The Popularity of Football in the United States

111 million people tuned in to watch the Super Bowl in 2016. This seems like a rather large amount of people until compared to the 1 billion people that viewed the World Cup finale in 2014. These statistics only show the overall popularity world-wide scale. When looking at where these games are viewed from, the Super Bowl is almost exclusively viewed by people in the United States.

The World Cup has many countries in its top viewing networks, but America is not amongst them. This brings up the question: why? American soccer teams have been doing great in the past seasons, even leading to a World Cup win by the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) in 2015.

Soccer is the most popular sport in many countries, but not in the United States, a “melting pot” country of cultures from around the world.

So why do Americans only pay attention to a league that never travels outside the United States? To a sport that has died off in other countries, if it even got started in first place? I ask the question, why is football more popular than soccer in the United States? Football was born in the United States. The first recorded game of football was on November 6‘“, 1869, Rutgers University faced Princeton University in the first intercollegiate game in history. (Birth of Pro Football). Finally, the many intermural leagues of different universities came together to play a game under the same rules, after many years of diversity in the game of football, While the rules have changed significantly since the first game, the competitive atmosphere of the sport was born.

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As stated in the article, “Birth of Pro Football”, pay-for—play athletics in football was started when, “William (‘Pudge’) Heffelfinger, was openly paid $500 to play the game“. (Birth of Pro Football). This kick started modern day athletics as we know it, Pro—football was born when Pudge was paid to play the game, Athletes were paid to play their sport.

A competitive edge was drawn between players as capitalism was pulled into athletics. Athletes now competed to be the best in their sport. Teams now wanted the best players and were willing to pay for it, Leagues were born so that teams could prove they had the best players. The popularity of football has grown in the United States since the 18005. While varying versions of football were played around the world for many centuries, the modern day game and its evolution of rules, took place on American soil. America is football’s homeland. While football‘s birth is important in its popularity in the United States, there are many other factors that contribute to the focus on football in this country. A large contributor to football’s popularity is the monetary aspect of the gamer Pudge was the first player to be paid for his athleticism and skill. Capitalism was brought into the athletic world with this event. Players are paid for their skills in a sport in order for the league to make money.

The better the player is, the more the player is paid, as more supporters for the team are drawn in, which generates capital for the company. The cycle continues, promoting more competition between players to be the best in the league in order to get paid the most, The better the players, the more fans, the more merchandise sold, the more attendance to games, the more money brought into the game. Money is used to promote competition between players and between teams, Money is used to promote this competition to the American people so that attention is drawn to the game to keep the cycle of capitalism going. Capitalism is so apart of the current American culture that other economic forms seem outrageous and prompt questions about how these other forms would possibly play out in a real, working societyr Capitalism is so inbred into everyday life that its influences on our lives are not questioned.

Economics increases the popularity of football as it’s driven by capitalism to be inbred in American culture in order to increase profits of the different people involved in the sport. Money drives our culture, whether we are consciously aware of its influences or not. There is another aspect of American culture that drives the popularity of football. Our expectations of excitement are very different than that of other countries. It is a mindset. In America, we look for bursts of excitement in consistent intervals in order to keep us entertained. Football does just that. Football is along, drawn out game that provides just enough excitement atjust the right times that keeps us hooked on watching. Viewers want things to happen that entertain them frequently during the course of the game. An example of this is scoring. Football is a high scoring game that initiates a dramatic celebration by the scoring team The celebration catches on as popular culture that excites people to see and to experience during the course of a game. This is characterized by Tim Tebow’s bowing stancet People would “Tebow”, echoing his celebration mannerism. Scoring, and scoring a significant number of times per game, is exciting and entertaining to watch.

This requirement for simple excitement to entertain is a part of the American mindset, making football popular because it fits this mindset, drawing in fans of the sport’s atmosphere. Soccer is a very different atmosphere than football. Soccer requires thought to be exciting. A play is exciting because it dictates all the plays after it. Soccer fans are excited by knowing that the play put the team they support at the upper hand. Soccer fans see the play, how it affects the rest of the game, and how it reflects on the skill of team. This kind of thought process that causes soccer to be exciting is very different than the expectation of immediate entertainment. The lack of thought into a sporting event by Americans is evident in Farber’s opinionated pro-football article when he states, “soccer, indeed, offers constant ‘action,’ but your soccer action means little or nothing virtually all the time” (Farber).

This quote is showing that the author has no forethought about the game of soccer. The author cannot see how the individual plays affect the rest of the game and how these plays reflect the talent of the team. Farber once again exemplifies the mindset of immediate gratification when he puts fourth, “then please explain the absurd number of soccer games that end with a score of 1 to nothing” (Farber). Soccer is a low-scoring game This leads to American disinterest as the exhilaration of celebration is not there on a consistent basis, A high scoring game shows which team is ahead at all times A football game’s final score characterizes the team‘s skill level compared to the otherr Instead, in soccer, the plays show which team has the upper hand and the more skill, It requires analysis After a soccer game, commentators talk about the plays and the overall demonstration of skills by the teams, It is often said that the score does not reflect the game.

Americans do not appreciate when the outcome is different than conclusions that should be drawn Americans want it spelled out for them, The score of a football game spells out the skill of team and provides a simple comparison between different teams in the league, even if they have not played each otherl Soccer requires too much thought to be entertaining to Americans Before researching football, I thought that football was more popular because it can trace its origins back to the United States, It was born here and it grew to be the game it is today here In order to verify what I believed about the popularity of football and its cultural value in the United States, I conducted very informal interviews with my friends As my interviews were informal, and I did not conduct a survey, I do not have quantitative results, I talked to many of my friends, many of whom are extreme fans of football, about why they love the sport so much, A good friend of mine, Matt, talked on and on about how exciting the game is, The love for football I saw in him came from the simple entertainment value Since Matt was the first person I talked to, I continued my search, skeptical of the response I received, Again and again I heard about the exciting moments a football game has.

The entertainment was brought up again and again. Through my interviews, I saw that it was not that football was born here that made it so popular, but that it fell into the mold of the American mindset of simple and immediate gratification. While at first surprised, I realized that this made sense. The American mindset is more powerful than the roots of the game. Soccer and football are very dissimilar sports The rules are different. The fields are different The equipment is different The excitement is different The fans are different American football is strictly American because it exemplifies the culture and mindset of our country in one sport It creates a community of fans, all with the same mindset and expectations of the game. Football only fits into American society, counteracting the expectations of other societies. Other countries require different things out of their sports. It is not soccer that hits all the right places of our culture, but football. The sport has been molded to fit our nation over several decades. Football‘s roots are important because the sport evolved to fit the society it was being created in Football is a representation of everything that means to be a part of the American culture.

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The Popularity of Football in the United States. (2022, Oct 20). Retrieved from

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