American Football (Gridiron)
American football, referred to as football in the United States and Canada, and also known as gridiron football or simply gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a rectangular field with goalposts at each end. American football evolved in the United States, originating from the sports of association football and rugby football. The first match of American football was played on November 6, 1869, between two college teams, Rutgers and Princeton, under rules based on the association football rules of the time. During the latter half of the 1870s, colleges playing association football switched to the Rugby Union code, which allowed carrying the ball. The international governing body for the sport is the International Federation of American Football (IFAF); although the organization plays all of its international competitions under American rules, it uses a definition of the game that is broad enough that it includes Canadian football under its umbrella, and Football Canada (the governing body for Canadian football) is an IFAF member.
Though nowadays gridiron football is synonymous with American football, originally it was used as a blanket term for the primarily North American game in all its variants and forms. Other gridiron football codes include:
- Canadian football: played almost exclusively in Canada. The game is played on a 110-yard field, has only three downs and twelve men per team.
- Nine-man, eight-man and six-man football: variations of the traditional gridiron football game with fewer players.
- Indoor football: played on a 50-yard indoor field with seven or eight players to a side. Each indoor football league typically has its own rulebook.
- Touch or Flag football: casual versions of the game with no universal recognized rules.
American Football is one of the biggest North American sports. Whilst the game is played worldwide, the professional leagues in North America (such as the NFL) easily attract the best players in the world making its leagues the most competitive. The pinnacle of the sport comes in the form of the Super Bowl played out every year to millions of people around the world.
The object of American football is to score more points than your opponents in the allotted time. To do this they must move the ball down the pitch in phases of play before eventually getting the ball into the ‘end zone’ for a touchdown. This can be achieved by either throwing the ball to a teammate or running with the ball. Each team gets 4 chances (downs) to move the ball 10 yards forward. Once they pass the 10 yards their downs reset and they start again for another 10 yards. After 4 downs have passed and they have failed to make it over the 10 yards required the ball will be turned over to the defensive team.
Teams and positions: A football game is played between two teams of 11 players each. Playing with more on the field is punishable by a penalty. Teams may substitute any number of their players between downs
- Offensive unit: The role of the offensive unit is to advance the football down the field with the ultimate goal of scoring a touchdown. Generally has smaller, stronger, faster type of players, including a quarterback who is said to run the attacking plays and throw the ball to their teammates.
- Defensive unit: The role of the defense is to prevent the offense from scoring by tackling the ball carrier or by forcing turnovers (interceptions or fumbles). Generally has larger, more powerful players designed to stop players from running.
- Special teams unit: The special teams unit is responsible for all kicking plays. The special teams unit of the team in control of the ball will try and execute field goal(FG) attempts, punts and kickoffs, while the opposing team's unit will aim to block or return them. Has a mixture of larger and faster players.
Scoring: When a player scores a touchdown six points are awarded to their team. A touchdown can be scored by either carrying the ball into the end zone or receiving the ball from a pass whilst in the end zone. After a touchdown has been scored the attacking team have opportunity to kick the ball for an extra point. The ball must pass between the upright posts for a successful kick. A field goal can be scored from anywhere on the pitch at any time (usually on the final down) and a successful kick will result in three points. A safety is where the defensive team manages to tackle an attacking opponent in their own end zone; for this the team will receive 2 points.
Rules of American Football:
- Games last for four 15 minute quarters. A 2 minute break between the 1st & 2nd and 3rd & 4th quarters is had along with a 15 minute rest between 2nd and 3rd quarters (half time).
- Each team has 4 downs to gain 10 or more yards. They can either throw or run the ball to make the yards. As soon as the team gains the required yards then the downs reset and the yardage resets. Failure to make the yardage after 4 downs will result in a turnover.
- There are hundreds of different plays that players can run on any down. Plays are made up by the teams and often have players running all over the place (routes) in what is essentially organised chaos. The head coach or quarter back calls the on field plays for the attacking team whilst the defensive captain calls the plays for the defensive team.
- At the start of every game is the coin toss to decide which team receives the ball first and which side of the pitch they want to start from.
- The game begins with a kick-off where one team punts the ball down field for the other team to then run back with the ball as far as possible.
- On fourth down the offence has the option to either try to make up the yards they are short or to kick the ball. If they decide to kick they have two options; to punt or to try for a field goal. Depending on their position on the pitch will usually dictate their paly. Anything within 40 yards or so of the opposition’s goal posts will result in a field goal attempt. Further back will likely mean they take the punt option.
Leagues and tournaments: The National Football League (NFL) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) are the most popular football leagues in the United States. The NFL championship game is called the Super Bowl, and is among the biggest events in club sports worldwide. It is played between the champions of the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC), and its winner is awarded the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
College football is the third-most popular sport in the United States, behind professional baseball and professional football. The NCAA, the largest collegiate organization, is divided into three Divisions: Division I, Division II and Division III. Division I football is further divided into two subdivisions: the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).
International play: American football leagues exist throughout the world, but the game has yet to achieve the international success and popularity of baseball and basketball. The European Football League (EFL), run by the European Federation of American Football (EFAF), is an annual invitational tournament between the champions or co-champions of competitions run by EFAF members. The league's championship game is the Eurobowl. Other EFAF tournaments include the EFAF Cup, played between the top teams from national leagues in a similar manner to the UEFA Cup, the Atlantic Cup, played between teams from the Atlantic region of Europe, and the Challenge Cup, played between teams from newer federations that are not eligible to play in the EFL or EFAF Cup. The International Federation of American Football(IFAF), an international body composed of American football federations, runs tournaments such as the IFAF World Championship, which is held every four years since 1999, the IFAF Women's World Championship, the IFAF U-19 World Championship and the Flag Football World Championship. The IFAF also organizes the annual International Bowl game. At the international level, Canada, Mexico, and Japan are considered to be second-tier, while Austria, Germany, and France would rank among a third tier.
Football is not an Olympic sport, but it was a demonstration sport at the 1932 Summer Olympics.