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The National Football League (NFL) is the peak of all American football. This is where the best players in the world, on 32 teams battle it out every year, to determine who will become Super Bowl champions.
The league is an American institution like Coca Cola or McDonald, and like those brands its popularity has spread around the globe. No matter who you are, you've properly heard about the NFL and the Super Bowl. The richest league in the world and the biggest game in the world
The 32 teams each play only 16 games a season, partly because the game is so tough, that a longer season would be too dangerous. Then 12 teams enter the playoffs, a knockout tournament where you must win to advance, till finally two teams remain and face each other in the Super Bowl.
The League was formed back in 1920, but was for many years overshadowed by college sports and baseball. But during the 1970s the NFL took over baseballs status as Americas top spectator sport, a position it has only solidified since. Today the NFL is the undisputed king.
The league has the highest per-game-attendance of any sports league in the world averaging 67.000 spectators per game. And the television rights to broadcast the league are the most expensive in the world.
The Super Bowl is often and rightfully called, the biggest show on earth. The NFL stars play for the Vince Lombardi trophy, superstar musicians like U2 and Paul McCartney perform at halftime. And the world watches, the Super Bowl is shown in 270 countries in 54 different languages.
In the US more people watched the super bowl than voted in the last presidential election. It is not just a game it is a national holiday, more people go to Super Bowl parties than to New Year-parties.
A fair league
A huge reason for the leagues popularity is its attempt to create and promote equality and a level playing field for all 32 teams. One such measure is the salary-cap, a set amount of money that the teams may spend on player wages each year. This is major difference between the NFL and the European soccer leagues, where only a few rich teams dominate the competitions. In the NFL the thought is that all teams are equal.
There is also the way new players enter the league. When a player is two years removed from high school, he may declare himself eligible for the NFL draft. In the draft the team with the worst record from the previous year picks first, the teams continue in this order until the defending Super Bowl Champion has the last pick. In the following year, the player can only negotiate a contract with the team that picked him. This ensures that the worst teams in the league get to fill their holes with the best players available after each season.
It is worth noting, that the league employs a wide array of modern technology to improve the game. The quarterback has a radio transmitter in his helmet, to receive the play calls from the offensive coordinator, as does a defender.
Also the NFL has an instant replay system that allows each team the option of challenging certain calls by the officials. The referee will then review the play over on a TV monitor, and may alter the previous decision. This practice ensures that mistakes such as can be corrected, and only adds drama as well as fairness to the game.
In the recent years the NFL has begun expanding overseas, it has held pre-season games in Mexico, Japan, Europe and Australia, and is now even the important regular season games are held abroad.
The first regular season game held outside North America happened on October 28, 2007, when the Miami Dolphins faced the New York Giants in the 90,000-seat Wembley Arena, in London. It was a financial success with nearly 40,000 tickets sold within 90 minutes of the start of sales, and almost a million ticket-requests.
Since then the NFL has been back to London in both 2008 and 2009.
It appears that the practice of games in Europe will continue, and Germany has already been named as a possible location for these 'international' games in the future.
To find out more about the NFL, go to the leagues website:
The shortest player in the NFL is Darren Sproles; he is only 1,67 m tall.
The leagues most popular franchise is the Dallas Cowboys.
There are fewer wedding on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year.
“The NFL today has bigger, stronger, bodies than ever, moving faster than ever, hitting a stationary object harder than ever before - so the physics of the hit have changed.”
Leigh Steinberg, NFL agent
"I'm a firm believer that all sports will eventually be global. Someday, we may have a quarterback from China named Yao Fling."
Paul Tagliabue, Former NFL commissioner
”I'd catch a punt naked, in the snow, in Buffalo, for a chance to play in the NFL. ”
- Steve Henderson, Major League Baseball player