To those who haven’t grown up with it, American football often seems like a mixture of armor-equipped violence combined with baffling penalties. However, it lies at the heart of the US’s sports culture.
It is no secret that Americans have a stubborn streak. Taking long cautious steps around any political examples, Americans measure temperature by Fahrenheit, length by feet and yards, and weight by pounds with the only exposure to the metric system often coming inside science class or traveling abroad. Being American myself, I still have no idea what 30 degrees Celsius feels like outside until putting it into my unit converter on my phone. Similarly, Americans absolutely adore a sport called “football” that almost entirely relies on hands to play; not to mention giving the name “soccer” to the sport that requires a foot to the ball.
The professional American football league, the NFL, brought in $13 billion USD in 2016 compared to a measly $4.8 billion earned by the National Basketball Association. For a company to buy a 30 second commercial during the NFL’s championship game, called the Super Bowl, a whopping $5 million must be coughed up and even then, they are not assured a slot as the competition is fierce to advertise to the over-100 million people watching the game. For many, weekend schedules are planned around their favorite team’s football games, with many taking several hours to the entire day to watch college teams play on Saturday as well as professional teams play on Sunday.
There is not only one league in China, but four, with the most prominent known as the AFLC.
Football, as Americans know the sport, is at the heart of many a childhood and often a key factor in helping boys develop into men. Football is a tough sport with coaches expecting excellence out of each player even as early as six years old. It is also the backdrop for many beautiful and touching stories such as Herman Boone’s heroic efforts at integrating T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1971, against overwhelming prejudice and ignorance, as portrayed in the 2000 movie, “Remember the Titans” known across the globe. Football provides a place for many fathers to pass on their knowledge and passion to their sons through coaching and extra backyard practices. It also gives hope to some who never knew their father or encountered other difficulties in life, by offering an opportunity to become a successful football player by earning full sports scholarships to universities or play professionally.
Every major Chinese city, including several smaller ones, is the proud host of an American football tackle team. There is not only one league in China, but four, with the most prominent known as the AFLC. The American Football league of China contains three divisions with a total of 20 teams spread throughout the whole of China. With the season having kicked off in August, teams within a division all play each other once competing for one of the two coveted top seeds that allows entrance into the play offs. After the division play is finished, the top two teams of each division face off against each other in a single elimination play off, ending in a championship game at the end of January.
The National Football League, the highest professional league in the world, has invested heavily in spreading the joys of the sport throughout the world. Russel Wilson and Tom Brady, two big-name current stars in the league have even made trips to China. Arguably the greatest player in the most important position ever to play the game, Tom Brady expressed that his dream was to see an NFL game played in China before he retired. The NFL has also been partnering with Chinese American football training companies such as Skyway, to help spread the sport to the grassroots. Skyway helps teach Chinese youth the fundamentals of the sport and provides them with a chance to compete against teams across the country. Additionally, the NFL has licensed Skyway to create local NFL Flag Football leagues for the adult population in China.
Flag football is a non-contact version of the sport that can be played with men and women on the same team. HERE! Outdoors is happy to partner with Skyway in this effort to teach people American football and continues to provide healthy activities for the Dongguan community. To learn how to play and learn more about the future of American football in Dongguan, scan the QR code.