Thursday, January 19, 2012
As newly arrived students from the USA you will know that the two games that decide the participants in Super Bowl XLVI take place this weekend. I suspect that the Patriots and the Giants will win, but what do I know? Ask Packers and Steelers fans about upsets!
Now that you are abroad, you need to get 'inside' local culture and engage in some comparisons and reflections. The first thing you need to know about American football is that it has deviated so far from the evolutionary tree that it has become a new species [Darwin, Origin of Species, p. 655]. It is certainly misnamed. 'Hand' Ball suits better than football. Who uses their feet in US football other than punters [time in game may be 1 minute] and the placement kickers [ditto]? Most players use their feet the way the rest of us do, i.e. to stand on, to walk, to run, etc. Occasionally a coach might kick a bottle or a piece of equipment in frustration, but that's it.
There can be no doubt that American football is a tough game and that the players are fit. But the fitness is undermined somewhat by the numbers of substitutions made, the 'special' teams, and the stop-start nature of the game seems a lot easier in US football to have a 'breather' than in other versions of the foot game.
Contrast rugby football. Three features stand out: (A) the game is longer, (B) substitutions are rarer and (C) most important, the game is 'continuous', i.e. there are few stoppages other than for injuries and infractions. Finally, players wear little equipment, no helmets, very little padding and, rumour has it, they like to down a few pints after each game. In brief, here's a game that should have broad appeal to young men and women.
Join Bill at a match this Saturday afternoon in Blackheath. And win a fiver by telling Bill (in person) which other word used in US football is a serious untruth. If it were a truth the game would need to change considerably.
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