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I used to watch the NFL in the late 80s and early 90s when Channel 4 had a highlights show on Sunday nights in the UK. I got to understand the rules and basic strategies and enjoyed it at the time. I liked the analytical side of the game. The Superbowl was a major event in my sporting calendar and I’d always attend a party with some like-minded people who didn’t mind staying up until 4am on a Monday morning. One of my all-time worst hangovers resulted from one of these events.
My team was the 49ers and my favourite player was Joe Montana, having resided in San Francisco briefly for a time in 1989. The only NFL fixture I actually saw live was a game at Tampa Bay against the Minnesota Vikings in 1992, which the Vikings won 35-7. The Buccs were a poor side at the time and the game was a walkover. Not long after, Channel 4 stopped showing the NFL due to declining ratings and I lost interest.
There’s no point trying to compare American Football to Association Football. The games have nothing in common. Watching American Football live (either in person or on TV) is more like watching cricket in that you have to have something else to do at the time. Going to the cricket is a great day out if you want to go and sit in the sun with your friends and have a few beers, but it isn’t very exciting if you sit there on your own and expect to be entertained by the action. In American Football the players just spend too much standing around figuring out what to do next. This is perfect for the American advertisers of course and in the UK much of the downtime was filled with analysis (even the commercial channels show less ads than in the US) which in itself could be quite interesting, but it’s inevitably a long drawn out affair. And this is why you need the cheerleaders and the replays and the half-time show and everything else that comes with it.
I rarely watch the NFL now. It’s only fun if you have someone to watch it with who also understands the game and you can have some banter about what the offensive team should do next and where the defense went wrong on the last play. If you don’t have that level of engagement it’s just a load of guys in funny outfits doing warm-ups and then crashing into each other.
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