“American style” football began in 1869, almost 150 years ago, but did not begins its rise to become the overwhelmingly most popular sport in America until the rules of the game changed to include the “forward pass” as well as the coming of the television age.
The sport, which combines the skills of throwing and catching a sphere shaped ball (which as a result may be thrown high and long for great distance) along with the athleticism of running shiftily, tackling, and great strategy, are perfectly suited for fans to enjoy both as live spectators in the venues, as well as on television.
In addition, because of the very nature of the basics of the game – where one “side” lines up in direct opposition to the other, and then attack each other in full contact in heavy equipment for safety. The result is that American football is not just a “contact” sport, but rather a “collision” sport, making it the most visceral of the world’s team competitions.
Some have thus described US football as uniquely American in the sense of its unapologetic macho nature, with a “winner take all” mentality that radiates passionately from the players (or warriors) on the field, to the ardent supporters who watch and closely identity with the action, not just the results. Implied values cross over into day-to-day culture in American lives. Values like “playing through pain” and “sacrificing for the betterment of the team” are promoted through football’s example into daily lives throughout American culture.
Steve Deace of USA Today wrote that Americans are passionate about football “because it embodies everything we love about American exceptionalism. Merit is rewarded, not punished. Masculinity is celebrated, not feminized. People of various beliefs and backgrounds — a melting pot, if you will — must unify for a common goal for the team to be successful”.
As to the television factor, the very fact that by rule, there is time between plays, enables TV to broadcast to replays of the previous action, and from several angles, with educated commentators, who explain the intricate strategies employed in each play, by each of the 22 players – teamwork at its finest in a sporting context.
As to its popularity, US style Pro (NFL) football is number one in America by a wide margin over baseball, with College football now (some say) is about to overcome baseball as the number two most popular sport in America. And it the most popular sport on all levels of participation as well, from the NFL to College football, to High School football and down to the grad school level.