Episode 34: American Football and the Super Bowl

Welcome to Slow American English, the podcast for learners of American English. I’m your host, Karren Tolliver.

This is episode number 34: American Football and the Super Bowl

This podcast is about American Football and the Super Bowl game.

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Now for the podcast:


In most of the world, the word “football” refers to a sport that is called “soccer” in American English. And “football” in American English refers to American football, another game entirely. American football was created from both soccer and rugby rules in the last half of the 1800s and was played in athletic clubs around the country.

Today, professional American football is a $9 billion-a-year business. In addition, football is played in almost every high school and college in the nation, plus in rec centers and non-school-related clubs everywhere. It’s a very big deal. On all levels, most football players are men or boys, with some exceptions.

In a football game, there are two opposing teams with 11 players each, and they play on a field that is 100 yards long. The field is sometimes called a “gridiron”. On each end of the field is a goalpost that stands on each goal line. The ball is an elliptical shape and is made of leather, although often it is referred to informally as a “pigskin”. The offensive team has possession of the ball and moves it toward the goalpost of the defensive team by throwing and carrying it. So, even though sometimes the ball is kicked, there is not much contact with anyone’s foot in football.

The offensive team has four tries, or “downs”, to move the ball 10 yards toward the end of the field. If they succeed, they get four more downs. If they don’t, the other team gets possession of the ball. If the offensive team manages to get the ball across the defensive team’s goal line, or into the endzone, it is called a “touchdown”, and that is worth six points. After a touchdown, the offensive team then tries to get either one or two extra points. Then the defensive team gets possession of the ball and becomes the offensive team. Then play progresses toward the other end of the field.

A big part of football is tackling, which means one or more players physically knock down a player from the opposing team. Because of this, the physical danger of football is a hot issue these days, particularly concussions. A concussion is a brain injury resulting from a hit in the head. Rules and precautions are being discussed and implemented to protect players, especially kids. One solution is to play touch football, a version of the game with no tackling, only touching an opposing player to stop him.

The professional football organization in the USA is the National Football League, or NFL. There are 32 NFL teams nationwide, and each team plays 16 games each season. Football season begins the weekend after Labor Day in the first part of September. Two hundred fifty-six NFL games are played during the 17-week season. Each game lasts at least three hours. Midway through a football game is a rest period called “halftime”.

During football season, several NFL games are played every Sunday, and the games are aired on television. People who attend the games in person often arrive at the stadium early, set up barbecue grills and other picnic foods and have a party. Because the rear end of a car is a “tailgate”, and the party is held in the parking lot behind the car, the party is known as “tailgating”. There are even types of party food that are thought of as game-day food, such as chips and dip, chicken wings and beer.

For the professional teams, there is also Monday night football and Thursday night football on TV every week. High schools typically play their games on Friday nights, and a football game is a very important social event for American teenagers.

After the end of the regular football season, the 12 best NFL teams play in a tournament called the “playoffs”. The two best teams from the playoffs get to play in the Super Bowl, the most important football game of the year. It is played on Super Bowl Sunday, around the beginning of February. It is the biggest deal of all! In 2017, the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons played in Super Bowl LI (Roman numeral 51). The Super Bowl is played in a different city each year, and this one was played in Houston, Texas, where the Patriots won.

Americans have big Super Bowl parties at their homes to watch the game on TV. Guests are often asked to bring their favorite game-day food to the party. At Super Bowl halftime, famous entertainers perform. Big names such as Michael Jackson, Beyonce’, Lady Gaga and Paul McCartney have all done Super Bowl halftime shows.

One of my favorite parts of Super Bowl Sunday (and I am not a football fan!) is the commercials during the game. Television advertising time during the game is the most expensive ad time of the year, and companies spend lots more money on making their best commercials of the year for those time slots. Budweiser, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s all have had famous Super Bowl ads. I recommend you do an internet search for Super Bowl ad videos.

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That’s the podcast for this time. Slow American English is written and produced by Karren Tolliver. Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.

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This has been Slow American English. I’m Karren Tolliver. Thank you for listening.