about their local male high school football teams, their games really matter. High school football coaches, as a result, take their job very seriously and watch game videos for hours on end to analyze their teams’ performances and scout opposing teams. Players, logically enough, often also work hard, with regular sessions in the gym and on the field after school being the norm.

University football

The goal for many male high school players is to earn a scholarship to be able to study and play football for a college or a university. This, depending on players’ ambitions, requires a certain GPA and on-field performances at a high level, with the top-ranked aspirants getting admitted to the most attractive universities. Still though, although some universities average over a hundred thousand spectators at their home games, all players at this post-high school level are still unpaid. Big money doesn’t come into the picture until a college or a university footballer has his dream fulfilled by signing for a club in the NFL, the men’s professional football league. Thereafter, once among the rare few in the NFL — as if making it into this exclusive club wasn’t hard enough — players’ eyes become set on the ultimate achievement, which is to win the NFL final. This one match, called the Super Bowl, is the biggest sporting event in the United States.

Game rules

As a spectator at the Super Bowl, or any other football game, it is advantageous to know the basic rules of the game to be able to fully enjoy it. In essence, the objective of football is to score touchdowns by carrying an oval ball into the opponent’s end zone. This is usually difficult, so the team in possession of the ball is allowed four attempts to advance the ball at least ten yards closer to their opponent’s end zone. If the team successfully does this, meaning that they bring the ball ten yards forward in four attempts or less, they get another four attempts to advance another ten yards. If, instead, they are tackled down or blocked out four times in a row, they have to hand over the ball to the opposing team.

Women football players

The game rules are basically the same in women’s football as they are in men’s football. However, interest in the women’s top leagues has historically never been on par with interest in the men’s top leagues, something that prompted the market-friendly Lingerie Football League to be formed in 2009. This league, which often embraces sports entertainment and assigns underwear-like jerseys to their female players, now gets the most attention out of all women’s leagues in the U.S. Despite the league’s populism, though, women players in the LFL take their football seriously, apply face paint and play tough, just like men and women in other leagues do.