The sport may be American football to you sports fans within the U.K. but the non-soccer version of football is slowly taking over the world outside of North America. Football is an extremely exciting and fun game to play as well as to watch, for one very simple reason: it’s a war.
To give a brief breakdown of the sport, football teams are split into offense and defense and they score points by reaching the other team’s endzone – the boxes at either end of the field. The field is 100 yards long and essentially the offense is given 4 downs, or tries, to reach the endzone or the ball is turned over to the defense. That being said, they can earn 4 more downs if they move at least 10 yards forward. For example, if team A’s offense starts with the ball on their 20 yard line, and reach the 35 yard line through a pass, then they get a fresh set of 4 downs to work with.
The offense is trying to work its way down the field by achieving positive yardage on each play, sometimes by looking for longer passing plays, or through shorter, tougher running plays. It’s the defense’s job to stop them. This is exactly why football is referred time and again as a battle/war/gridiron/trench, etc. Both teams are battling for yards and sometimes inches in order to get that new set of downs or reach the endzone. If you want to see what a real battle of sport trenches, just watch a clip of a football team trying to break into the endzone from the 1 yard line (aka 3 feet outside of the endzone) and the defense doing all it can to not allow a single inch of positive movement.
In regards to points – when the offense reaches the endzone (called a touchdown) they receive 6 points and then make an easy kick through the goal posts – the yellow uprights – for an additional 1 point. If the offense reaches 4th down and they’re far away from the endzone they can opt to try a field goal – kicking through the goal posts from farther away for a 3-point score. That’s why football games are generally pretty high scoring, or boring when all the teams can do is kick field goals and not score any touchdowns.
What makes football such an exciting sport is the fact that the National Football League schedule consists of only 16 games. Teams play once per week and have one off week throughout the course of the year and essentially by week 3 or 4 a team could be well out of the playoff race. The playoffs consist of single elimination games culminating in the championship game known as the Super Bowl.
Even if you don’t watch football or don’t even understand the game, you’ve probably heard of the Super Bowl. Arguably the biggest single game sporting event of the year, the Super Bowl seems to break its own ratings records each year and is one of the biggest spectacles in sport. The commercial time is almost priceless and the grandeur of the game itself is almost unparalleled. With such a difficult road to reach the big game, a Super Bowl victory is one of the most rewarding in sport.
There’s another aspect of the game of football that truly differentiates it from any other sport. Football is the ultimate team sport – NFL rosters consist of 53 players, each with their individual role on the team. There are offensive players, defensive players, players whose only job is on special teams – the group of players on the field for kicking field goals or kicking off the ball to get the game started. There are coaches for every position and every single one of the people involved with the team has to do their job or the play gets completely ruined.
Football isn’t like soccer or basketball where a player can more or less take a play off or rest while his teammates are elsewhere. Football players have about 15 seconds to come up with a play, line up and then give 100% in their blocking, execution, tackling, running, etc. Then they have another 15 or so seconds to rest/come up with another play and then explode 100% once more. If any one player gives 95% and his opponent is moving full speed the lackluster performance will lose and his team’s play will be negatively affected.
One of the biggest debates surrounding football is about which player is really the most important to a team. Even though every player on the roster plays a key role in wins or losses, many believe that the quarterback is one of the most important, if not the most important, players on an NFL squad. The quarterback is the offensive general – he calls out the plays to his group, has to scan and read the defense to see if the play should be changed, and then he needs to execute, by either handing off the ball to a running back for a quick running play, or to make a throw downfield to an open receiver. The defense is supposed to be covering the receivers so the quarterback has to either look for an open player and throw the ball where only he could get it, or try and do the seemingly impossible and pass into coverage and make it count.
As for the teams themselves, there are certainly some notable NFL teams that stand out more than the rest. The New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints seem to have a very solid roster every single season, while teams like the Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders have been hanging around the NFL basement for quite some time. While certain teams may be powerhouses on an annual basis, there is one very strong rule of the NFL: the idea that on any given Sunday, in any given game, anything can happen. Strong teams can lose to bad ones, big-name players can get injured or terrible weather can affect the outcome of more than one game.
Football may seem like an American pastime, but it is one of the most exciting and interesting sports in the world. So if you’re interested in venturing out into the trenches and seeing the battle of the NFL, tune in on any given Sunday and enjoy some football.