An Introduction to American football

American football for the uninducted

American football is a tough, physical game requiring a wide range of attributes including explosive power, strength, agility, speed, and physical and mental toughness. The huge collisions and intricate plays involving the 22 players out on the field are what make it the spectacle that it is.

Games can take up to 3 hours to complete and can look quite complex, largely because each play is often highly tactical. In reality football is actually a relatively easy sport to follow and enjoy. It is the complexities of the sport, gained from years avid watching, which make the game so interesting to watch and which make it more than a test of brute strength and muscle.

Most of us refer to it as American football, as distinct from football (or soccer as Americans like to call it). Unquestionably, it is the most popular spectator sport in the US, but it tends to be something of a minority sport in the rest of the world where football dominates instead. In some countries, American football is often referred to as gridiron or gridiron football to differentiate it from other football games.

The National Football League (NFL) is the pinnacle of the sport in the US and the world. It consists of 32 teams split into two conferences – the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC). Within each conference there are four divisions (North, South, East and West) with four teams in each.

The pinnacle of the season is the final championship game, the Super Bowl, played by each conference champion; a game that is watched by an estimated half of all US households and which is broadcasted in around 150 nations worldwide.

The NFL operates a developmental league, NFL Europa, with teams in five German cities and one in the Netherlands. The professional Canadian Football League plays under slightly different Canadian rules.

The sport is popular at an amateur level in countries such as Mexico and to a lesser extent in parts of Europe, Japan, New Zealand and Australia. It is played almost exclusively by men and boys, although a few amateur and semi-professional women's leagues have sprung up in recent years.

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