The American Professional Football Association officially became the National Football League on June 24, 1922. The league fielded 18 teams during that inaugural season, including three that are still in the league today. The Decatur Staleys (who became the Chicago Bears in 1921) and the Chicago Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals) were founding teams. The Green Bay Packers, who joined the APFA in 1921 just before the name change, are the only current team in the history of NFL who have maintained their name and location for its duration.
The AFL was inarguably the strongest competitor ever to the NFL's hegemony on professional football. Eight teams debuted for the AFL in 1960, and for one glorious decade it churned out teams every bit as good as those in the NFL. Heated bidding wars took place for the best players coming out of college. Prior to the official merger in 1970, the AFL's New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowls III and IV, respectively, leading AFL fans to question why the league should join the NFL at all. Like today, however, money was the difference -- the NFL had richer television contracts and more access to major markets.
Since the creation of the NFL, a few teams have refused to stay put. The Oakland Raiders moved to Los Angeles in 1982 before getting homesick and moving back in 1995. Team owner Art Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore in 1996, amid loud protests by Cleveland fans (who eventually got a team again). The Cardinals moved to Arizona in 1988 (by way of St. Louis beginning in 1960 and Chicago before that), the Colts moved to Indianapolis in 1984, and the Oilers moved to Tennessee in 1997, changing their name to the Titans because, well, there's not much oil in Nashville.
Visualized, the NFL's division alignments are a bit wacky. The NFC West covers an area about 1/3 the size of the United States, and teams like the Dallas Cowboys and the Miami Dolphins are big outliers to the geographic logic of the NFC East and AFC North, respectively. But there is good reason for the madness. Today's NFL was put together piecemeal through mergers and expansion, and there are longstanding rivalries to consider, rationality be damned. If the NFL was founded today with 32 teams and no history to recall, the divisional landscape would certainly look much different. As it stands, there is a certain charm to a league that thinks Buffalo and Miami should play each other on a regular basis.
The link between plant hardiness and Super Bowl championships is inconclusive and deserves further study. There is no question that some towns are better at winning championships than others, however. There are 32 NFL franchises, but just 19 have every held the Lombardi Trophy (we're lumping together the Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders and Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts). The Pittsburgh Steelers have won so many, they're practically giving them away to the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals on this map. Not included are pre-merger championships, which would give the Green Bay Packers 11 more titles and the Buffalo Bills something to brag about.
Nearly every NFL owner hails from a fairly large city. There are only two exceptions: Jerry Richardson of the Panthers was born in Spring Hope, NC, and Pat Bowlen of the Broncos was born in tiny Prarie Du Chien, WI. The only US born owners who were born more than 500 miles away from their teams are: Jerry Jones, Bowlen, Stephen Ross, Bob McNair, Arthur Blank, Bill Bidwell, and Jed York. Eleven owners were born in the same town that their team plays in. Out of these eleven, seven inherited the franchise from a family member. The other four- Paul Allen, Tom Benson, Bob Kraft, and Woody Johnson -- purchased their respective teams on their own.
Since the league’s last expansion in 2002, NFL teams have built $8 billion worth of new stadiums with two more projected to open by 2017. Each new home is bigger and brighter than the last and the competition to wow the crowds is fierce. AT&T Stadium, nicknamed Jerry World after the team’s owner, was built with the largest video board in the NFL at the time. Levi’s stadium boasts the highest capacity lower bowl in the League. They just keep getting fancier. And more expensive.
Throughout the history of the Super Bowl, only 24 different stadiums have played host to 48 Championship games. The NFL has largely kept its biggest event to warm weather, venturing into the cold only a handful of times. New Orleans and Miami, each with 10 games hosted by their cities, have been honored with the distinction more often than any others.
You can technically bet on sporting events in four states, but Nevada is the only place effectively set up to handle it. Despite those limitations, betting on game is a big part of the NFL's popularity, even if the league is loath to acknowledge it. Americans bet a record $119 million in Las Vegas on the last Super Bowl, a number that doesn't include increasingly popular online betting sites.
The average ticket price of an NFL game last season was $81.54. Factor in beer, concessions and parking, and you're asking fans to sacrifice a sizable part of a long work day. Lord help you if you're hoping to take your family along. East coast teams appear to be the biggest wallet gougers, with the New England Patriots asking the most at $117.84 per ticket. Chicago lords over the Midwest asking $103.60 per ticket, while Dallas owns the South at $110.20. Looking for value? Check out the Cleveland Browns! At $54.50, the Browns had by far the cheapest tickets, and beer prices weren't bad at $5 per.
Where an NFL player is born shouldn't have an impact on if or how often he scores touchdowns. People move, people leave home to go to college. But looking at this map, it's hard to ignore the obvious: SEC SEC SEC SEC SEC SEC. (And also California, which is just Vegan SEC.)
Norv Turner has been employed as an NFL position coach, coordinator, or head coach since 1985. In that time, he has managed to lose in every NFL city except one: Charlotte. Norv's even got the rare Memphis loss, thanks to that first year when the Oilers left Houston but didn't have a Nashville stadium yet. There's only one geographic frontier left for Norv - a Tokyo Dome loss.
