American Football or simply football as it is known in the States is an extremely popular sport. The rules themselves like most sports are complicated when looking at them in great detail, but the main ideas of the sport are relatively simple.
Each player wears shoulder pads, a helmet with face cage, a gum shield and a bottom set which contains leg pads. Most players will also wear some gloves be it for grip on the ball or to aid blocking. Players will also wear some trainers/football cleats, and socks. Other optional items are knee, elbow or forearm pads, as well as neck supports. The quarterback and other players that will handle the ball often have small towels to ensure their hands and gloves are dry and clean in order to prevent a fumble.
Teams consist of many players, however only 11 are allowed on the field at one time. The basic way to view it is 11 offensive players versus 11 defensive players. The offense has to run or pass the ball 10 yards within 4 attempts or downs. Each time they are allowed to lateral pass as many times as they wish, but can only pass the ball forward once per down. The down is over when the ball is grounded, be it through an incomplete forward pass or through the carrier of the ball being taken down. Often on the 4th down the offensive team will attempt to punt the ball, or go for a field goal.
The defense has to stop the offensive players advancing. This can be done by tackling the ball carrier, or putting the receivers off enough so they cannot catch the ball, or even intercepting the ball. They are however, only allowed to touch the receivers within a few yards of the line of scrimmage, i.e. where the ball was placed at the beginning of that down, until they have the ball. The defensive players often aim to hit the offensive ball carrier as hard as possible hoping to cause a fumble, where the ball would be dropped, and they can then recover it, which causes a turnover and their team can attempt to advance. Each team must try and advance to their others end zone, if they do so; they score a touchdown and 6 points. They can also attempt field goals and kick the ball between the posts for 3 points. After a touchdown has been scored, the offensive team can either attempt a point after touchdown (PAT), by kicking the ball through the posts, for 1 point, or have 1 attempt to advance into the end zone again from a few yards out for 2 points. In the NFL the PAT is nearly always chosen. The other method of scoring is a safety where a player is tackled in his own end zone and the other team receives 2 points. Games are started and restarted via a kick off; kicking the ball as far down field as possible. The positions for where the PAT and kick off are taken depend on the league’s own rules.
Although American football is mostly just popular in America, and would be described as the nation’s sport, it is also very popular in Canada coming second to Ice Hockey. The Canadian Football League has 8 professional teams, nothing compared to Americas which has 32 in the NFL alone. The sport is also popular in many other countries, but despite its popularity is seen as a minority sport outside of the continent of North America. In the NFL last season there was an average of over 68000 people at each game, compare this to its nearest rival the Bundesliga (Association Football First division in Germany) which had just over 42000 people per game. The 2010 Super Bowl between the Colts and Saints had over 70000 people at the game and from the USA alone over 100 million people watched making it the most watched program in US history. This for a sport is incredible. As it was so well watched, commercial costs were also incredibly high, averaging around $2.6 million for a 30 second clip. So looking at all this information it seems that American football is just a sport that everyone seems to support and very few play. However, you go down to the youth level and many young boys in America want to play pro football. At high school they are, as shown on a lot of television programs, the cool kids. Friends and family view their games at school level, high school games often attract a few thousand people, and college games as many as the NFL. The sport is also great exercise and many top level players sport herculean builds such as Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals. Players are often larger than life, and the clubs often allow fans to attend training sessions, enhancing the team spirit. As the sport has been played by most people there is a great community spirit, as can be seen due to fans mixing in the stadiums, unlike the English football (soccer) league for example. Women also have involvement in the sport, mostly as fans, but there are also women’s football leagues and there have been a few women who have played in the NFL, all being kickers. There are many reasons for this love of the sport by the Americans, but to summarize I believe the main reason is due to the high speed and ferocity of the game which results in passion for the sport that nothing else can match.