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American football is the most popular sport in the USA and the Super Bowl is its annual highlight. But what is football about? We explain the rules of the game.

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Bet on American Football with Bitcoin

In the USA, the Super Bowl of the National Football League (NFL) is without question the most important sporting event of the year. In Germany, the NFL final will also be broadcast live on ProSieben. But while American TV is discussing tactical moves and player changes, the majority of German viewers are still quite inexperienced when it comes to American football.

When the players of the opposing teams crash against each other, seemingly run wildly in confusion and pause a moment later to build up for the next attack, then for many it looks more like chaos than sophisticated game tactics. We explain what American football is all about and how the game is structured.

Goal of the game

American football is all about gaining space on the pitch. Two teams, each with eleven players, compete against each other and try to get possession of the ball. The team in possession of the ball tries to penetrate as far as possible into the opposing space in order to reach the end zone of the playing field. The players are stopped by the players of the opposing team, e.g. by tactical tackles and blocks.

Points are awarded for gaining space on the playing field and, of course, for reaching the end zone. Four quarters of 15 minutes net playing time are played. The team with the higher score at the end of the fourth quarter wins the game.

The pitch

American football is played on a 120 yards long and 53.3 yards wide pitch (approx. 110 meters x 48.5 meters). The playing field is divided into 12 fields of 10 yards length each – they are the active playing field. At each end of the playing field there is an end zone of 10 yards, at the end of which the goal is located: The goal consists of a crossbar at a height of about 3 meters and two vertical bars that are more than 9 meters high.

The yard lines are each marked in 5-yard increments, starting from the goal line at the end zone to the 50 yards line in the middle of the field. The first 20 yards before the goal line are called the “red zone” because there is a high probability that a player will bring the ball into the end zone.

How do you score?

There are two ways to score in American football: The ball must either be carried over the opponent’s goal line into the end zone, or it must be safely caught there. There are six points for such a touchdown. After a touchdown, the attacking team can either try to shoot the ball from the 15-yard line into the opponent’s goal (point after touchdown, one point) or throw it over the goal line again from the 3-yard line or carry it (two-point conversion, two points). If this does not succeed, the team then has the opportunity to score another three points with a field goal.

Offense vs. Defense – how American football works in practice

Every football game is played in a series of moves. One team is the offense (attacker), which tries to get the ball behind the opponent’s goal line, and the other team is the defense (defender), which tries to prevent this. The offense has four attempts each to win ten yards on the pitch. If it succeeds, it has another four attempts. If it fails, the opposing team receives the ball and plays the offense.

The ball may either be carried or thrown on the pitch. In a running move, a player is thrown the ball and tries to penetrate as far as possible into the opposing field. In a passing move, the ball is thrown forward and the players run to the predetermined position to catch it there. They are massively obstructed by the players of the defense. There is a wealth of tactical moves and game variations that make American football very complex – and incredibly exciting, as the live broadcast of the Super Bowl on 4 February 2018 on ProSieben will once again prove.

Football: Far more than just a trend

The NFL is staged with powerful images and is becoming more and more popular. Experts expect popularity to continue to rise. When Tom Brady steps onto the grass of the “NRG Stadium” in Houston, Texas, almost a billion glances will be directed at him worldwide. For the quarterback of the New England Patriots, meeting the Atlanta Falcons at the world’s biggest sporting event, the Super Bowl, is a unique opportunity to finally advance to the Olympus of the National Football League (NFL).

It has long since started its triumphal march beyond the borders of the USA and also cast its spell over Germany. The number of fans is growing steadily – and for good reason: “The sport is incredibly well staged, the Super Bowl has a ritual character. Media processing plays an important role,” explains Dr. Herbert Schwaab, media scientist at the University of Regensburg. While a few years ago only a few fans took notice of the American professional league, the NFL in Germany is becoming more and more a mass event.

Big event on US television: Super Bowl

The TV spectacle of the year is just around the corner. The Super Bowl attracts more than 100 million viewers every year. The highlight of the spectacle is usually the half-time break: this time Lady Gaga is on stage.

Since 2015, the broadcasting group “ProSiebenSat.1 Media SE” has been broadcasting the entire season on German television in its “Ran” format – for many a decisive reason for the current hype of sport.

“Ran does a good job, they explain the moves and are close to the audience,” says Mohamed Hammada, head coach of Regensburg Royals. The growing media presence not only raises the NFL to ever greater popularity dimensions, but also attracts more attention to regional clubs. “In three months, we’ve had 70 new players. There are a lot of lateral entrants,” reveals the former Wide Receiver and Safety.

The focus is on sport

Thomas Haller, head coach of Red Devils Kümmersbruck, is also aware of the importance of media processing: “Free transmission makes the sport interesting, people stick to it, especially the youth”. But he doesn’t believe that these are just event fans, as is the case at European Football Championships or World Cups: “I think it’s all about sport. It is simply something different from the standard ‘football’ that is broadcast everywhere. Many other sports don’t get enough attention. All you have to think about is the World Handball Championship.”

Schwaab also certifies the German fans “specific knowledge”, but reminds them that the “live event” is the focus of such scenarios: “It’s about creating a community. People always get excited about something together and love to celebrate events.”

The media scientist draws an interesting comparison: “RTL has already started an attempt to stage ski jumping with Sven Hannawald. For a short time, many teenagers were also interested. Now, however, the enthusiasm has dropped sharply again.” But Schwaab predicts a rosy future for interest in football: “It’s the perfect sport for television, especially because of the breaks in advertising. The media’s attempt to turn something into an event is also growing all the time,” he says.

Football fans are particularly fascinated by the intensity of sport. “There are normally only 16 games, so it’s a short season. Every game counts and you can’t afford defeat,” explains Marco Roidl. The supporter of the Seattle Seahawks has been following the NFL for quite some time and simply finds football “more exciting than football”.

“Extroverted Stars” on canvas

With a group of seven friends, he sits in front of the screen every Sunday and feverishly joins in with the “extroverted stars”. For the 51st Super Bowl, the spectacle of superlatives, Roidl and almost 20 other fans rented an entire clubhouse, where they followed the Patriots’ game against the Falcons on the big screen.

Gastronomes also observed the rapid development of this tough, strictly tactical and dynamic sport. “When we first broadcast the Super Bowl, we had maybe ten or 15 guests. Today it’s around 170,” says Jürgen Wittmann from L.A. in Cham. “Reservations are growing year by year. Everything is explained super on television by the German moderation. The basic rules are not difficult anyway. I think that the majority of our guests are really interested in sports,” explains the bar owner, who was once an active footballer himself.Frank Weschta, owner of “Franky’s American Sportsbar” in Regensburg, also remembers the beginnings of the football trend well. “In Regensburg the hype about US sports has always been big. The Free TV release has made the facet even wider. In the meantime, many women are also following the NFL. They sit with us in their jerseys and cheer with us. That wasn’t the case at all in the past,” explains the Pittsburgh Steelers’ self-confessed fan.

The power of the pictures is probably not as pronounced in any other sport as in football – and so in the night from Sunday to Monday countless German fans will be sitting in front of their screens again, excited if Brady wants to crown himself the most successful quarterback in NFL history by winning the “Vince Lombardy Trophy”. For media scientist Schwaab, one thing is therefore clear: “The trend will remain similar. Perhaps the enthusiasm for American football and other US sports will continue to grow. “