It is a truth older than NFL commissioner Roger Goodell himself—nothing is more American in the autumn than a gaggle of young boys gathering to tackle each other on clipped grass and turf fields, not for the sake of animosity but for the pigskin ellipse we call the football. With regard to sports played in locations such as Spain, Germany, and Brazil, the United States is original in its creation of touch football, the first shells of the sport lacking boundaries and limits to the goal: get the ball across the line or prevent the other team from doing so. Though it shares a name with the European version of soccer, it is unlike this straightforward, less violent sport. If, as many think, American football is becoming too deteriorating for the brain, or is turning into a million dollar industry, why would anyone choose such a game to represent the identity of the country? Not so much in its isolation on the level of international representation as in its popularity for both players and spectators on the home front, football is a game of unity and good old-fashioned rough housing for the sake of fun.
Much may be said on the subject of football’s history. Historians regard the beginnings of football as stemming from the first intercollegiate game, between the prestigious universities Rutgers and Princeton in 1869. Rules came and went, and the game’s guidelines eventually evolved into contemporary times, with defined points systems and penalty classification. Similar to present day issues surrounding concussions and brain damage players suffer related to football, the NCAA formed in 1905 in order to save this pastime from falling out of existence after multiple serious injuries were recorded.
Despite negative controversies surrounding football’s intensity and physical-contact aspect, I advocate for football as most significant to American sport. Unlike different sports, football’s presence continues to increase in popularity, evident in the entertainment atmosphere it has developed into. It is my strong and fixed belief that football is the noblest pastime of the United States and will always be. In the eyes of the equally opinionated affiliates with baseball or basketball, it is necessary for these sports to be acknowledged for their own national significance. I view these perspectives contrary to that of football. Baseball is outdated, its national importance minimized in recent years in football’s shadow. Professional basketball is diminishing from a popular following to a staged performance likened to a mix of WWE wrestling and reality TV. But football continues to impact all generations. Glancing at various holidays—Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day— as examples, we are accustomed to the sport being just as much a part of them as the food. Alongside these days are self-imposed days of celebration, including the Super Bowl and Draft Day, that no other sport compares to its extent of awareness.
The back to school season also means back to late summer football practices, any vacant field filled with pint size players dedicating themselves to conditioning drills. The homecoming dance at high schools, a much anticipated event of the year, trails a bleacher-filled, spirit packed football game that is the game of the season. As the levels continue to increase in size and talent pool, so too does the national presence. In our contemporary times, the anticipation for weekends in the fall brings state-bound rivalries, rigorous rankings, and attentive audiences, both at home and at actual games. Professional football players are the epitome of merging work and play, with million dollar contracts pushing certain players to fame as they toss the ball back and forth on a magnified scale. Role models of young boys everywhere are continuously based on their favorite quarterback or defensive tackle. Perhaps most characteristic of football in American culture is football on Thanksgiving. Such a foundational holiday includes prayers of gratitude, hours of roasting, broiling, and baking, and clustered family dinners. Yet for the majority of American gentlemen and women, the day would not be complete without the television set tuned to game day coverage or friendly scrimmages in the backyard to define this day of thanks.
The noble man and country singer Kenny Chesney sings in his track “The Boys of Fall”, “I got your number, I got your back, when your back’s against the wall.” It may be that the national recognition football holds is much more than the game. For, it is the comradery, familiarity, and sense of unity that leads Americans to value the sport so greatly.
Football has evolved from its weaker roots into the basis of a national epidemic. Sport has little chance of being eliminated from the culture in the United States anytime soon, so let us sit back and watch the game play out, with football maintaining its place as our national sport.