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National Football League (NFL) is the largest
Professional Football league in the United States.
It is an unincorporated 501(c)(6) association
controlled by its members.
was formed by eleven teams in 1920 as the American
Professional Football Association (the league
changed the name to American Professional Football
League in 1921 and then settled on its current
name in 1922). The league currently consists of
thirty-two teams from American cities and regions.
The league is divided evenly into two conferences
— the American Football Conference (AFC)
and National Football Conference (NFC), and each
conference has four divisions that have 4 teams
The regular season is a seventeen-week schedule
during which each team has one bye week and plays
sixteen games. This schedule includes six games
against a team's divisional rivals, as well as
several inter-division and inter-conference games.
The season currently starts on the Thursday night
in the first full week of September (the Thursday
after Labor Day) and runs weekly to late December
or early January.
At the end of each regular season, six teams from
each conference play in the NFL playoffs, a twelve-team
single-elimination tournament that culminates
with the championship game, known as the Super
Bowl. This game is held at a pre-selected site
which is usually a city that hosts an NFL team.
Selected all-star players from both the AFC and
NFC meet in the Pro Bowl, held in Honolulu, Hawaii;
up to and including 2009, this game took place
the weekend after the Super Bowl. In 2010, it
will take place the week prior to the Super Bowl,
in Miami, Florida.
While baseball is known as "America's national
pastime", football is the most popular sport
in the United States. According to the Harris
Poll, Professional Football moved ahead of baseball
as the fans' favorite in 1965, during the emergence
of the NFL's challenger, the American Football
League, as a major Professional Football league.
Football has remained America's favorite sport
ever since. In a Harris Poll conducted in 2008,
the NFL was the favorite sport of as many people
(30%) as the combined total of the next three
professional sports--baseball (15%), auto racing
(10%), and hockey (5%). Additionally, football's
American TV viewership ratings now surpass those
of other sports, although football season comprises
far fewer games than the seasons of other sports.
Furthermore, college football is actually the
third-most popular sport in the US, with 12% of
survey respondents listing it as their favorite.
Therefore, fully 42% of Americans consider some
level of football their favorite sport.
However, the Harris Polls only allow one unaided
selection of a "favorite sport." Other
studies and polls such as the ESPN Sports Poll
and the studies released by the Associated Press
and conducted by Sports Marketing Group from 1988
to 2004, show higher levels of popularity for
NFL Football since they list from thirty to over
100 sports that each respondent must rate. According
to the Associated Press, the Sports Marketing
Group polls from 1988 to 2004 show NFL Football
to be the most popular spectator sport in America.
The AP stated that "In the most detailed
survey ever of America's sports tastes" researching
"114 spectator sports they might attend,
follow on television or radio or read about in
newspapers or magazines, the NFL topped all sports
with 39 percent of Americans saying they loved
it or considered it one of their favorites."
The total percentage of Americans who liked or
loved NFL Football exceeds 60% of the American
The NFL has the highest per-game attendance of
any domestic professional sports league in the
world, drawing over 67,000 spectators per game
for each of its two most recently completed seasons,
2006 and 2007. However, the NFL's overall attendance
is only approximately 20% of Major League Baseball,
due to the latter's longer schedule (162-game
scheduled regular season). (Credit: