Last Sunday night, whilst us students were presumably putting the finishing touches to our ever-present deadlines, across the pond, Kansas City Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill scored a touchdown, celebrating his achievement by throwing himself into the crowd and manning one of the TV cameras. Confused? I can see why. Intrigued? Surely. As I wandered around the town the other day, staring into the empty abyss of my beloved Blue Stane (an emotional article for another day), the lack of coverage of a certain sport hit me. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this article is of the beauty that is American football or, as Americans themselves would say, football – something often met with mixed reactions.
I myself, am a fan. But by a fan, I don’t mean I simply know who Tom Brady is. I don’t own a Miami Dolphins hat, parading it on my person for similar reasons to people, as my mother would say, “who wear Smiths t-shirts because they think it’s cool.” I enjoy it for the spectacle, the sheer drama, the intensity, and for above all else, its offer of something different. For some, the stop-start nature of the game can be boring. Yet, for me, this merely adds to the tension: anxiously waiting for the referee to blow his whistle and let the game flow. Often, whatever play is made does not come off, failing to live up to the expectations of a ten-second wait in between the few yards gained. However, when moments plays are pulled off, simply watching as the ball flies a distance of what seems like miles through the air to land in the promised land of the end zone, is worth the wait.
To any, let’s say soccer, fans out there slowly losing their sanity over this week’s international break, American football can offer a positive alternative. Any soccer fan knows a game can be boring as one team sits in, defending for their lives, resulting in the inevitable 0-0 draw. This is not a sight to be seen in the NFL. A recent Guardian article pointed out how everything in the NFL, particularly this season, has moved towards a more offensive approach. As such, games rarely finish without audiences baring witness to multiple touchdowns. This obsession with offensiveness results in, despite the constant stoppages of play, a game sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. The range of skills on show is a spectacle for any sports fan – the power of the quarterbacks or the speed of the running-backs mean this is a game designed for the most high-end athletes.
Finally, the spectacle of the Superbowl epitomizes the greatness of the NFL. Having only become interested in the sport in the past couple of years, I have witnessed some dramatic finals. The drama that is often added to in the UK because, by the time Beyoncé or whoever they have roped in for the half-time show has finished, it is normally around three in the morning. Ironically, it was only by missing my first planned Superbowl final that I realised how extraordinary it was. February 5th, 2017 – the New England Patriots taking on the Atalanta Falcons, attempting to gain their fifth title. By the end of the third quarter, the Falcons were leading 28-9, a scoreline which should have been impossible to come back from. As such, I decided I was off to bed, a decision I have regretted ever since. I woke up in the morning, confident in the notion that Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan had spent his evening staring at his reflection in the Superbowl trophy. Turning on the TV though, I noticed something unusual about my prediction. Standing in the centre of the frame, with a huge smile on his face, holding the trophy was Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
It was at this very moment I realised, not only my own stupidity but the brilliance of the game itself. Its ability to change at any moment; actively making me so confident of the end result that I turned in for the night. As always, I imagine there are some skeptics among our readers and that’s completely fair. I myself, for example, would struggle to be persuaded by an online article to enjoy a game of water polo. Just do me one favour though, keep track of the scores this Sunday – it might just become a regular occurrence.