Wednesday, January 31, 2018

American Football

Ah, football. The iconic sport played by many people. But what is this sport, and what does it consist of? And why on Earth is it even called football? Today, we'll explore the innermost secrets of this game, and its surprising history.

Ye olde football

First of all, what's up with its weird shape? And why is it called a pigskin anyway? Well, it began many moons ago, in the dark ages before football came into being. People had no funny-shaped brown or brown-and-white balls to throw around, no exciting shoulder pads to look big and intimidating... in short, it was a dull world for football people.
Then one day, as legend tells, a man was gutting an animal when he had an incredible revelation. He looked at the everyday animal bladder, which no one wants to eat or touch or even think about, and he said to himself, "Perhaps, just perhaps, I could find a use for this thing." With that, he set to work, making it into a crude misshapen ball. He dubbed the strange object a pigskin, because no one would be willing to play with it if they knew it was a bladder. Of course, today, footballs are generally made from cowhide or vulcanized rubber, though they still have their weird bladder-like shape.

Now on to the invention of the game itself. Upon creating this unusual object, he had to find a use for it. It made a poor paperweight, as it rolled away. It couldn't be used as a doorstop for the same reason. Nor could it be some sort of decoration, as his wife took one look at it and yelled, "Get that repulsive bladder out of my clean house!" At a loss, he began to fear that perhaps his mission to find a use for it had failed. Downcast, he began the lonely, shameful walk towards the garbage bins.
Just then, a few of his friends walked by and asked him what he was doing. Not wanting to admit his invention was a flop, he tried to stammer a fictional explanation. But one of the men took the pigskin from his hands at that moment. With a laugh, his friend tossed it to the others and yelled, "Catch!"
Of course, the inventor wasn't too happy with this. He started chasing his so-called 'friends' around, trying to retrieve it. They just kept laughing and ran around the yard, throwing it to each other while he tried in vain to recapture it. The game soon turned to mass chaos, with everyone yelling at each other and the inventor tackling his friends in order to regain the pigskin. But in spite of himself, as the others continued in their mirth, he found himself laughing as well. It was then that he realized a use for the pigskin had been found.
After a while, they grew tired, and headed inside. The inventor's wife frowned at the sight of them; they were tired, sweaty, and covered in grass and mud stains. Even worse, her eyes fell upon what the proud inventor was carrying. "Didn't I tell you not bring that..."
Her husband, being a master at inventing solutions to things, rushed forward and kissed her before she could say the dread word. "Pigskin, darling. I promise I'll take it outside. But my dear, this moment calls for a celebration!"
The woman's eyes fell to the muddy footprints tracked in, sullying her freshly mopped floor. If it weren't for the look of glee she couldn't bring herself to destroy, she would have certainly scolded them. As it was, she held her tongue and repressed her disapproval at the dirt and the infernal bladder. "All right, then." she said, forcing a smile onto her face and willing herself not to see the fingerprints her husband's friend had just left on the wall.

Since that fateful day when the game was invented, it's gone a long way. Over time, it became an official sport, and the American Pigskin League (not the Infernal Bladder League) began to regulate it.
Whereas now players wear the typical football helmets, giant shoulder pads, and jerseys, early outfits were vastly different. While the shoulder pads were similar, the traditional outfit included a large shirt made from an animal pelt, and the helmet was horned. In short, they bore great resemblance to stampeding bulls, or minotaurs.

Big hairy minotaur
'Minotaur' by VegasMike
While these outfits certainly were interesting, and served to accentuate the over-sized shoulders, they didn't last forever. Shortly after the Ficticio Incident of 1941, in which a raging bull made its way onto the field with the intent of vanquishing rival males, the outfits were revamped. Players were dehorned and clad in jerseys, resulting in the modern football attire.

But perhaps some people are wondering: how does one play this game? While football aficionados know every aspect of the game, others have no idea what this game consists of, aside from the pig bladders and mud stains which its founder's wife was so frustrated about.
First off, the game begins with a complex battle plan. The coach and team go over this thoroughly, making sure everyone knows exactly where they need to be and what they need to do. They warm up for the game, and dress in their armor, er, protective sports equipment.

Convoluted diagram of a sports play
Then the brave warriors march out to confront their enemies.  They hunch over to glare at each other while internally preparing for war. (This scene was much cooler when they looked like minotaurs. They looked ready to charge.) Then someone yells, "Hike!" and everything goes crazy. Suddenly people are racing back and forth, throwing an oddly shaped brown-and-white ball around. People chase each other, tackle each other, crash into each other, and fall over each other, all in pursuit of this weird-looking ball. The location of the players is expressed in yards, as in 'twenty-yard line'. Eventually a player will manage to approach one of the H-shaped bar thingies while holding the football, and everyone will yell "Touchdown!"
At this point, the fans go mad. Spectators wearing over-sized jerseys and face paint will jump up and down, waving pennants and foam fingers advertising their favorite football team. TV watchers at home will also yell, throwing popcorn and accidentally knocking over a beer can onto the brand new rug. Wives will then grumble about how they wished their husbands were football players instead; it might be less messy. Then her son will come home from high school football practice covered in grass stains, throw piles of filthy laundry down in front of the poor washer, and peel off his sweaty hazmat socks, and she'll change her mind.

But if football players throw the ball, scarcely ever bothering to kick it, why is it called football? Many pigskintologists have debated this, and there are several theories. There's the possibility it was called this because it was played on foot, as opposed to playing on horseback or riding brooms. Then there's the theory that it was done to maximize confusion. There's American football, soccer football, rugby football...

Players engage in an exciting game of Quidditch

So there you have it. The founding, history, and rules of American football. Fact-checked and guaranteed to be 110% accurate.
For more information on the famed sport, please consult this video (2:09-3:05).

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