23 June 2008

Why the World Doesn't Care About American Football (gridiron) - Part 1

American Football. Because my football shares its name with this version, I find myself constantly "defending" the beautiful game against the lovers of the padded game. It's quite silly actually, as the only thing these two sports have in common is the term, "football".

At any rate, I’ve just come across a news story on Yahoo titled, “Grads in pads: First U.S. national football team prepares for trip to Japan”. I’ve linked to the article for your reading pleasure. Good on 'em for trying to export gridiron to different parts of the world, but I believe the lads in pads have quite a hill to climb.

My thoughts on the exportation of gridiron to the rest of the world is summed up as follows: it will not happen.

When the world thinks about football, they think about action. They think in terms of football, rugby union, rugby league, Aussie rules; all games where the downtime is minimal and the players are in constant movement. The stop/start nature of the Americanized game kills it. Gridiron has hundreds of rules, scores of finite roles for players, special teams within teams, coaches, assistant coaches, special teams coaches, stops, breaks, huddles, conferences, reviews, warnings, 2 minute breaks, quarters, half time spectaculars, etc. All of which equals a big "huh?" for most people...except the half time spectaculars - everybody likes a good concert.

By way of anecdote, the NFL tried a series of exhibition games, called "American Bowls" as a part of their international strategy. One such game was held on August 7, 1999 between the Chargers of San Diego and the Broncos of Denver in Sydney, Australia. From first hand accounts, a large chunk of the audience left at half time. They were expecting action punctuated by stoppages, not stoppages puncuated by action.

All things being equal, I don't want to be a "sports hater." But being an American fan of football, and having listened to so many sanctimonious sports casters, writers, and fans of armoured football belittle the game I love, has left me a bit stabbish. The reality is, like I said at the beginning, is that while these two sports share a common ancestor, much like humans and apes -ahem- they now bear little resemblance to each other.

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