The Chatter

Why America is Dead Wrong About Football

Let's settle this whole football/soccer thing once and for all.

By Max Weiss | September 20, 2017, 12:44 pm

The Chatter

Why America is Dead Wrong About Football

Let's settle this whole football/soccer thing once and for all.

By Max Weiss | September 20, 2017, 12:44 pm


Since the Ravens are playing a game of American football in jolly old London on Sunday, I thought I’d take this opportunity to get something off my chest: America is wrong and the rest of the free world is right when it comes to football.

As you undoubtedly know, everywhere else in the world, when you say “football” it refers to what we Yanks call soccer.

This makes irrefutable sense. Soccer is a game where players kick a round ball and—other than goalies—are explicitly prohibited from using their hands. When it comes to soccer, you’ve got a ball, you’ve got feet. Besides the occasional throw in, that’s pretty much it. (Edited to add: They do also, occasionally—and insanely—use their heads.)

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Now let’s take “American football”—as everyone else calls it. The ball’s weird, eye-like shape? It’s called a “prolate spheroid” and it’s SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED FOR THROWING. (Fun/gross fact: It’s actually the shape of an inflated pig’s bladder, which is what the first footballs were made of.)

Throughout the course of a football game, there are five occasions when one kicks: Kick offs, extra points, fields goals, punts, and on-side kicks (which is really a subset of kick-offs/punts, but I’m being generous here). The rest of the game, the ball is thrown and carried—generally over 100 times. What’s more, throwing, catching, and running with the ball is just one aspect of the game in general. Tackling, blocking, pass-rushing, etc. are all of equal importance.

So just to recap.

Football: Specifically built for throwing and catching. Mostly caught and carried with hands. Tackling big, too.

Soccer: Round ball made for kicking. Hands almost never used. Foot-centric.

And yet, we insist on calling our game football. Seems kind of short-sighted.

Which brings us to the next part of my argument: Look, the Ugly American stereotype—i.e that we Americans take very little interest any culture outside our own—is a pervasive and, well, let's face it, occasionally accurate one. And you know what? Being the only country in the world that calls football “soccer” isn’t helping. Seems a little self-obsessed.

Okay, so if we don’t call it football, then what?

Inflated Pig Bladder Ball does not have a fun ring to it.

Throw Ball is actually more accurate, but still doesn’t tell the whole story.

Maybe Grid Ball? That’s kinda cool.

Or…Unitas Ball, after the game’s first truly great quarterback? (Not sure the rest of the country is going to go for that one, though.)

Smash Ball?

Crush Ball?

Pig Ball?

Field Ball?

Helmet Ball?  

Anyway, I’ll take your suggestions/calls to have me deported in the comments. In the meantime, once the Ravens arrive London, I’ll be the first to ask: “Are you ready for some Prolate Spheroid Ball?”

Meet The Author

Max Weiss is the editor-in-chief of Baltimore and a film and pop culture critic.

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