A Brief His­tory Of Amer­i­can Foot­ball

The Oakdale Leader - - SPORTS -

Ac­cord­ing to Nielsen, 111.3 mil­lion peo­ple tuned in to watch the Su­per Bowl in early 2017. Al­most twothirds of adults in the United States say they cur­rently watch Na­tional Foot­ball League games. But Amer­i­can foot­ball is no longer rel­e­gated to the bound­aries of the United States, as it is be­com­ing a global sport. Ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Amer­i­can Foot­ball, there are 80 coun­tries with or­ga­nized fed­er­a­tions gov­ern­ing the game. Plus, thou­sands of youth and adult leagues ex­ist all over the world. Even though soc­cer has long been a global sport, it seems the other kind of ‘foot­ball’ is quickly catch­ing up. The sport known as Amer­i­can foot­ball was borne out of the English sports of as­so­ci­a­tion foot­ball (soc­cer) and rugby. Dur­ing the late 19th cen­tury, elite North­east­ern col­leges took up the sport, play­ing a soc­cer-type game with rules adopted from the Lon­don Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion. In­ter­col­le­giate matches be­gan to spring up at schools such as Rut­gers, Prince­ton, Har­vard, and McGill Uni­ver­sity. Rugby-type rules be­came pref­er­en­tial among play­ers and spec­ta­tors. Wal­ter Camp, known af­fec­tion­ately as the ‘Fa­ther of Amer­i­can Foot­ball,’ trans­formed the rugby-style game into the one that re­sem­bles Amer­i­can foot­ball to­day. Camp brought two key in­no­va­tions to the game. The open­ing ‘scrum­mage’ was elim­i­nated, and a rule was in­tro­duced that re­quired a team to give up the ball after fail­ing to ad­vance down the field a spe­cific yardage. Camp also de­vel­oped the quar­ter­back po­si­tion, lines of scrim­mage and the scor­ing scale used in foot­ball to­day. Early games were con­tro­ver­sial be­cause of the high rate of in­jury. Even Pres­i­dent Theodore Roo­sevelt stepped in to ask col­le­giate teams to re­vise reg­u­la­tions to make the game less bru­tal. The com­mit­tee over­see­ing the rules would later be­come known as the Na­tional Col­le­giate Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion. Thanks largely in part to the pop­u­lar­ity of col­lege foot­ball, pro­fes­sional foot­ball be­gan to gain trac­tion with the public. The Amer­i­can Pro­fes­sional Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion was formed in 1920. That league would later be­come the Na­tional Foot­ball League. The first tele­vised NFL game oc­curred in 1939. Even­tu­ally, Amer­i­can foot­ball’s pop­u­lar­ity would ex­plode. Cheer­lead­ers were in­tro­duced to the game in the 1960s. Cur­rently, the Dal­las Cow­boy Cheer­lead­ers are the most fa­mous squad. Foot­ball games typ­i­cally last around three hours. Av­er­age at­ten­dance for an NFL game is 66,957 spec­ta­tors. Amer­i­can foot­ball has be­come a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar in­dus­try. What de­vel­oped on col­lege cam­puses has grown into a world­wide phe­nom­e­non.

Amer­i­can foot­ball en­joys world­wide pop­u­lar­ity and some of the most ar­dent fans in all of sport.

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