It is nearly impossible to think of autumn in the United States without thinking of football, one of our most popular weekend activities and beloved sports. Children start playing football as young as two-years old. By middle school, most boys are playing some form of football (although recently there has been a great deal of debate concerning the sport’s safety for children that age. See Additional Resources below). Middle schools (grades 6-8), high schools (grades 9-12), and most universities have their own football teams and play on weekends throughout the fall.
These football games are quite the social activity for students and parents alike. Many students who do not play football get actively involved in these football events as cheerleaders or, at the high school and college levels, as members of the school’s marching or pep band. Many choose to cheer their teams on from the stands. Here is a video of the University of Wisconsin’s marching band providing half-time entertainment for its football fans.
At the professional level, the NFL (National Football League) has thirty-two professional teams around the country. Friends and family come together on autumn weekends to watch their favorite teams compete. Those who go to the games “tailgate” (grill, eat, and drink) in the stadium parking lots before the games. Those who stay home and watch the games gather around the television sets cheering on their teams, booing the referees (or refs as they are “affectionately” known), and tailgating on chips, bratwursts (especially here in Wisconsin), sloppy joes, potato salad, beer and soda among many other things.
Rivalry is not uncommon. Here, in Wisconsin, our home team is the Green Bay Packers, but not too far south of us is the Chicago Bears. Across the Mississippi River on our western border, we have the Minnesota Vikings. While some people take these rivalries to extremes, most people enjoy a healthy, friendly competition since many Wisconsinites have lived or have family living in those areas.
Because football is such an important part of our fall tradition in the U.S., even people who are not avid sports fans need to know some of the basics about the game and its vocabulary simply to participate in conversations. Here is a terrific vocabulary cheat sheet from dummies.com for getting started, and another from the NFL.
Additional Resources: Can Youth Football Be Saved? (And Should It Be?)