American football coverage may be over-the-top – but the sport is not boring

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If you are brave enough, or bored enough, one day you might just Google “American Football is not boring”.

On that day, you will find that even Google’s algorithm vehemently disagrees with you. Because why do – as the Quora submission and first search result pointedly interrogates – Americans think soccer is boring but find football, a game with only an average of 11 minutes of game-play out of three hours, interesting?

Well. It hardly has the making of a compelling elevator pitch. Have your say on which sport reigns supreme and which deserves the bin treatment in the survey below – but beware of putting American football at the bottom of that list.

American football will always be the stick with which its more worldly sporting peers routinely beat it. The NFL does itself no favours. At its best, the coverage is gleefully garish and over-the-top. It adores itself. With all its flashing lights and zipping graphics, noisy commentary and sparkling fireworks. Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre stood somewhere in the middle.

The NFL, at its core, is a spectacle. A good one at that. And if that ruffles your goose, then you’ve found yourself the most un-boring spot of them all. There are very few more satisfying things in life than an Aaron Donald joint-gnawing tackle soundtracked to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”.

But I’m talking about the sport , the naysayers will naysay. Strip away all the pizazz and cheerleaders and Eminem. What is left?

A good question. At first glance? Big, hulking tackles! A 44-year-old Tom Brady with the arm of a vivacious catapult! Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow’s icy veins! And, admittedly, some irony.

Do you think the NFL is 'boring'? Let us know in the comments section below.

Branded as the pinnacle of American masculinity, it is also caked in shoulder pads and helmets. Rugby fans bemoan the tackling techniques. They laugh in the face of their pads and their constant substitutions and game pauses. Even American football’s padded-up cousins in the hockey arenas can’t baulk a chuckle. At least in hockey, punches are thrown sans helmets. There are no commercial breaks.

So, fine, yes. If you’re after that sort of constant rough-and-thunder, you’ve come to the wrong sport.

But – and there is a but – American football is not boring.

Like any sport, American football requires understanding. Despite its marketing as the brutal bro’s past time, matches play out far more like tactical chess matches. Every play accrues a counter play by the manager’s opposite number. Teams study tape, they analyse opponents, they forge gameplans specifically to undercut the opposition’s forged gameplan. Every move has a counter and every counter, if countered right, can issue a deadly blow.

Then there is the spattering of moments when the game-plans actually come to life. Gravity-defying grabs. One-finger catches. Dare-devil Hercules throws 60 yards down a pitch with a cavalcade of defenders nipping at the heels. There are the rib-cracking hits. The five-foot moon leap over an onrushing defender from a running back who has momentarily transformed into a Hot Wheels with trampoline feet. Really, watch anything a good running back does – all silky dancing feet cavorting through a war field of rock-hard defenders like a slice of water.

And everything is celebrated. Everything. Sacks, fourth-down conversions, an eight-yard run that left a defender grasping at thin, empty air. Any moment of individual brilliance and there they are: chest-thumping, robot-dancing, jigging, strutting, mocking and roaring, dripping with venom and verve. The griddy? Thank Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver, Ja’Marr Chase, for that, Tik Tokkers.

The fashion alone is worthy of praise. Burrow repeatedly broke the internet with his ridiculous cool drip. Those diamonds? Real. Making a black turtle neck and chain even more iconic? A day job.

And what other sport can claim the honour of the birthplace of The Butt Fumble? The most magnificent sporting gaffe to ever grace screens, was when 26-year-old Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez ran right into the magnanimous backside of linebacker Brandon Moore only for the New England Patriots to pick up the fumbled ball and run it back for the most chagrin of touchdown concessions.

It was the biggest pig’s ear of them all, a 2012 masterclass of un-masterclass that still launches crass memes and punch lines today and had to be retired from SportsCenter’s Not Top 10 after 40 weeks because it simply. Kept. On. Winning.

American football is, simply, about pure fun entertainment. In the UK, NFL fans are not hampered by advertisements during long pauses in play. Rather, they are treated to in-depth, conversational analysis from experts and former players. And the more one understands how difficult it is to prise apart a top-notch rushing defence with the offensive line of a sieve (see: Joe Burrow and the Bengals 2020-21), the more one stands up and applauds the whole entertaining show.

There are those still pointing to the time element. A game regularly lasts upwards of three hours. Well, Cricket can last up to five days. Days. Don’t even get started on golf.

If anything, the three hour time period is an excuse to really milk the sport for all it’s worth. Get the cans out. Grab a footlong. Grab two. And then when Tom Brady throws his 650th career touchdown pass in the upcoming season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, hit the griddy.

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