Football is undoubtedly the most popular sport in America, but why? Why has the game attracted so many sports fans; could it be the big hits, turnovers, trick players, or incredible athletes? Or does the answer lie within a new social norm created by generations of “true” football fans?
It seems Americans can’t get enough football; between the professional, collegiate, and high school level, games are played everyday of the week except Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Football fans far outnumber any other sports fans in America. Hundreds of thousands of fans anxiously await the next big games, upsets, and playoffs. The Super Bowl had over 114 million viewers last year, and became the most viewed event ever televised in the United States. Of those 114 million people, 75 million of them play Fantasy Football which implies that they follow the NFL and it’s players on a weekly basis.
Football players are by far the biggest and baddest athletes in today’s society. On average an offensive lineman weighs 280 lbs and is 6’5’’, and now we get to watch at least four of these beasts clash against another four men of similar size- and that’s not even the best part. The intriguing part comes with the one handed catches, big hits, special teams, and touchdowns. Although every sport has its own special flare that attracts fans, so why football?
More football players suffer from concussions and other physical injuries than any other sport. “Football players are 5x more likely to get injured than skateboarders” said an anonymous blog writer. Safety lies within technology, but the danger of football is evolving faster than technology. Therefore, these players are voluntarily signing themselves up for an injury. But is the pain and torture really worth the glory? Many parents prohibit their children from playing the violent game at all. “ I’d have to put my foot down; I’m just not willing to take the risk,” said Mike Julianelle in his article: Why I Won’t Let My Son Play Football. Yet these hypocritical parents are content with their children watching the game, and are often football fans themselves. Why do we love a game where most of the excitement results in one player harming another?
In reality, football fans thoroughly enjoy watching players injure each other. Yet this doesn’t explain why love football. There are plenty of sports where players can inflict pain on each other such as hockey, lacrosse, rugby, or boxing. Theoretically, if we took the 85,000 fans that attend the Dallas Cowboy home games and sent them to a rugby match, they should enjoy rugby just as much as football. Football not only originated from Rugby but is essentially football without pads, yet only 1.5 million people watch the rugby world cup. So why do we love football and not rugby or lacrosse?
The NFL has attracted fans since its first game in 1920, but didn’t receive national attention until 1932’s first playoff game. Even though the first playoff game gained much needed attention for the sport, it was still nowhere as popular as baseball or boxing. However all this changed in 1958 when NBC televised the first playoff game that went into overtime. This caused a new dynasty in sports to arrive: the era of football was here and here to stay.
The original fans are what I refer to as “true” football fans because they loved the sport for what it is – not because society said so. Society has also turned the game into a social event through all the tailgates, parties, and social media posts. This could be another phase in our cultural cycle, and would have been perfectly acceptable if things hadn’t turned disastrous. We started to idolize football players and give them preferential treatment. For instance, the NCAA allows each college to award 85 scholarships to their players, whereas baseball can award only 11.7 scholarships. This just goes to show how much we prefer football over other popular sporting events.
Football is a great sport no doubt about it, but it’s sudden surge of popularity and favoritism towards its players is a little absurd. We show preference to a sport where most the excitement results in injuries. At the end of the day I challenge you to ask yourself, why do you like football?