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,

9 thoughts on “Why Do People Like Football?”

  1. If I had to pick my favorite reasons (and I’m a big fan) its 6, 10, 8, and 9, in that order. I’d also add that it makes me feel smart because I’d be a better in game coach than about half of the coaches in the league (as evidenced by my expert playcalling in Madden) and its nice that whenever you are in a crowd of unfamiliar faces, you can usually make small talk about the NFL for an hour if you have to. I guess that falls under Peer Pressure.

    1. Yeah — mine were not in any order. I agree with you about the conversation thing! It’s one of the main reasons why we created this site. Knowing enough about sports to engage in a conversation is really helpful, even if you’re not a big fan yourself.

  2. Football is a terrible sport! People that say it’s manly are verrrrrrry shallow as well as people that like it for the violence. If you want to be manly or violent, join the marines. If you get killed, don’t worry. The respawn time is just a little bit longer.

  3. Why do I dislike football?
    1) Violence is one of the reasons I dislike football.
    2) I get annoyed by fans who act as if the outcome of the game really matters. Your life will be the same on Monday morning regardless of whether your team wins or loses. It’s entertainment just like a movie or a concert.
    3) Overpaid football players! The billions of dollars the NFL brings in each year could be used to fund medical research, educate children, provide healthcare or build housing. Instead the players jet-set around to strip clubs, get into bar fights (more violence), fight dogs (Michael Vick -why isn’t he still in jail?) and other behaviors that are unacceptable in society. The bottom line is that they are entertainers and are outrageously overpaid!
    4) Networks preempting regular programming for a game. In other words, I have to pay for cable even to get the local channels, so why is someone else’s entertainment more important than mine. The shows I like and the game are both entertainment, so why is football considered so important? There are multiple ESPN channels now, so why aren’t all football games shown on those channels so the rest of us can enjoy some television too.
    5) News – I watch the news and I’m amazed that a football game gets time in the regular newscast and then again when the “sports” section comes up. It’s really not that important.
    6) Sports Shows – Again, it’s the having football “shoved down my throat” feeling. Our local television station has a talk show with the coach of our local NFL team each week. Why must so many hours be devoted to this form of entertainment?
    7) Assumptions – Several years ago I went to a store early one Sunday morning to get a few things for breakfast. A man behind me at the checkout commented that he knew who I was for. Not quite understanding what he meant I questioned him and he mentioned the colors of jogging suit. I still didn’t understand until he explained to me that it was Superbowl Sunday and that I was wearing the colors of one of the teams. That year I’d done an excellent job avoiding the television during the NFL season and had no idea it was Superbowl Sunday. The man looked at me as if I was a leper when he realized I didn’t care about football in the least.

    I could list many other reasons, but most of them come back to the feeling that our culture attempts to force football on every heterosexual man in America. (Like all the TVs in a bar being on the game. I’d rather watch paint dry!) When the game is over nothing has really been accomplished other than SOME people have been entertained while others have been annoyed.

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