The Footlong Ball, and Other Myths About American Football

With its millions of fans and hundreds of billions of annual revenue, American football – or simply “football”, as it is called in North America – is the second most valuable sport in the world. And it’s probably the flashiest, especially at the beginning of the year, when the Super Bowl – the final game of the season that decides which team takes home the Vince Lombardi Trophy. So, between waiting for the Big Game and keeping an eye on the Super Bowl 57 Odds, here are a few things you probably thought were true about American football – but they are not.

Myth 1: The footlong ball

One of the arguments Europeans have against the name “football” used for gridiron football is that the players barely ever touch the ball with their feet. And they are right: except for a few special cases, the players run with the ball in their hand.

One of the explanations for this strange choice of name has come from an unknown source, stating that it’s called “football” because the ball is one foot long. But this is not true: there are 12 inches in a foot, while the ball is just 11 to 11.25 inches long.

Instead, it’s more likely that the name came from the fact that it’s a ball game played standing – as in on foot. Just like association football, Aussie rules football, Canadian football, and Rugby football, for that matter.

Myth 2: Nobody outside the US plays American football

While gridiron football is by far not the most popular sport outside of North America, saying it’s not played overseas is simply not true. And we’re not talking about Canadian football either. 

Some European countries have pretty strong American football leagues – they even have a pan-European league called the “European League of Football” (ELF) with teams from several countries, including Germany, Poland, and France participating in it. It even has its own “bowl” – the ELF Bowl.

By the way, Germany is the most potent American Football nation in Europe, with its own “German Bowl” which has been held since 1979.

Myth 3: All American football players are millionaires

While there are many NFL players who pocket millions each year, this is by far not the general rule for the sport. Like in soccer, there are a few superstars with amazing salaries, while the other players make less – often much less. While the minimum salary of a rookie NFL player is much higher than the average American salary – a tad over $435,000 as opposed to around $55,000 a year -, saying that all NFL players are millionaires is nothing but a myth.

On the contrary: a statistic by Sports Illustrated has shown that more than half of all former NFL players go broke within five years of retiring. 

Final words

The Super Bowl 57 is upon us, once again with all the best American football teams and Rihanna returning to the stage. Which team do you think will win the NFL Championship final?