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Concentrated chaos reigns every weekend from September to January as football fans root for their favorite teams. Writer and fan Zak Reid reveals what makes this the most popular sport in the United States.
Text: Zak Reid
Country: United States

he stadium erupts. Fans scream at the top of their lungs. People all over the country jump out of their chairs and cheer. Their favorite team in the world just scored. In many countries around the world, this describes the scene during an important soccer match. In the USA, this is every Sunday from September to January during football season.

Over the past 30 years, the National Football League (NFL) has seen a meteoric rise to national prominence. It’s the most popular sport in the country and eclipses all other major professional sports leagues, including Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer.

While the NFL’s complex set of rules mystifies most of the world, many Americans go crazy for it. American football is like a chess match. On every play of the game, each coach is trying to outsmart his counterpart with cunning strategy. When the ball is snapped and the play begins, chaos erupts on the field. In one instant, 22 highly trained athletes surge into action, each with a set of important responsibilities to assure success for his team. Once the ball carrier is tackled to the ground, everyone stops, resets, the coaches radio in the plan for the next play, and it all begins again.

Football compresses tension, pressure, and high stakes into a 16-game regular season, compared with 162 games for baseball and 81 games for basketball. Each game is of paramount importance. And due to the competitive parity of the league, many games are decided by just a handful of individual plays during the three-hour slugfest. Each play in each game can be the deciding factor between losing and winning, between a championship and just another season with fans left wondering what could have been. When coupled with the sport’s bone- crushing hits, you have a recipe for highlight-packed games with nail-biting finishes.

Attending a game in person is uniquely exciting. There are 32 NFL stadiums peppered across the country, including venues in major cities like New York City, Chicago, Miami, Seattle and Dallas, and in smaller towns like Buffalo, New York, and Green Bay, Wisconsin. Each stadium provides a different experience for the fans.

But most fans follow their favorite team each week on TV. Many people even have traditions and superstitions tied to where they watch the game, how they watch it and whom they watch it with. Some fans have a battle-tested sports bar they attend, others have a special place on the couch where they need to sit (personally, I have a lucky chair), and many fans have their favorite jersey or hat that they need to wear to assure victory to their team.

To gain insight into the mind of a football fan, I spoke to Logan Tessier of Tucson, Arizona, who faithfully follows the Arizona Cardinals.

What’s your name and where are you from?

Logan Tessier and I’m from Tucson, Arizona.

What is your favorite NFL team?

Obviously the Arizona Cardinals. Arizona has built a great relationship with the community statewide —visiting children’s hospitals, off-season practice in different cities, and, of course, being a classy franchise with standards that usually aren’t upheld all across the NFL. Furthermore I sure do love that logo. Go Big Red !

When and why did you start following the Arizona Cardinals?

In the ’90s [when I was] growing up, Arizona was a poor team. Watching consecutive losing seasons is not fun but also builds loyalty, to say the least.

Do you consider yourself a casual or serious fan?

A serious fan definitely; I try to hide my obsession. During the Larry Fitzgerald era—which will continue for a 14th season in 2017—it’s been wonderful to have a true idol on my team for adults and children alike. I’m proud to be a fan of a team that has such class. They really do involve themselves statewide. (Larry Fitzgerald is a wide receiver.)

Have you been to a Cardinals game? Can you describe the experience?

I’ve been to several games. The best was when I got to see them win the NFC championship game against Philadelphia in 2009. The stadium intensity was incomparable with other professional sporting events in Arizona. Watching Kurt Warner and a young Larry Fitzgerald work and fight so hard to get into the Super Bowl was quite a rare spectacle to see! Quite the indomitable tandem. And when the Cardinals won, and that confetti fell… it gave an amazing sense of euphoria. (Kurt Warner was a quarterback.)

Where do you normally watch games? Do you have any game-day traditions?

At home and grilling for friends or at the games themselves. It usually starts with a dog walk and coffee. At this point my daughter and wife are up, and we start breakfast as I fight the butterfly in my stomach waiting for the game to start.

What is it about American football that’s so captivating? What do you think makes so many people watch every week?

I think the rate of competition week in and week out really gets people in American society pumped up. American guys really await the Sunday hangout to drink beer and grill hotdogs, and I think for most that’s what being American is all about.

How would you describe the Cardinals fans’ community? Do you interact with many other Cardinals fans?

I feel that a lot of the community is younger families and old fans, so it’s really safe and personalized towards safety and care towards one another. Especially during the Arizona heat they provide shade, water, and safety to stay hydrated.

And lastly, do you have a favorite Cardinals’ moment that you can share with us?

My favorite experience was watching Kurt Warner’s induction into the (Arizona Cardinals Ring of Honor) and watching his speech. That happened at the opening game of the 2014 season. It was against the San Diego Chargers, and seeing Kurt down there again was pretty cool. Furthermore, it was a close, exciting game to watch, and the Arizona Cardinals pulled it off and won!

Fact Box

• Walter Camp (1859-192) is considered the “Father of American Football”. He modified earlier versions of Rugby and 19th century British football by adding rules such as the “line of scrimmage”, “down and distance” and blocking.

• The first Professional American Football game was played in 1892. William “Pudge” Heffelfinger was paid $500 to play in the Allegheny Athletic Association versus Pittsburgh Athletic Club.

• The American Professional Football Association (later the NFL) was formed in 1920.

Throughout the 1930s there were innovations such as changing the shape of the football and adding hashmarks.

• The American Football League (AFL) was created in 1959 as competition for the NFL. While three prior chances to erect the AFL had failed, this time, they succeeded. It offered more pay to players and created savvy television contracts, forcing the NFL to take notice.

• There was a partial merger in 1966 leading to the first championship game, now known as the Super Bowl.

• In 1970 the NFL fully merged with the smaller AFL to create the league we know today.

• After seven expansions, there are currently 32 teams, and the Super Bowl is one of the most popular, annually televised events in the USA with more than 111 million viewers in 2016.

• The NFL makes money: with an estimated revenue of US$13 billion, it dominates other top sports leagues such as the MLB ($9.5 billion) and England’s Premier League ($5.3 billion).

• Roger Goodell, the current commissioner of the NFL, wants to exceed $25 billion in revenue by 2027, and continues to push league expansion by offering more international games with three games in London in 2016, and one game in Mexico City.


American Football: The other Sunday tradition

Football is the most popular sport in the United States. During a game the stadium erupts in cheers, fans scream at the top of their lungs and people at home jump out of their chairs and cheer. Football has a 16-game season, is very competitive and can be very exciting for the fans.

American football has a very complex set of rules that mystify the rest of the world, but many Americans go crazy for it. On every play of the game, each coach tries to outsmart his counterpart with cunning strategy. The ball is snapped to begin the play and chaos erupts on the field. In one instant, 22 highly trained athletes surge into action, each with a set of important responsibilities to assure success for his team. When the ball carrier is tackled to the ground, everyone stops and resets, the coaches radio in the plan for the next play, and it all begins again.

TeaTime-Mag interviewed Logan Tessier, a diehard Arizona Cardinals fan to learn more. Logan is a serious fan and has gone to many games. His favorite game was when the Cardinals won the NFC championship against Philadelphia in 2009. But he usually watches the game at home while grilling for friends and family.

One of the reasons Logan is such a fan of the Cardinals is because they have a great relationship with the community statewide. They visit children's hospitals, practice football off-season in different cities and have high standards that make them a classy franchise.



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American Football: The other Sunday tradition



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