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Football Betting Odds: The game of American football developed out of something like a cross between soccer and rugby. Rugby itself grew out of the soccer tradition in England, so soccer is truly at the very core of this sport. However, as both games made their way across the Atlantic, they were both played at colleges and universities, and out of those two games, football was born.
The earliest history of the sport tells us that no single variety of the game was played; some schools played essentially soccer, others rugby, while still others played various combinations of the two. In what is commonly billed as the first college football game, Princeton and Rutgers played each other on November 6, 1869 at Rutgers in New Brunswick, New Jersey. This first college game was essentially soccer, but nevertheless laid the groundwork for the modern game as we know it today.
American football was made popular by teams representing colleges and universities. These teams dominated the game for most of the first 100 years. Even today, despite greatly increased interest in professional football, intercollegiate contests are attended by more than 50 million spectators each year. Many college stadiums hold more than 50,000 spectators and several hold more than 100,000.
In the 1900s, college football became one of the country's most popular sports spectacles. Ranked among the greatest United States sports heroes of the 20th century are athletes like Jim Thorpe, Red Grange, Tom Harmon, Doak Walker, Glenn Davis, Doc Blanchard, Joe Namath and O. J. Simpson. In 1935 the Downtown Athletic Club of New York City established an award honoring one of the outstanding college football coaches in the country. The Heisman Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the outstanding college player, as decided by a national poll of sportswriters.
The first professional football game in the United States took place in 1895 in the town of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, between a team representing Latrobe and a team from Jeannette, Pennsylvania. In the following ten years many professional teams were formed, but the pro game attracted only limited public support during its first 30 years. The first league of professional football teams was the American Professional Football Association, formed in 1920.
In 1922, the APFA gave way to the National Football League. Red Grange, the famous halfback from the University of Illinois, provided a tremendous stimulus for the league when he joined the Chicago Bears in 1925 with his exciting play drawing large crowds. Thereafter, professional football attracted larger numbers of first-rate college players, and the increased patronage made the league economically viable.
Strategically, the early NFL game was hardly distinguishable from college football. There was no attempt to break away from collegiate playbooks or rules. For 13 years the NFL followed the NCAA Rules Committee recommendations. In the league's early years, players considered the low-paying NFL a part-time job and held other jobs during the day.
The game of football has a history of constant rule changes, implemented to bolster the excitement of the game and to increase player safety. In a constant attempt to maintain public interest in the game, NFL rule makers review trends in their sport. For example, in the early 1970s, the hash marks were brought in closer to the center of the field to give offenses more room to throw wide.
The move, which increased scoring and made the game more exciting, also helped bolster the running game. in 1972, 10 NFL runners gained more than 1,000 yards in one season for the first time in history. During the next season, Buffalo Bills' running back O.J. Simpson rushed for more than 2,000 yards, the first time a player had gained that many yards in a single season.
By 1977 scoring was the lowest it had been since 1942, while offensive touchdowns had fallen to their lowest levels since 1938. The rulemakers enacted serious measures after this low-scoring 1977 season, fearing a loss of public interest in the defense-dominated game.
The present-day NFL game is immensely popular. It is played during the late summer, through autumn, and into January. Professional teams play four exhibition games before the start of the regular season, followed by 16 regular season games and playoffs, if they qualify.
The NFL is a big business for players, owners, advertisers, and other industries tied to the sport. NFL franchises generate huge revenues for host cities, in addition to promoting civic pride and national exposure. Thus, cities often compete for teams, offering prospective teams bigger and better stadiums, guaranteed fan support, and various economic incentives.
Throughout the years, other entities have sought to capitalize on the economic potential of the sport. The fourth incarnation of the American Football League was successful and merged with the NFL in 1970 after nine years of operation.
For three years in the 1980s a new professional spring league, the United States Football League, competed with the NFL. The NFL lost players to the USFL, and NFL teams had to pay higher salaries to keep other players from leaving. However, the USFL soon folded, with much of its more talented personnel entering the NFL.
Immediately after the USFL suspended operations in 1986, league executive Jim Foster began work on a brand new variant of football. Known as arena football, the game is played on a much shorter field and built heavily on a high-scoring offensive game. While not a competitor to the NFL, the Arena Football League has had a nice existence and is currently the second-longest running professional football league ever after the NFL.
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