Article: 25 Little-Known Facts About the NFL: HowStuffWorks
25 Little-Known Facts About the NFL
By: Ian Fortey
Image: AJ Guel/WkiCommons
About This Article
The modern NFL has come a long way from its roots in the 1920s. It's now a massive, multi-billion dollar entertainment conglomerate that dominates the world of professional sports. Each year the Super Bowl is an epic television event that draws in crowds like almost nothing else not just to see the game but to see the spectacle, the elaborate halftime show, and even the excessive and expensive commercials that air at the same time. Way back in the day, things were quite a bit different. Safety gear was barely a concern, and there were numerous teams that no longer exist and have been lost to history like the Pottsville Maroons and the Evansville Crimson-Giants.
Obviously, none of us were around to see those early games in the '20s, and few people are aware of much of the league's history up through the '50s and even the '60s. But as the NFL has grown to become the dominant force in American sports, there's been plenty to catch up on and learn about. The incredible matchups, the shifting, and growing team dynamics and, of course, the personalities that exist on and off the field every Sunday. If you think you know the NFL you may yet be surprised to learn some of these lesser-known NFL facts! Take a look and see!
The lost Super Bowl
The only known recording of Super Bowl 1 belongs to a man from North Carolina. The game, which took place back in 1967, was not saved by the NFL or the network that broadcast it. The North Carolina man offered to sell it to the NFL for $1 million. At first, they countered with $30,000 but then withdrew entirely, letting the man know he'd face legal action if he sold it to anyone else since they technically own the broadcast.
That's a lot of cows.
Even though they call them pigskins, modern footballs are made from cow and deer leather. The NFL has 256 regular-season games and, factoring in playoffs and the Super Bowl, 331 games will be played in the average year. To make enough footballs for one season requires the leather from 3,000 cows and deer.
Just how good are high school athletes?
In 2013, Matt Prater set the NFL record for the longest field goal kick. He punted that ball and incredible 64 yards. Sounds amazing, right? Yeah, well Ove Johnson kicked a 69-yard field goal for a college game back in 1976, a record that has yet to be broken. But perhaps most incredible is the record for Dirk Borgogone who kicked for 68 yards back in high school in 1985.
The incredible story of Herschel Walker
Herschel Walker is hands down one of the best players in NFL history. He set a single-season record for rushing yards with 2,411, and he won the Heisman trophy in 1982. Since he retired, he's been very open about his mental health issues and, in particular, how he has Dissociative Identity Disorder or what some people call Multiple Personality Disorder. Walker has said he doesn't recall some events, like winning the Heisman, because one of his alters was in control at the time.
Phoenix ended the sports equinox drought.
On November 4th, 2001, every major sports team in Phoenix, Arizona, had a game — the Diamondbacks in the MLB, the Suns in the NBA, the Coyotes in the NHL and the Cardinals in the NFL. They call it a sports equinox, and it broke a 15-year streak of there not being any. Thanks to Thursday games in the NFL they've become more common in recent years, though, as there are more chances for sports to overlap.
The 1987 strike season
In 1987 a number of players from the NFL went on strike and that put teams in a bit of a crunch to keep the game going. How did the Washington redskins handle it? They enlisted Tony Robinson to play as a quarterback. That might not sound like much, but Robinson was serving a prison sentence at the time and had to be released on work furlough to play.
Do you know how long a game really is?
Your average NFL broadcast is scheduled for about 3 hours, so is a football game three hours long? Not by a longshot. According to a study in 2010 about 60 minutes of that broadcast is devoted to commercials. Of the remaining two hours once you strip away instant replays, huddles, referee chats, and time outs, all that remains are 10 minutes and 43 seconds of actual action on the field.
Seven days a week!
Sunday is football day, right? Then, of course, you get Monday Night Football. Then the odd Thursday or Saturday game. But NFL football has hit every single day of the week at some point. In 2010, the Vikings and the Eagles met up on a Tuesday after their Saturday game was canceled for a blizzard. Several games have been bumped to Wednesdays, like in 2008, so they wouldn't interfere with John McCain's speech at the RNC.
It's "50" not "L"
For Super Bowl 50 the NFL broke with a tradition that dated all the way back to Super Bowl V. They'd used Roman numerals in the logo of every Super Bowl since V until 50 came along. The reason? The Roman numeral for 50 is "L," and it's just not well balanced. They didn't think they could design a good looking logo that was centered, and so they ditched it in favor of the Arabic numeral "50."
If there's one thing you'll see in virtually every game in the NFL, it's a huddle. Ever wonder where that came from? Back in the late 1800s, there was a quarterback named Paul Hubbard who's credited with pioneering the huddle. Hubbard was deaf and was afraid the other teams had begun to figure out his sign language signals. A huddle helped keep them secret.
Advertisers come and go, but if you watch enough NFL games, you'll notice two things or, instead, you won't notice two things. The NFL does not permit any advertisements during their broadcasts for firearms, which seems like a choice a lot of businesses might make. But the other thing they won't allow to be advertised is feminine hygiene products. Make of that what you will.
The Big Game? Maybe next year.
