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Football is the most popular sport in America, but talking about the sport of football overseas may create some confusion. Everywhere else in the world, the sport we know of as football is referred to as American football to not be confused with the original sport of futbol, or as we call it in America, soccer.
While many sports fanatics know this difference in lingo, a question that is not often asked is why American football is even called football in the first place.
American football is called football because the sport was inspired by soccer and rugby. What Americans call soccer was originally known as association football in the 1800’s in Europe, and rugby was often referred to as rugby football.
When Americans began playing a sport derived from the two European favorites, they began to refer to it as football.
When Was American Football Invented?
There is not an exact date or even year that the two sports, rugby and soccer, were combined to create what we know as American football. The creation of one of the most popular sports in America happened over time.
American football informally began in the mid to late 1800s as mostly a schoolyard type game. It then became more popular as colleges in the Northeast like Yale, Harvard, and Rutgers, among others, began playing it competitively in the early 1870s.
In the late 1870s, American football began to look more like the game that we currently know and love. Walter Camp, then a student and football player at Yale, was a member of the football rules committee and influenced crucial changes to the game.
For example, in 1880, the line of scrimmage was created to replace what was known as the scrummage in rugby, a swarm of rugby players pushing and shoving each other. Instead of continuous play like in rugby, the new rule allowed for teams to restart after each play.
While Walter Camp may not have invented the idea of football, his influence on the modern day rules of the game are the reason he often gets credit as the creator of American football.
What are Some Other Names for Football?
There are some other nicknames for the game of football that have gained popularity over time. One of those nicknames is the gridiron sport.
The football field is often referred to as the gridiron because of the pattern of the lines on the field. The yard markers and the hash marks resemble a gridiron pattern, hence the nickname the gridiron sport.
The ball itself is sometimes referred to as a pigskin. That is because pig bladders – as well as other animals’ bladders – were originally used to make footballs. While that is not the case now, it was the case many years ago and is the reason for this nickname.
If you ever hear someone refer to football as the beautiful game, they are not talking about American football. They are, in fact, talking about what we call soccer. Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, and that is why it is often called the beautiful game.
Why is Football the Most Popular Sport in America?
While baseball may be considered to be America’s pastime, TV ratings suggest that Americans watch football more than they watch any other sport in America. Some of this has to do with American culture, and some of it has to do with the NFL’s marketing.
Football is a unique sport in that each team only plays one game per week while most other professional sports require teams to play multiple games each week. To fans, this makes each game matter more.
Also, another common complaint in other sports is that the players do not play hard enough. Well, in football, it is impossible to not play hard because lack of hustle or focus can often lead to injury. This makes the game more exciting for fans to watch.
Also, the NFL is very strategic in its marketing and its events. For example, head coach hirings, free agency, and the NFL draft all occur during the winter and spring, a time when the NFL season has already wrapped up its play.
This keeps fans plugged in to the NFL even during the offseason. TV networks also sense fans’ football cravings and provide around the clock coverage of everything NFL-related.
The NFL has also been intentional to reach multiple different fan-bases and audience demographics. For example, they now simultaneously broadcast some games in a more kid-friendly telecast on Nickelodeon to expand their brand to young kids.
They have also been known to lean in to celebrities and their fandom. Eminem can often be seen on TV supporting his hometown Detroit Lions, and the same goes for the Dallas Cowboys and all of their celebrity fans.
Not to mention, the league takes the opportunity to show pop star Taylor Swift rooting for her boyfriend Travis Kelce during Kansas City Chiefs games. While some may think this is overkill, it is intentional by the NFL to attract a different demographic of viewers.
It is difficult to point to one thing in particular that makes the NFL the most popular sport in the country, but there is no denying that it is based on television ratings.
While it still has a long way to go to reach first place in world popularity, the NFL is currently doing all it can to make football a global sport. If they succeed, we may see a different version of futbol take over as the most popular sport in the world.
Where do Football Teams Get Their Name?
One of the most defining features of a sports team is the team name. What is written across the front of the jersey represents an entire group of players and coaches as well as the city that team calls home. Most of those names have historical or geographical significance to that city.
For example, the San Francisco 49ers got their name because of the California Gold Rush of 1849 when the people who fled to California in search of gold were known as 49ers.
The New England Patriots, located in Boston, got their name because of the significance the city of Boston has on the founding of America.
Also, the Baltimore Ravens – who were originally the Cleveland Browns and were relocated to Baltimore – are named after Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “The Raven” because Poe is buried close to where the team plays its home games.
The geographic location of the team is also a popular reason for the team name.
For example, the Tampa Bay Buccanneers are named because of the team’s location to the Florida Gulf Coast and the pirates who explored that area. The Houston Texans’s team name gives honor to the state in which the team is located.
There are many different ways a team can get its name, but most of the NFL teams that we know today have a team name with local historical and/or geographic significance.