Yes, it might sound a bit like heresy suggesting that an oddly shaped ball that is thrown more than it’s kicked can ever replace the beautiful game, but America’s National Football League has been making in-roads the last few years.
The five to eight hour time difference doesn’t help, so now the league flies teams over to play in London a couple of times a year (meaning some burly American athletes were certainly checking out some Central London escort reviews online.). Still, it’s hard to deny that even if there’s money to be made on it, most gents and blokes see it little more than violent curiosity. However, maybe that will change in the coming years…
We’re Not So Different, You and I
Certainly, at first glance, the only thing similar between the two sports is the name. The only kicking in American football is done at specific moments, usually when the ‘ball’ is on a tee or being held by another player. It doesn’t take much viewing time to see that this sport certainly takes many, many more cues from rugby, with the players lining up against each other in the middle of the field and the ‘ball’ being passed from player to player who must avoid being tackled by the opposing team.
Despite this (or maybe because of American football’s massive popularity), rugby is even less known in America than football. The only surface similarity between the two forms of football is attempting to quickly run a ball down the field to score while an opposing team tries to prevent it from happening, even if doing so looks very different.
While all football players have to be ready to go from an offensive position to a defensive one in the blink of an eye, there is much for specialization in American football, meaning one team will have over a dozen players just for defensive plays and over a dozen different players just for offensive ones (that doesn’t even begin to include ‘special teams’ players, but that’s a bit more advanced for this article).
Less Is More
At the time of this writing, there are only sixteen regular season football games, followed by four weeks of playoffs. This means that every single game is extremely important, as less than half the teams qualify to continue playing after the regular season ends.
Teams only play once a week (with one exception per season, where they will play their usual Sunday game and then once on Thursday), and this is mainly due to the intense and violent nature of the sport. The League only recently acknowledged how dangerous concussions can be for players during their playing years and after, so safety is being stressed more so than before. Despite this, it is normal for players to ‘play through’ certain injuries throughout the season, and this can definitely affect the outcome of games. Would the team as a whole be better or worse off if one of their star players sat out a game to recover, or to risk playing in a game they had to win, but not being able to give 100% because of their injury?
The Stop-Start Pacing
Football begins with the referee’s whistle, and time never stops, even when there are interruptions for injuries, substitutions and penalties, with added time coming at the end of each half to make sure that there were certainly forty-five minutes of action in each one. While American football games technically take exactly one hour (four quarters of fifteen minutes, plus ten minutes of overtime if there is a tie), there are only thirteen or so minutes of action during that time.
What happens during the other forty-seven minutes? Planning for the next play, lining up and substituting players. Of course, that would imply that a game can actually be finished in an hour, but this is incorrect because most games take three. In between all the non-action time passing by, there are opportunities to call time outs (so that teams can think for even longer of what play they want to set up), for referees to blow the whistle to discuss a penalty they need to hand out, and just because there are plenty of commercial breaks.
Yes, while most football clubs have company logos all over their uniforms and surrounding the stadium, American football teams have largely uncluttered uniforms, with a small amount of banners ads seen in the stadium during the game. Instead, all that advertising revenue comes from commercials, and in football games, there are many.
For this reason alone, many people from around the world roll their eyes at this sport even as they’re willing to give it a chance since especially in the first quarter they seem to pack in adverts after every few sets of plays. Meanwhile, American sports fans are always surprised during the world cup that the match goes on for so long without any true interruption. They wonder why they have to wait so long to use the bathroom or grab another bottle.
Prop Bets and Fantasy Teams Galore
Of course, there are plenty of similarities between betting on these two types of football. Not only who is going to win, but by how much, and whether star players are going to score goals/touchdowns. Come Super Bowl time, there are always wild bets you can make, ranging from the outcome of the opening coin toss, to what might happen (intentionally or otherwise) during the halftime show.
While betting on games just before they start (whether you did plenty of research or are just feeling lucky) is the norm, what has taken off in recent years in betting on fantasy football teams that you create yourself. You and other people in your league draft a team of actual players during the year, and you count up various points for how well your players performed in their various positions throughout the week.