American football is a classic US activity, and in a 2014 poll it was ranked the most popular sport in the country—35% percent of fans named it their favorite sport to watch. The final championship game, the “Super Bowl,” is regularly the most-watched television event of the year, with a record 111.5 million people viewing the 2014 matchup.
International students studying English in the USA can have the ultimate American football experience by “catching” the Super Bowl at the end of the season every year (usually the last Sunday in January or the first in February). Read on to learn more about this popular American tradition–and you’ll be an expert when you study English in the USA!
History of the Super Bowl
Until 1970 there were two rival football leagues in the United States: the American and National Football Leagues. They merged together into one league (the NFL), which is divided into two conferences, and the Super Bowl—a final championship game between the winning teams from each conference—was created. The first game was played in 1967 (before it took the official Super Bowl name in 1970) between the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Super Bowl Watching Traditions
“Super Bowl Sunday” is often treated as an unofficial holiday in the United States—and it’s the second-highest day for food consumption after only Thanksgiving! Fans gather at parties to watch the game, with high-cost commercials and elaborate half-time shows featuring popular musical performers providing as much entertainment as the sport itself.
Food is clearly an important component of the football festivities, and people often grill hamburgers and hotdogs and share appetizers and snacks in a “potluck” fashion. Attending a Super Bowl party is an entertaining and educational way for those studying English in the USA to learn about American sports, pop culture and traditions!
An Overview of American Football in Plain English
Football perhaps most closely resembles the sport of rugby: the ball is thrown and players can block and tackle. The quarterback throws the ball, which must be caught for a completion to gain yards. Players can also run with the ball and the other team attempts to stop them by tackling them. If they drop the ball, it’s called a fumble and either team can recover by falling on the ball or picking it up.
The main goal in a football game is to reach the end zone or final ten yards of the field to score a touchdown, worth six points. After the touchdown, an extra point is kicked through the goal posts to make a total of seven points. Teams can also kick a three-point field goal through the posts if they’re unable to score a touchdown.
Play moves forward ten yards at a time; once a team reaches the moving ten-yard mark, they get a first down. They have four chances (or downs) to get a first down (if they don’t, they turn over the ball to the other team), so often teams will punt (kick) the ball away on the third down to give the opposing team more difficult field position to return the ball.
That’s a quick and basic introduction, but you can learn more about this quintessential American sport and tradition and watch the Super Bowl while you study English in the USA!