In the USA, the NFL is an immovable institution. NFL viewership in the USA averages out at around 16 million per game, which is a pretty amazing number. The chances are that someone you know is an NFL fanatic, but if you’re completely new to the league, it can be hard to know where you should begin. There are so many teams, terms, and statistics to learn that it can seem overwhelming, but the fact is that anyone can get into NFL football, and it can get pretty exciting! Here’s our beginner’s guide on how you can get started in the crazy world of the NFL.
Know the basics of the sport
If you want to get into the NFL and keep up with each game’s moment-to-moment drama, it helps to know the basics. What’s the difference between a halfback and a quarterback? What’s pass blocking, and what does blitzing mean? While everything can seem overwhelming at first, it’s a good idea just to brush up on the absolute basics of the sport: how game flow works, what the victory and loss conditions are, et cetera. It might sound embarrassing, but having a basic grounding is key to a more advanced understanding of NFL football.
Learn your players
The NFL lives and dies on its rosters, just as many other sports do worldwide. Quarterbacks are generally the stars of the NFL show, as the wonderful Betway interview with quarterback Doug Flutie will attest. In the interview, Flutie discusses his favourite quarterbacks of all time, with famous names like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Patrick Mahomes popping up. These players are all names you should familiarise yourself with if you’re going to talk NFL, because they’re legends, and it pays to keep up with the discourse.
Choose a team to follow
If you try to follow every NFL team’s fortunes, it’s going to get exhausting quickly. There are 32 teams in the NFL right now, some of which are multiples within certain states, so you’re not going to be able to keep up with every single game and every single player within those 32 teams. It’s best to pick a single team – perhaps one with a player you’re particularly fond of – and follow that team. If you’re from the US, it doesn’t have to be your state’s team, although you might come in for a bit of good-natured ribbing if you’re not supporting your local boys.
Play some games yourself
Why not give playing football a try yourself? If you can find enough friends willing to throw a ball around with you – and it’s likely you will, even if you have to go a little further afield than usual – then head over to a vacant football field and give a game a go. You’ll have to adjust the rules slightly, especially if you don’t have enough players to make up full teams, but the basic idea is the same. This can give you some insight into how the players on the field are operating mentally, and it can help you to understand what kind of moment-to-moment challenges they’re facing.
Recruit a fan
Chances are you probably know someone who’s big into NFL football, or college NCAA football. Either way, talk to them and ask them if they can “induct” you. Watch a few games with them and ask them to explain what’s going on (if they’re not too annoyed by the interruptions). The chances are that any football fan will be delighted to explain their passion to you and potentially recruit a buddy for watching games with. The rules of football can seem complicated, but once you’re immersed in them – and if you have a guide to help you “get” them – they’re not so hard to follow.
Get tickets for a game if you can
Tickets for NFL games are legendarily hard to get ahold of, especially if you’re a Green Bay Packers fan. However, you should be able to get tickets for a college football or high school football game if you’re in the US. Naturally, this is going to be much harder to do if you live somewhere else, as American football doesn’t enjoy the same cachet that it does in its native land. Still, if you can attend a game, it’s worth it; the immersive atmosphere, fans screaming as the game progresses, and diverse entertainment available in the half-time show are all part of the experience.
Become a stats nerd
There are plenty of websites out there that will allow you to track what’s going on with the NFL from a statistical perspective. If you can’t get out to watch games and you don’t find yourself able to tune in on a regular basis, then it’s a good idea to follow the stats. You’ll still get a sense of the drama and overall movement of the league if you’re just looking at numbers, although it naturally won’t be as entertaining as it would if you were watching the games themselves. Stats will help you in conversations about the NFL, too; you’ll be able to track player trends and debate the merits of players and strategies.
Take it seriously
NFL football is serious business. Sometimes, it can get violent, with players and fans injured during games. Many fans take the game incredibly seriously, and you should too; treat it more like a way of life than simply a pastime, and don’t insult people by suggesting it’s “just a game”. Fans get invested in the fortunes of their teams and their favourite players; in this way, it’s more like an immersive, well-scripted drama series than “just a game”. If you want to get into the NFL, you’ll have to shed the mindset that football is – or ever was – “just a game”.