Praise sweet baby touchdown Jesus, pigskin is back. We’re two weeks removed from the NFL, but college and all primary-school levels have kicked off. The real patriots can emerge from their oppressive summer of pretending to sort of care about baseball, or tennis, or all of the other sports we’re subjected to while patiently hibernating in anticipation of the one true American sport remaining: football, the American one, which is the only one.
If you’re digesting my statements and feeling argumentative, go for it. Lean into your fury, then put on a helmet and ram into something or, better yet, someone. You’ll feel better. I’m not saying football is a better sport than others thanks to acceptable blind rage, but it doesn’t detract from the argument. It’s well-established through statistics and empirical observation that Americans are just kind of pissed off for a litany of reasons that have nothing to do with how damn great our country is, and we need ways to express it outside of road rage and mass shootings.
A brief economics lesson: Capitalism, an economic theory spoken straight from God’s mouth to Adam Smith in the Garden of Eden, clearly states that whatever person or organizations are making the most money are inherently good and right and anything else is simply the first loser. The NFL is far and away the top revenue producer among sports organizations in the United States. That doesn’t account for the yuge money drawn in from the college gridiron that produces the funds for universities to support broad athletic departments, including revenue-negative sports we might feign a cursory interest in when football season concludes.
Over and above money being the only necessary argument needed to crown pads and helmets as superior to anything else, football might be — nay, definitely is — the last bastion of great American exceptionalism that has since been drowned by a homogenous global culture thanks to technology and Tik-Tok stars. We, as global citizens, largely consume similar media, eat similar food, and observe similar trends, but Americans guzzle football with an unquenchable zest in the greatest depth and quantity, and if we don’t, we’ll have surrendered one of the last things that truly marks us as better than every other nation on Earth.
The gridiron game originated in Northeastern colleges in the late 1800s in a prototypically American fashion: We stole already established ideas (soccer and rugby), made some tweaks, and claimed it as something entirely new and vastly superior. Walter Camp, a Yale graduate and medical doctor, helped craft the rudimentary version into something that would be familiar to fans today. Since that time, football has grown and flourished and become America’s Game, despite baseball’s errored attempts to christen itself as such through various tired marketing campaigns. “America’s Pastime,” as they like to tout themselves, employs a steady 28% of its players from other countries. The NBA is slightly fewer with 22% of their players classified as international. The NHL, which has gained significant popularity during my generation, employs only around 28% red, white, and blue professional players. The NFL — despite working to host games globally and building a significant fan base outside our golden shores — has only around 5% foreign-born players. Most of these non-U.S. athletes are from Canada — they do have a league of their own, after all — and the next most represented country is Nigeria. Australia, primarily in the form of punters, is third in international representation inside the most profitable league of our land.
Sometimes differentiating something’s greatness is dependent on niche rather than numbers. Football — the American kind — is regionally exclusive to the greatest corner of the globe. Futbol — the other kind, where ties are something that occur with regularity — is far and away the most popular global sport. I posit soccer’s popularity is because even poor countries can manage to necessitate the bare-bones equipment required. If there’s anything we (Americans) hate more than tying in sports — which is just athletic socialism — it’s a sport you can play without spending truckloads of money on equipment. Even though it’s still important only in the good ol’ U.S. of A, the Super Bowl boasts the largest viewership of any single televised sports spectacle. Events like the Tour de France and the World Cup might possess superior numbers, but the multi-day and -week events are hardly comparable to the five-hour extravaganza during which your average Texan will puke after chasing 17 Bud Lights with a half-pound of queso.
Like the functional alcoholism most adults deal with, the season will start as just a game or two on Saturday before the inevitable fantasy football drafts start, and, before you know it, Thursday through Monday are dominated by the greatest sport West of the Atlantic and East of the Pacific. You might even quench your withdrawal by crashing a local field on Tuesday night just to insult the vision of some college kid refereeing a middle-school game. Remember, this behavior doesn’t make you a monster. It makes you a patriot. So, strap up and send your regrets to all the wedding invites you receive for the months of September through November, because the last sport made in America, by Americans, and for Americans is ready for kickoff.