football, gridiron


football, gridiron

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An American professional football field. The standard college field is nearly identical but has a …—© Merriam-Webster Inc.

Game played, predominantly in the U.S. and Canada, on a rectangular field having two goalposts at each end. In the U.S. it is played between two teams of 11 players each. The object is to get an oblong ball, in possession of one side at a time, over a goal line or between goalposts by running, passing, or kicking. A team must advance the ball 10 yards in four attempts (called downs) in order to continue to have the ball for another four downs. A kick through the goalposts (field goal) counts as three points. A run or completed pass over the goal line (touchdown) counts as six points. Following a touchdown, a team may attempt to kick the ball through the goalposts for one additional point or to run or pass the ball over the goal line for two additional points. Gridiron football (so-called because of the markings on the field), derived from rugby and soccer (see football), emerged in the late 19th century as a collegiate sport; the early rules were mostly written by representatives from Yale, Harvard, and Princeton universities. Each year the college football season concludes with a host of bowl games held on and around New Year's Day. Professional football began in the 1890s but did not become a major sport until after World War II. The National Football League was formed in 1922. The NFL is now divided into an American and a National conference; the conference winners compete for the Super Bowl championship. A Football Hall of Fame is located in Canton, Ohio, U.S. Canadian football differs from U.S. football principally by having 12 players on a team rather than 11, employing a larger field, and allowing only three downs to move the ball 10 yards. These variations allow for a more wide-open style of game, with an emphasis on passing. See also Canadian Football League.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on football, gridiron, visit Britannica.com.

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