I’m 41 now. This thing is relevant, so bear with me.
Since I was born I watched (and played) sports: football (european, the real one), handball, tennis. I even watched hockey, gymnastics and figure skating. Growing up in a communist country, with 2 hours of TV every day, sports were the only thing you could watch, so it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. Unless you liked nationalistic songs praising your “beloved” leader.
Anyway, I digress. I loved sports and, until recently, I was fairly sure I won’t be getting attached to a new sport any time soon. I mean, curling was interesting when I saw it the first time, baseball is an enigma for me, rugby is not something I was too much into, American football games were too long. And for ffs, I was almost 40, I kinda know what I like by now, right? Well, wrong.
One late night, in London, in February 2016, between some of our business meetings, Cristi, my cofounder at MavenHut, said: do you want to see the Superbowl 50 with me? Since we were still jet-lagged from a trip to the US, I said “sure, why not?”
I LOVED IT! Because Cristi is a huge American football fan he explained the game to me and I finally understood what the heck was happening on the field, why there were so many people doing things there. And. I. LOVED. It.
It’s true, I watched Cristi’s (and now mine) favorite team, the Carolina Panthers, lose a game they were overwhelmingly favored to win. And it was apparently a not so good game, since the Broncos defended really well and you didn’t see too many touchdowns. But for me, it was really fun. And really, I’m such a fan that I bought a t-shirt. Which I don’t normally do.
3 years later, I’m really, really happy that the new season (2019-2020) just started last Friday. Like jumping of joy happy. And I have no idea why, if I really think about it :)
Here are the reasons why I really enjoy American football, after watching at least one game almost every week of the last season:
- The game itself is not so much about individual talent, but about strategy and tactics. While individual talent improves your chances, the influence of just one player is not that big as in other team sports (there are no Messi or Ronaldo in American football). Quarterbacks are the closest players to that, but even they can’t do anything if the team doesn’t really help.
- Because it’s so long (3h-4h, most of the time, with 40 minutes of effective play), you get the time to understand what the hell happens. Because they show you lots of replays, analysis and the likes. During the transmission.
- Once someone explains them to you, the rules are pretty simple.
- The strategy changes based on the opponent, based on how good your team is on that specific day, it’s a game in constant flow. It’s like chess, but with people.
- Because the playing team is of about 53 people, not to mention the administrative stuff, the coaching stuff aso, an American football team is the closest thing to a business in any sport.
- They have salary caps, which limits the tens of millions salaries for superstars at the expense of other players. I mean, you can’t have a team like Real Madrid, PSG or Manchester City in Europe, where all the players are super stars payed a huge amount of money, to the detriment of other teams. This means that in NFL there’s no team at any point that can concentrate talent and power as much as they do in European football.
- When I talk to someone about the NFL you can talk about talent (specific players), you can talk about strategy (coaching), you can talk about business, psychology. It gives you a lot to think about.
- I can watch ALL the games in the NFL season on the Gamepass site and app. It is pretty expensive, at around €150/year, but I don’t need to hunt illegal live streams around the Internet.
- Finally, I’m 41. By rule of law, apparently, I need something to keep me in front of the TV for 9 months in the year. It could very much be American football.
Last year I got to see my first live game in the States, one of New England Patriots’ games. And it was amazing. Good atmosphere, people enjoying themselves. Supporters of both teams staying next to each other. Really, really nice. And I got to see Tom Brady, who is probably the best overall player to ever play the game.
This season I won’t go to the States for another game. But what do you know, they’re coming to Europe. London hosts some games from the NFL regular season in October and one of the teams playing is… Carolina Panthers. So we’re going to see Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey. And I have a tshirt to wear there, ok? :D
I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to go to live games ever. Not even when I saw Federer playing tennis or Messi and Ronaldo playing football.
OK, the most exciting live game I’ve ever seen live was the Roland Garros finals that Simona Halep, the Romanian WTA number 1 tennis player, lost in 2017. It was really exciting to go and it was heartbreaking after that. American football doesn’t give me the same type of heartbreak, but it’s still exciting to go and see it live.
Finally, I’m aware of the issues American football has: people getting life changing injuries, the NFL’s avoiding of actually taking a stance on a lot of issues (from domestic violence to racism). I know things are improving on the pressure of the fans, of the fact that less people want to play the game – and who can blame them? I still think it’s a great sport and I hope they’ll find a way to move forward with the times, while also keeping it exciting.
P.S.: I’ve finished writing this article before seeing the first game day, last weekend. Panthers lost the game with Rams in the first week, but the team didn’t look bad. Let’s hope they won’t miss the playoffs this year, as well.