We like to believe that our states are truly united, but the truth is our natural resources are far from equally distributed. We're talking, of course, about punts. The citizens of Maryland, New Jersey, and Missouri got plenty of punting action per person from their football teams, while Texans and Californians nearly starved to death. Do better, Raiders. Or worse, perhaps. Whatever.
In some regions of the country, fandom is an easy assumption. It’s hard to imagine the majority of football fans in New England not rooting for the Patriots. But throw in metro areas with multiple teams and regions without teams, and it leaves some fanbases, like Montana, up for grabs. Taking a look at where team fans are located can also lead to some surprising information, like a random Steelers fan bases in northern Alaska and Hawaii. And poor San Diego, who still can’t win over Oakland fans 20 years after the Raiders left southern California.
Maybe it's best to think of high beer prices as a tax. After all, you're not going to sit in the stands for four hours and NOT have something to drink. You know the fee is exorbitant, but you accept it in a stadium because, well, maybe that's just what it costs for the right to yell and freeze your ass off. Thankfully, some teams don't hold alcohol for ransom as much as others. The Browns, Lions, Giants, Titans, Bengals, Chargers, Texans and Jets all charged $5 per beer last season, well below the league average of $7.05. On the far opposite end were the Raiders, who charged $9.75 for some suds while the team struggled to just four wins.
We’ve looked at which teams fans like in each area, now let’s look at which they hate. Yes, hate is a strong word but emotions run deep in football. For instance, the previous map showed most of New York to be Giants fans, whose natural enemy is Philadelphia. But Jets fans’ loathing of the Patriots screams just a little louder, making New England the most hated team in New York. Most of the rivalries runs along division lines, so there are few surprises here. Except for Arizona, who has a weird aversion to the Steelers. Could it be that they’re still upset over Super Bowl XLII?
Got some vacation days to burn? We planned out the ultimate road trip for tailgating. Start in New England with a Week 7 game against the Jets on Thursday. Cruise up to Buffalo for a Sunday game with the Vikings. Then it's down to Pittburgh for pierogies and a Monday nighter. Ease your way over to tailgate heaven in Kansas City for a Week 8 game on Sunday afternoon. Drive down to Dallas for the Monday night game against rival Washington. Finally, wrap it up the next Sunday in San Francisco.
We showed you how far the Steelers' fanbase reaches, farther in distance than any other team in the league. But that doesn't mean it's always easy to find fellow Pittsburgh fans to get loud with. Keep this map handy when you want to know which bars to catch a game in. Or which bars to avoid.
The NFL rotates which divisions play each other every season, and unfortunately for the Oakland Raiders, the AFC West plays the AFC East this year. Combine that with the rest of their away schedule and it means that the Raiders are leaving on a jet plane more than any other team in the League. To add insult to jet lag, they also dust off their passports for a game in London. The Steelers, on the other hand, drew the long straw. and don't travel more than a single time zone all season. Everything's coming up Pittsburgh.
There is certainly some truth to the notion that football is king in the south. Since 2011, the most draft picks came from colleges in Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma and Louisiana, where the obsession with football runs deep into family roots. California also makes a strong showing, but the dark horse here is North Carolina, where UNC has made a run on the NFL draft, sending 21 draft picks to the pros in the past four years.
Heading into this year's draft, the folks at CollegeSpun used Google data to see which future NFL players were most searched for in each state. It's no surprise that Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel lead the pack, being the highest searched name in 29 out of 50 states. Michael Sam, likely boosted in public interest by coming out as gay before the draft, came in second with 18 states. The remaining three followed state pride, searching most for their homegrown players AJ McCarren, Jadaveon Clowney and Teddy Bridgewater.
The NFL agreed to an unlimited settlement with retired players suffering the long-term effects of brain trauma, avoiding a long and potentially damaging court fight. Meanwhile, researchers at UCLA were able to identify tau proteins associated with repetitive brain trauma injuries in living players for the first time. The discovery could lead to earlier diagnosis among players, but there's still a long way to go with the research.
The NFL and the band One Direction may have more in common than you might think. Namely, they both print money. Just look at the lengths people will go to see their favorite teams and/or band play. The average ticket price for a 1D concert in North America during its current tour is $239.72, which just outpaces the NFL's $238.40 average ticket price for the upcoming season. Perhaps more surprising is that fans in many major NFL towns would rather see the English teen pop sensations. One Direction will play 20 concerts in 14 NFL stadiums on its tour, and the average ticket price for a game was higher in just four of those stadiums. Sometimes the price difference was massive -- at Tampa Bay's Raymond James Stadium, the average ticket price was $184.16 for a Bucs game compared to $269.52 for a 1D concert.
DirecTV and the NFL are on the verge of renewing their Sunday Ticket contract for even more money. That deal will clear the way for AT&T's pending takeover of the satellite provider. There are currently a small, but growing number of options for watching live NFL games on your phone and tablet. Given AT&T's reach and changing consumer tastes, it's fair to wonder how these twin deals will change the future of how we watch football.