The National Football League became a reality in 1920 as the American Professional Football Conference (APFC). The name was changed to the American Professional Football Association (APFA) a few months later. It soon became the biggest American Football league in the world and now consists of thirty two teams. Over the years, the NFL has turned football into the most popular sport in the US. Millions of people flock to the stadiums all across the US and abroad to support their favorite sides, which is why NFL tickets stay in high demand all through the season.
The birth of the NFL
In 1920, the representatives of the Canton Bulldogs, the Akron Pros, the Rock Island Independents, the Cleveland Indians and the Dayton Triangles held a meeting which resulted in the formation of the American Professional Football Conference (APFC). It was later renamed as the American Football Association (APFA) a few months later. The legendary athlete, Jim Thorpe was appointed as the first president of the league. It started out with fourteen teams out of which only two, the Decatur Staleys and the Chicago Cardinals now known as, the Chicago Bears and the Arizona Cardinals respectively remain active.
In the initial years, the APFA members continued to compete against non-APFA teams. In 1921, the league started to release official standings and a year later, its name was changed to the National Football League. The NFL was not a big league in the 1920s. Many teams entered the league but left just as quickly. However, in the 1930s the league began to get more popular and in 1933, the first championship game was held. Two divisions were later formed to create a proper structure in the NFL.
The African-American Players
The NFL was rising in popularity but the African-American players were nowhere to be seen. That remained the case till 1946. The public pressure was mounting and the MLB began the first league to allow teams to buy African-American players. The NFL soon followed suit and that played a big part in ending the racial divide.
The dawn of the Bowl and the first televised game
In 1939, the National Football League introduced Pro Bowl. It was a game to honor the League’s All Star players who had played at the highest level. Initially, the competition featured championship teams who were put against the best individual players in the league. The first Pro Bowl game was played between the New York Giants and the All-American All Stars at the Wrigley Field. The Giants emerged victorious by defeating the All-Stars 13-10.
During the same year, NBC broadcasted an NFL game for the first time. That historic encounter took place between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Philadelphia Eagles at the Ebbets Field. The Dodgers won the game 23-14.
Growing in popularity
In the 50s, the NFL started to grow in popularity. The National Football League embraced television and gave Americans new stars to look up to. The likes of Paul Hornung, Johnny Unitas, Otto Graham and Bobby Layne became household names and the NFL never looked back. More people started to take interest in the NFL which led to record TV viewership for the 1958 National Football League Championship.
Creation of the Super Bowl
In 1959, the American Football League emerged as a National Football League rival but both leagues merged in 1970. That resulted in the formation of two conferences, the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC). The merger also led to the creation of an AFL-NFL Championship game, ‘World Championship of Professional Football’ which was later renamed the Super Bowl.
The first Super Bowl was played between the Green Bay Packers who represented NFL and the Kansas City Chiefs who represented AFL. It was attended by 61,946 fans. When the dust settled, it was the Packers who took home the trophy by defeating the Chiefs 35-10.
The format was then changed and now the NFC Champions take on the AFC Champions to decided who wins the Super Bowl. A total of fifty Super Bowls have been played till now.
The new era
Today, the National Football League is followed by millions. Many films like, ‘Friday Night Lights,’ ‘We are Marshall’ and ‘Remember the Titans’ have been made on the sport. Moreover, several NFL video games have also been released. In addition to that, NFL matches are now broadcasted by TV networks like Fox, ESPN and CBC. So, it is no surprise that fans rush to buy NFL tickets as soon as the new season schedule is announced. The latest NFL season will be no different.