Why Do People Like Football?

Dear Sports Fan,

Am I allowed to ask the question: why do people like football?  That is my most pressing sports question.  Perhaps a better way to phrase it is: what are ten reasons to like football?  (Or even just five reasons would be great.)


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Dear Linnea,

You are allowed to ask this question!

  1. Violence — Okay, I’m not afraid to say it, I enjoy the violence of football. These guys hit each other really hard and when they do, bodies go flying all over the place. My enjoyment has become increasingly guilty as information about the long-term effects of hitting on football players has become more available. Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker piece really had me questioning whether I could watch football… for about two days until the next game came on.
  2. Gambling — I don’t bet on football games but lots and lots and lots of people do and it has driven the popularity of the sport in lots of subtle ways. For instance, you often hear about teams issuing injury reports to the league office and media. They have to do this a few times a week during the season as sanctioned by league rules. Why? Well… it’s a good bet that it has something to do with bookies needing accurate and timely information about injured players to set gambling lines.
  3. Fantasy Football — A subset of gambling, fantasy football has taken off in the last five years in a crazy way. Around twenty million people now play fantasy football, there’s a half hour television show on ESPN dedicated to fantasy football owners and our own blog has already had a fantasy football post!
  4. The Football — The football is an foot-long oblong piece of hard to pick up. There’s just nothing better than watching a combined few thousand pounds of athletic men completely determined to grab the football completely and utterly fail in the attempt. When this happens, it’s appropriate to just shake your head and say, “The Football.”
  5. Technicalities — By the logic of this reason, it’s just a matter of luck that following the NFL and not the Congress is the most popular thing to do in our country. Because one of the things that makes football so compelling is its bizarre technicalities. John Madden, the famous coach and broadcaster, played off of this when writing his first book, “When One Knee Equals Two Feet.” Often the rules are so technical and obscure that the players, coaches, refs, and announcers seem not to know them.
  6. Tactics — Unlike most other sports, where I really don’t completely understand what effect a coach can have on a game, in football the coaches make a real difference. This is mostly because the game keeps stopping all the time. Also there are little speakers in the quarterback’s (and one defensive player’s) helmet that coaches can talk into during the stoppages. All this makes the players moderately secondary and puts the viewer on a more even playing field compared to other sports. At least in football, you can scream at the television about a play knowing that at least one of the key factors in the play ALSO can’t run fast, hit hard, throw accurately, or catch worth a damn.
  7. Peer Pressure — Everybody else likes football. It won’t last forever, but for now football is the American past-time.
  8. Sitting on the Couch — There’s really nothing better than sitting down on the couch on Sunday knowing that you don’t have to go anywhere or do anything for the rest of the day. The mid-afternoon football induced slumber is also a glorious feature of the sport.
  9. Sitting at the Bar — Okay, maybe one thing can rival sitting on the couch all day. Sitting at the bar all-day!! Bars take football Sundays really seriously. I’ve been to places that label the televisions with the games they will be showing so that people showing up early can choose strategic spots where they can see the games they’re most interested in! There’s a great energy to a bar full of excited, focused fans. Also, umm… football bar-food is glorious.
  10.  Athleticism  — Yeah… it’s also fun to watch people push the boundaries of human performance. Football players regularly do things that are simply physically unavailable to the rest of us. 350 pound men should not be able to run faster than I can. People shouldn’t be able catch a ball while being assaulted and batteried. Throwing a ball 50 yards while jumping backwards doesn’t seem normal, but it sure is fun to watch it happen.
These are some of my reasons. What are yours for liking or not liking football?
Thanks for the question,