What makes American football so popular?

Fans of the New England Patriots hold up giant cartoon cutouts with the liknesses of New England Patriots players including Tom Brady (L) and Arron Hernandez (R) during Media Day ahead of Super Bowl XLVI against the New York Giants at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 31, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana

The United States features some of the most widely-known professional leagues in the world, including the NBA and MLB. Both leagues are the most high-profile and lucrative leagues for the sport of basketball and baseball and are watched all around the world. Yet, neither league is America’s most popular. The National Football League, a professional football league, is by far the most popular one in America.

During last year’s Super bowl (the equivalent of an NBA Finals or World Series), an estimated 108 million people watched the game in the US – close to a third of the nation. The NFL is also the most profitable sport in the entire world. Not the English Premier League or NBA. The National Football League takes the title with an overall profit of $984.5 million every year (double the profit of the MLB – $496 million).

Why is American football so popular? What makes it the pride and joy of the American people?


Going to a football game is a day-long event. Most NFL games start at 1 pm and can last up to 4 pm. Most fans arrive at the stadium four to five hours before kickoff and take part in a tailgate party. A tailgate party is very social event where fans surround their cars (or the open tailgate of their vehicle, hence the name, tailgating) at the stadium’s parking lot and grill food and consume alcohol. It’s a pre-game ritual that is considered a must for those attending league games. Music and games are played and it is a fun way for fans to prepare themselves for the game and to socialize with other fans. No other sport has such an important pre-game ritual involved with their sport and it is a core reason why American football is so popular.

Game Significance

In the NFL, games are only played once a week. Over a 17-week regular season, each team plays 16 games. This means that every game counts when you are hoping to make the playoffs. In the MLB, over 100 games are played over the course of the season and in the NBA, 82 are played. A highly-touted NFL team could lose two or three close games and miss the postseason altogether. Every single game matters and this makes the game more exciting.

Also, there are no huge talent gaps in the NFL. Sure, there are teams that have a more talented roster and are considered powerhouses, but truthfully, any team can win any week and that intrigue is attractive to all NFL fans because every outcome has an impact on another team.

Fantasy Football

Every August, friends get together to start a new year of fantasy football. Fantasy football is the most widely played fantasy game on the Internet, and the competition isn’t even close. Money and pride is on the line and participating in fantasy football makes watching the NFL that much more interesting.

For those who aren’t familiar with the concept of fantasy football, it involves you, along with 10-12 of your friends (or millions of anonymous users from around the world) getting together and holding a mock draft. You choose a number of players to follow throughout the season (usually a quarterback, wide receivers, running backs, kickers, and a team’s defense). Throughout the NFL season, you will get matched up with the friends in your league every week and play as if you own an actual NFL team. Based on the real-life performance of your players, you get a certain amount of points and whoever’s team has the most points that week wins. For myself, it is the main reason why I watch the NFL so closely; the excitement of watching one of your players play well is too addictive to stop.

Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints stands under center against the Indianapolis Colts during Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

The Super Bowl

In the NBA, the Finals are played as a best of seven series. So are the World Series and Stanley Cup (NHL). In the NFL, the championship game is just one game. One mistake or one amazing play could be the difference between one team hoisting the trophy and the other going home. There is no next game for changes to be made and line-ups adjusted. The fruits of an entire season boil down to one 60-minute game. It gets weeks and weeks of media coverage, the commercials are hilarious, the half time show features big name stars, and the amount of food that is consumed rivals Thanksgiving and Christmas. Super bowl XLV was the most-watched television program in US history. Are you beginning to get the picture now?


American Football has made its entry into India through the Elite Football League of India (EFLI) last year. One season has been completed and the second is set to be played in early 2014. You can read more about it by clicking on the links below.

<The Elite Football League Of India (EFLI) and its debut season

<Top 5 teams that made a mark in Elite Football League of India (EFLI) Season 1

<American Football: An American idea finding its feet in India

Interview with Kurt Warner: β€œFootball has a chance to impact the lives of many people and families in India”

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Edited by Staff Editor
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