Professional football is today the most popular sport in America and the National Football League is the most valuable and profitable sports business in the world. The league sold more than 17 million game tickets in 2008 and an estimated three-quarters of the American population watched at least one NFL game on television. The NFL's championship game, the Super Bowl, a hoopla-laden football fiesta held every February, has become the most popular annual event in American pop culture. But the NFL has not always had such a dominant role in America's sporting life; the league struggled to establish stability and legitimacy for many years after its 1920 founding and only really rose to major prominence in American culture after World War II.
Why Should I Care?
If you're like most Americans, you probably have a favorite NFL team. You probably watch games on TV and if you live in a city with an NFL team, you may well shell out for spendy game tickets to cheer them on live. No matter where you live, you almost certainly watch the Super Bowl—even if it's just to check out the new commercials. If you're not wearing an NFL team logo-bearing hat, T-shirt or jacket today, you'll almost certainly run into somebody who is. The NFL, it seems, has become an unavoidable presence in American popular culture.
But how did this happen? When did the NFL become America's most popular sport? When did Sunday become "game day?" When did the Super Bowl become a kind of unofficial national holiday?
How in the world did the National Football League—an outfit founded in a Canton, Ohio automobile showroom—become the most powerful cultural, social, and economic force in American sports?
Read on and find out.