With anticipation steadily building around the NFL’s start next Friday, spread bettors may be interested to know the origins of the league.
The National Football League was founded nearly a century ago, yet took several name changes, controversies and one great merger to become what America knows and loves today.
The Early Years
Having started as the American Professional Football Conference in 1920, the NFL brand was established in 1922 and was largely unopposed in its aim of governing a national professional football league. Of the 14 teams that started that 1920 season, only two survive to this day, although both under different guises, as the Decatur Staleys have grown into the Chicago Bears and the Chicago Cardinals now into the Arizona Cardinals. The Green Bay Packers, although founded in 1919, joined in 1921 and are the oldest team to have kept both their name and location. Once the sixties arrived, suddenly the NFL’s dominance was challenged by the American Football League. After both parties realised that competing for draft picks and television deals in the manner they were was totally unsustainable, a merger was agreed.
The creation of the Super Bowl
From there, both the Super Bowl and the Conferences we see today were created, with most of the pre-merger NFL teams making up the NFC (National Football Conference) and the AFL teams forming the AFC (American Football Conference). The Conferences are each comprised of 16 franchises, then divided into a further four Divisions according to location (North, South, East, West). Teams vie to progress to the Playoffs through either winning their Division or as a Wildcard option as best placed runners-up. The Playoff tournament sees the two Conferences pitted against one another, until only two remain, culminating in the Super Bowl, probably one of the most prestigious fixtures in the sporting calendar. The winner takes home the coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy, named after the man considered to be the NFL’s greatest ever coach.
In a sport that is nothing without its franchises and figures (both on and off the field), Commissioner Pete Rozelle, incumbent from 1960 to 1989, is largely credited with developing the league into the sporting behemoth it is today. From an overall annual attendance of three million at the start of his tenure, this figure reached 17 million by the time Rozelle retired. While his successor, Paul Tagliabue, was instrumental in increasing television deals and adding teams, today’s Commissioner, Roger Goodell, is largely focused on making the sport safer, by reducing the number of illegal hits through fines and suspensions. Much like the Premier League in the UK, few could have anticipated the growing global success that the NFL has become today. Being more concerned with franchise potential than tradition, the NFL continues to adapt and evolve with modern society, being willing to use the latest technology and aware of its cultural importance in order to constantly improve itself.
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