Brits guide to the NFL

(Matt will be covering the NFL here in London on London Live Television for the Jimmy Bullard Kicks Off sports show 7pm Friday)

Interest in the NFL here in Britain has been growing at a huge rate since 2007 when the league began the “International Series” of regular season fixtures in London. 2014 saw three sell-outs at Wembley and 2015 promises three more. And Brits are loving it with packed out regent street and Trafalgar Square street parties and  80,000 consistently attending these games, American Football is going global whether you like it or not and the possibility of a London franchise joining the league seems increasingly  likely of Shahid Khan owner of the Fulham FC and Jacksonville Jaguars have anything to say about it.

The season

The NFL “regular season” is only 16 games. It fits within Autumn and is symbolic of back to school since the just as important collegiate season runs simultaneously . division winners and some runners-up advance to the playoffs in knock-out rounds. The last team standing hoists the big trophy. And Unlike the Premier League, in order to be the champ, you can’t lose your last game. Is this fair? Yes , you do actually have to win when it matters most.

The game in a crack

4 quarters with a halftime break. Overtime if a tie. Long and short game where coaches can ride the clock or go for sudden glory with a long A bomb pass downfield from the quarterback to his receiver – this is one of the most exciting plays in the NFL.

Plays begin at line of scrimmage 50 yard line or where the state of play stopped last.  A play starts with a snap or pass to the quarterback.  each team has 4 chances or downs to move forward 10 yards before play reverts to the other team. Of they move 10 yards they get 4 more downs and so on.  Plays are passing or running . Quarterback can run a touchdown but can only pass behind scrimmage. If a player drops the ball all hell breaks loose as a fumble recovery by the other team also switches the state of play to them! Players can run or pass back to another player.  a conservative kick away to the other team for a better field position (putting them farther away from the end zone ) is a punt.

Scoring

Coveted touchdown in the opponents end zone for 6 points . Another safer score option from a struggling offence is a kick at goal on fourth down – only worth 3 points and is known as a field goal. A point after a touchdown possible by kicking into the goal posts or a ballsy move of running it a short distance into the end zone for 2 points.

The team

Actually Three sub teams each with their own armada of coaches

11 Offence- glory

11 Defence – smack down

Special- thankless graft/ punters kickers

Offense:

a.    Quarterback (throws the ball): Strong leader, tall, George Washington-y.

b.    Running Back (runs the ball): Low to the ground, shifty, quick.

c.    Wide Receiver (catches the ball): Arrogant beyond belief, for some reason, always.

d.    Lineman (block for a, b, & c.): Big and smart.

e.    Tight-End (1/2 lineman, 1/2 receiver): Big and versatile.

Defense:

a.    Lineman (kill the quarterback or a Sack which automatically shifts the state of play): Big and mean.

b.    Linebacker (control the middle, behind the lineman): Medium-sized, stocky, fast.

c.    Secondary (cover the receivers): Small and quick. Would be receivers if they could catch.

Quarterbacks are our national heroes – they are almost always white , gleaming teeth cliches of Americanism .

Safety kit

All that padding and helmets- real rugby players do it caveman style like real men.  This could not be father from the truth since the safety kit actually give licence to hit like you were going to actually kill someone or rip a limb off.  And NFL injury and long term debilitation are the most significant in any sport.

Ads/social

Built in stoppages in play and halftime that are designed for ads , entertainment and social interaction during play . We don’t rush through like a rugby game – where is the fun !?  Where is the tailgate BBQ in the parkinglot or living room beforehand!! It’s Part of the culture and makes it bearable for wives and girlfriends !

Economics

You can’t  pull a Man United and just buy the best players .  The most square jawed quarterback will have entered the league through “the draft”, a system that allots the most-promising rookies to the worst-performing teams. Sort of like every team gets a turn at picking someone for their team from the dodgeball lineup in rounds. The 6 billion pounds of ad revenue is split evenly between the 32 teams so it encourages the teams to all be excellent. And there is a salary cap set at £120 per team per year.  And the last 10 super bowls have resulted in 8 different league champions so anything is possible.  (Need a funny better example of this) Imagine if Wigan, instead of being relegated at the end of the season, were instead awarded Neymar, so that they might improve.

 

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