Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

WTF Is NFL? TRENDS Are Caged Helmets, Mega Concerts and Big Bucks Coming to London? Nick Curtis Explains 'Football'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

WTF Is NFL? TRENDS Are Caged Helmets, Mega Concerts and Big Bucks Coming to London? Nick Curtis Explains 'Football'

Article excerpt

Byline: Nick Curtis

Oother Yankee expostulations! It looks like an American football team could soon make London its home following overtures made by Chancellor George Osborne to the sport's governing body, the NFL. Test games at Wembley -- continuing this Sunday when the Detroit Lions play the Atlanta Falcons -- have drawn huge crowds. And there is already a British American Football League dominated by London teams (and not by the Merthyr Tydfil Thunder Ducks). But having an actual 100 per cent American team based here will be (sorry) a whole new ball game. So for those unfamiliar with this multi-million-dollar sport played by huge men with oddly shaped balls and garish armoured uniforms, here's our guide.

THE RULES American football is a contact sport of 11 men per side (though women have played since 1926) on a 100 yard long 'field' (not a pitch) marked off as a grid every 10 yards, hence the nickname "gridiron". The team in possession must try to move the ball upfield by carrying or passing it, at least 10 yards forwards in four "downs" (periods when the ball is in play). If they succeed, they take another four downs; fail and they yield the ball to the other team. Points are scored by making a touchdown in the opposing team's 'end zone' (the last 10 yards in front of the goal) or kicking a field goal through the goalposts. Professional gamesofficially last 60 minutes but actually over three hours. It is a ridiculously complicated and deeply silly game invented by a nation that needed to create its own history and mythology.

THE HISTORY Legend has it that, during a highspirited discussion between the Yale Cricket Team and the Princeton Rugby Squad, student Walter Camp picked up an inflated pig's bladder, ran 100 yards with it punching people as he went, downed a keg of beer and then had sex with a cheerleader in a parking lot, establishing the framework of the modern game. Actually, I made that up. …

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