American football is by far one of the world’s most vibrant and highly celebrated events in many sporting occasions. Just like other games of the day, this game has a long history, having had its fair share of challenges and changes through the time to become what it is today. American football was born as a mid-game of football and rugby, with its start dating back over a century to 1874.
MONTREAL — This week marks the 137th anniversary of the historic McGill-Harvard rugby-football confrontation. The two-game football series, played at Cambridge, Mass., May 14 and 15, 1874, were the first games of North American-style football.
These contests were preceded by a Princeton-Rutgers football game in 1869 but that event was actually played under England’s “Football Association” rules, better known in North America as soccer.
Harvard’s style of play incorporated a round ball and a kicking style of play known as “the Boston game” and was also closely related to what we today call “soccer”. However, a curious feature of that game was that a player could run and throw or pass the ball only if he were being pursued by an opponent. When the opposing player gave up pursuit he called out to the runner, who had to stop and kick the ball.
McGill’s game, which featured an oval ball, permitted kicking the ball as in soccer, but the participants could also pick the ball up and run with it whenever they pleased.
As the name suggests, American football has its firm hold in the American continent, although this game has a large number of fans the world over. Many people who are not used to the mode of play and the game may mistake it to another game, especially rugby, which is not strange as it has traces from rugby anyway. This sport can, however, be very interesting if one understands it in detail. Here is a brief description of how it goes.
The purpose of the game is to move the ball towards, and ultimately into, the opposition’s end zone.
This is achieved by either running with the ball until tackled, or throwing the ball downfield to a team-mate.
Downs are the most fundamental, and confusing, part of the NFL rulebook.
The attacking team, or offence, needs to move the ball forward in chunks of at least 10 yards, which is why the pitch has yardage markings.
They have four chances, or downs, to gain those 10 yards.
Touchdown (six points)
A touchdown is scored when a team crosses the opposition’s goal line with the ball, or catches or collects the ball in the end zone.
Field goal (three points)
These are usually attempted on fourth down if the kicker is close enough to the end zone to kick the ball through the posts, or uprights.
Extra point (one or two points)
A point is earned by kicking the ball through the uprights after a touchdown (similar to a rugby conversion). Two points are earned by taking the ball into the end zone again.
Safety (two points)
Awarded to the defensive team when a member of the offensive team is tackled with the ball in his own end zone.
The dynamic fast moves, great charges and the vibrancy of players in American football gives the sport’s the thrill that glues them to the game. With this devotion comes something very detrimental, a risk of one of most horrific injuries that one can sustain in any sport, ‘Head Concussion’. This is a grisly head damage caused by head-on collisions by the players, which is suffered by many professional players in this game.
According to the NFL, there were 271 documented game-related concussions this past season — the most recorded by the league since 2011. Roughly one-third of those were caused by helmet-to-helmet contact. One of the worst of those hits occurred in January, during a grinding back-and-forth playoff match between Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers, a game generally regarded as one of the season’s dirtiest.
How dirty? With 22 seconds left in the game, the Steelers’ star wide receiver, Antonio Brown, was mid air, ready to catch a ball that he hoped would put the Steelers within range of a game-winning field goal. Instead, Bengals’ linebacker Vontaze Burfict launched himself at Brown as he came down, slamming his helmet (which in the NFL can weighs four to six pounds) into the side of Brown’s head, whipping it sideways on his brain stem. The hit, at an estimated 707 miles per hour, carried about 1600 pounds of tackling force. It flattened Brown on his back, seemingly knocking him unconscious. Jim Nantz, the NFL’s normally unflappable play-by-play guy, was apoplectic, calling the assault “disgraceful.”
The Steelers, who ended up winning the game 18 – 16, later said Brown had suffered “concussion like symptoms.” In the NFL, that’s code for ‘has a concussion.’ But a concussion is only part of the story. What happens to the brain when hit by a linebacker (or cornerback or defensive lineman) is a fascinating and disturbing mixture of physics, biology and human frailty. The victim is left groggy and in pain, and can suffer devastating physical, mental, and even emotional injuries life.