There are currently four teams in the NF that have never in their history made it all the way to the Super Bowl. The Detroit Lions have never made it, the Jacksonville Jaguars have never made it, the Houston Texans have yet to make a showing and arguably the most beleaguered of all teams n NFL history, the Cleveland Browns have not played in a Super Bowl.
You're never too old.
Back in 1977, Gale Sayers became the youngest person in NFL history to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at only 34-years-old. But on the flip side of things is Ed Sabol, the oldest person ever inducted. Sabol got into the Hall of Fame when he was 94-years-old. If you're wondering what his contribution to the game was, you need to watch some vintage NFL film. He wasn't in them; he made them.
The price of near-fame
NFL stars can get multi-million dollar contracts, but what about everyone else on the field? A team mascot can apparently make anywhere from $25,000 to about $60,000 a year though it's hard to pin down solid numbers. An NFL waterboy can make $53,000 a year, which is pretty staggering for someone who keeps athletes hydrated. And what about cheerleaders? They earn next to nothing, often getting less than $3,000 a season for their work.
The tragic story of Chuck Hughes
Only one player has ever died during an NFL game. That death occurred back in 1971 when Detroit Lions wide receiver Chuck Hughes passed away. He was running back to the team for a huddle when he collapsed. He hadn't been hit by anyone and as far as anyone could tell, nothing happened. Hughes was pronounced dead in hospital shortly after that. He'd had an undiagnosed heart condition and died of a heart attack at age 28.
The endless Pack
If you're a Green Bay Packers fan, you might think getting season tickets is a good idea. And it is a good idea, but it will probably always be just an idea. The waiting list is over 100,000 names long and, according to the organization, that translates to roughly 30 years. Back in 2017, a fan posted on Twitter about how they'd added their newborn son to the list when he was born in 1995, and he was number 18,945. Twenty-two years later he'd moved up to 5,857.
It's America's game!
Some people still refer to baseball as America's game and sure, it's a great game, but numbers don't lie. Football is bigger in every single way. To get a feel for just how popular football is all you need to do is compare viewership. The biggest baseball game in history was Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. Over 40 million fans tuned in to see the Cubs take on the Indians. Now compare that to Super Bowl XLIX, which pulled in 114.4 million viewers. No contest.
Now that's a trophy!
The Vince Lombardi trophy, aka the Super Bowl trophy, is the most expensive one in professional sports. Made by Tiffany and Co out of sterling silver, the trophy is valued at $50,000. It's only $1,700 worth of silver but the four months they put into making it apparently jack up the price. The World Series trophy, on the other hand, is valued at $19,000 and the NBA title is about $13,500. As for the Stanley Cup, because only a new band is added every year, the cost is only about $1,000.
Larry Izzo had to go.
There's no graceful way to say this so we'll just come out with it. Larry Izzo of the New England Patriots was once awarded the game ball by his team because he managed to, without the coach or anyone else noticing, relieve himself on the sidelines in the middle of a game. Which is to say Larry Izzo went number 2 during an NFL game.
Who can resist all-you-can-eat?
Raiders owner Mark Davis is an extremely wealthy man with a net worth around $500 million. So it's surprising to learn that he also drives a bit of a clunker in the form of a 1997 Dodge Caravan with a VCR inside and uses a 2003 Nokia cellphone. Davis travels 400 miles to get his haircut by the same barber he's always used, which is made all the more curious by the fact Davis is famous for his bowl cut. And he routinely enjoys all-you-can-eat $12 chicken wings at Hooters.
There were lumberjacks?
If you've never heard of the Tonawanda Kardex Lumbermen don't feel bad, most people haven't. But that word salad isn't just a random mishmash of letters, that was an actual team in the NFL. The Lumbermen have the distinction of being the shortest-lived team in NFL history having played a single game back in 1921.
Brett Favre has earned a lot of honors in his long career and rightly so. The man was a heck of a quarterback, but towards the end of his career, he faced a lot of criticism that he had gotten a bit too old for the game. No matter how well he played, it was hard to argue against that perception, especially when you consider that, in 2010, Favre became the only active player in the NF to have a grandchild.
Terrell Owns was Mr. Touchdown
Terrell Owens is arguably one of the best to play the game and also a pioneer in the field of over-the-top touchdown celebrations, including one in which he pulled a Sharpie from his sock to sign the ball, which resulted in a rule change banning foreign objects. He also has the distinction of being the only player in the history of the game to score a touchdown against every single team in the league at some point in time.
The Pennsylvania mashup
During the Second World War, numerous players had been called to duty, and the roster for teams in the NFL was thin at best. To help manage the situation, both teams in Pennsylvania, the Steelers and the Eagles, merged for a season to become the Pennsylvania Steagles. They had a 5-4-1 season, which isn't too bad for a slapdash crew.
The sound in Seattle
Crowds at Centurylink Field where the Seattle Seahawks play can get loud. Very loud. The crowd has broken Guinness World Records on two occasions with noise reaching first 136.6 decibels and then later 137.6 decibels. The sound is so deafening that the NFL actually investigated to see if the team was pumping in fake crowd sounds as a way of distracting the opposing teams.
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