That Game You Call… Football
For those that don’t know, I’m Scottish. That fact is important for the following rant.
If someone says “football” to me, like most of the world I immediately think about eleven men against eleven men running around a pitch attempting to kick a ball into the opponents’ net. Whether it’s football, or fussball or futbol or voetbal or even fitba, it’s all the same thing. A game, involving a ball, that you kick with your foot. It does exactly as it says on the tin as the Ronseal generation say.
But that’s not the case all over the world. Just across the water the Irish call it call Soccer. Understandable, since football there would refer to the Gaelic equivalent. I’ve seen it played first hand at Croke Park. There’s more use of the hand, but you can see why it might be called football. It’s not all too dissimilar from the game of Soccer to be honest. Different enough that it’s a different game, similar enough you can see why they need to differentiate. There’s Aussie Rules Football in Australia too, which is very similar – perhaps even more mental – to the Gaelic game. If you want mental in Ireland, try Hurling. I put Aussie Rules somewhere between the two Gaelic games! But the Aussies also refer to “our” game as Soccer. They even nickname their national team the Socceroos.
Interesting side point – I researched this blog a bit as I wrote it. Did you know, the word “soccer” actually comes from the slang version of the word “association” as in “Association Football” which is technically what the game of Football is officially known as. So in countries where there’s more than one type, you put the prefix for it. So in Ireland there’s Gaelic Football and Association Football – or Soccer Football. Depending on your preference, this gets shortened to “Football” and “Soccer”. Anyway, that etymology stuff done, back to my blog…
Then there’s the one across the big water. The one the Americans play. The one the Americans think of the minute you say “Football” to them. American Football. Now, to me, it shouldn’t be called football because you only actually use your feet to give the ball to the opponent! Most of the time it’s in your hand and you’re throwing it to a mate or running with it. You kick it as a last ditch attempt to either score, or more commonly to give up to possession but in a way that benefits you territorially. However, it is called football for the same reason most of the games are called football.
Back in the 1800s, football wasn’t defined well. Differing ideas about how it should be played lead to differing rules. Association Football went one way, Rugby Football (the full name of the game more commonly known as just Rugby – and even that has more than one flavour!) went another… meanwhile in the former British colony of America, they came up with their own brand of Football. That’s why on the face of it there are commonalities between American Football and Rugby. Take the Rugby Scrum – where two packs engage each other. Well, that’s fairly similar to the American Football Line of Scrimmage where two packs don’t quite engage each other but do face off across this line. So American Football, like Rugby Football and Association Football and Gaelic Football all have a common root in Primitive/Medieval Football. Hence they all have as much right to use the name as each other.
However, that still doesn’t mean I’m calling it anything other than American Football. I actually wish there was a shorter version of the name as there is with Soccer for Association Football and Rugby for Rugby Football. But there isn’t, so a two word name will have to do.
Anyway, all these thoughts came about because I woke up this morning and, as is my usual routine these days, checked what was said on Twitter in my sleep absence. It was basically 10 hours of American Football discussion. Now, I don’t really watch American Football. I don’t really watch any American-based sports.
Sidetrack into Baseball here… It was only last year (2009 for those who, like me, haven’t got used to the change of year yet) that I started getting into Baseball thanks to the new ESPN channel here in Scotland. But even then Baseball is quite a long game, usually starting at near midnight local time for us Scots. So if I was lucky I’d catch a game on a Friday night and end up staying up to silly o’clock watching them. For the first few games I was beginning to wonder if there were only two teams because all I ever seemed to catch was the New York Yankees playing the Boston Red Sox. On the plus side, that’s quite a big rivalry! Still, those games pretty much sucked me in to being a Yankees fan. Mainly because they were pretty good, and there were some right weird looking guys playing for the Red Sox! And as I was growing up, there was always a joke that Rangers (in Scottish Football) had a bunch of ugly players (Terry Hurlock will forever be the ugliest player in Scottish Football in my eyes) so obviously being a Celtic fan I went with the non-ugly players. Yes, I’m a Yankees fan because they were better looking! Girly… well, probably. In which case, blame the fact that most of my Baseball knowledge came from one female Yankees fan that I know on Twitter who thinks “A-Rod” is the best thing since sliced bread, and probably even better than that! Sidetrack over…
So I don’t really watch much American sport because of the time difference. I watch enough European based sport so to watch American sports as well would probably have my fiancée throwing me out of the house! The truth is I’m not really much of an American Football fan anyway. I’ve watched the odd game. I tend to get sucked in and watch the Superbowl even though it’s usually on Sunday night into Monday morning here and I have to work! I even went along the day the Scottish Claymores won the NFL Europe “World Bowl”. That competition has long since been taken over by the Germans though. Even that day I didn’t understand most of the rules, and most confusingly the Claymores won before time was up. Things like that put me off. It’s just never caught my interest properly. Maybe it’s just not a game I’m into. Last year I found myself supporting the New York Giants purely because I was booked to go to New York for the first time a couple of months later. I’m starting to think I just support New York teams because I like the city. But then in Baseball there’s the Yankees AND the Mets, while in American Football there’s the Giants AND the Jets. How on earth do you pick?! Personally, I just hate the Dodgers. A Baseball team that started off in Brooklyn but buggered off to Los Angeles. I just hate them the same way I hate Milton Keynes Dons. I hate the concept of franchising moving. It just screws the local fans. At least Wimbledon fans went off and started their own. I suppose Brooklyn does have the Mets now since they moved to a shiny new stadium there this year.
Still, I like to know things so I did what I usually do and went onto wikipedia to read up on the playoffs – which is where the NFL season has reached. This is what I discovered. The playoffs are a straight knock out. Unlike the Baseball playoffs they are one-off games. So that I like. Straight knockout lets me relate it to the football cup competitions here. Next, the playoffs are made up of the two sides of American Football. The American League and the National League. Two franchises that merged long ago, just like in Baseball. Fair enough. Each side has six teams – four division regional winners plus two wildcards. These are seeded 1-6 with the winners being 1-4 on their win/loss ratios and the two wildcards similarly seeded 5 and 6. Also fairly similar to Baseball’s playoffs then. That makes 12 teams, which doesn’t quite fit a straight knockout. So, round one, the two wild cards and the two lower seeded winners play off while the top two get a by to the next round. Winners of these one-off games advance but don’t actually know who they’ll play because they’ll be reseeded. I thought FIFA was dodgy!
We’re in that position now actually. Because the playoffs are done over the weekend and not all played on one day, the New York Jets who won last night don’t actually know if they’re playing Seed 1 or Seed 2! This is because they’re the wildcard seeded number 5. The other game between seed 6 and seed 3 is played today. So if seed 3 wins, they get to play seed 2 and the Jets take on the top seed. If however seed 6 win, the Jets being seeded higher than them get to play seed 2 instead. All very confusing, but I can see why they do it. If they didn’t, what would be the point in the seeding? Just don’t tell UEFA and FIFA, coefficients and world rankings are complicated enough already!
Back on Twitter, so far everyone I know is fairly happy. There’s at least one Jets fan so he’s delighted. There’s a couple of Dallas Cowboys fans as well, and they won last night. They won their region so they already know who they’re playing next weekend – the Minnesota Vikings. The good thing is, the Jets are an AFC team while the Cowboys are an NFC team. Which means I can just hope they both win all the way to the Superbowl next month. That would be a great night on Twitter if that happened! The seeding would indicate that this is unlikely, but that’s the beauty of the playoffs – especially with one-off games. You just never know what might happen. And if it does, I’ll probably be supporting the Jets. I’ve nothing against the Cowboys, I just have a soft spot for all things New York.