A Brief History of American Football and Reasons We Love It

Football is arguably America’s favorite sport, but do you know how it got started and why it’s the powerhouse pastime it is today?

Early American football has its origins in rugby football and soccer. The game evolved and eventually became popular as a college sport. In 1892, William “Pudge” Heffelfinger’s $500 contract to play in a game ushered in the era of professional football and in 1920, the American Professional Football Association was formed.

That league became the National Football League (NFL) in 1922 and the American Football League (AFL) later formed in 1960. The two leagues merged in 1970, the same year Monday Night Football debuted on television.

The sport as it looks today is very different from its scrappy beginnings, but some of the best things about football are timeless. A Harris Poll taken earlier this year said fans enjoy football because of the skill involved, the rivalries between teams, and the teamwork, athleticism, and strategy on display. Still others enjoy the game as a chance to show team pride, an opportunity to get together with friends, or as part of well-established family traditions.

Here are the top five reasons the Healthier Michigan team loves the sport and why we can’t wait for our next chance to root on our favorite teams.

  1. Rivalries. Yup, we’re a bit competitive and love seeing our team hand it to their known rivals. Whether your team is winning or losing overall this season, there’s nothing like a win against your sworn enemy. Check out our inner-office MSU vs. CMU rivalry.
  2. Watching the game together. We also really like to have fun and this one’s pretty self-explanatory. There’s nothing like gathering your crew together before cheering on your team. Just make sure to keep the snacks healthy!
  3. The power of perseveranceFootball has been behind some pretty inspirational stories. Take Kurt Warner, who went from grocery store bagger to Super Bowl MVP. Or the homecoming queen turned kicker who helped lead her team to victory. Just go watch Rudy and you’ll know what we’re talking about. What’s that in our eyes? Just dreams, that’s all.
  4. Fan culture. You’ve got your gear on, you know the fight song by heart, and there’s nothing too silly for you to do to support your team. Whether you paint your face (or chest – brrrr!), don your team’s colors or have your favorite player’s number tattooed somewhere, you know there are other fans out there who are just as passionate.
  5. One game. When it comes to championships, many sports rely on a series of matches to determine who’s best. Not so in football. Whether it’s a college bowl game or football’s BIG game in January, each team gets one shot. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat just don’t get any sweeter than that.

That’s our list, and we’re sticking to it. What makes football your favorite sport and why? Tell us in the comments.

This blog is part of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s #MIKidsCan Catch campaign, aimed at celebrating the moments inspired by the game of football. Share your football photos on Instagram using #MIKidsCan and #Contest for a chance to score autographed gear, jerseys, game tickets and more. For more information and official rules visit ahealthiermichigan.org/mikidscan.


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Photo credit: Mike Morbeck


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  1. What makes football my favorite sport is “the unknown destination of “that “football” “. Every moment of every play is unknown to the viewers. It’s sort’ve like watching a suspenseful movie. My anxiety level is up so high sometimes, I need to turn the channel and find out seconds later what happened :-). I love it yet and still (especially at the 2 minute period of the 4th quarte)…and so the story goes. Football also makes for an exciting “get together with friends and family”. Go Lions? 🙁

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