As a sports fanatic from India, brought up primarily on cricket, soccer and field hockey, moving to the United States in the summer of 2004 was a massive sporting culture shock. The only American sports I had any awareness of were basketball (King MJ has always been a truly global phenomenon) and baseball (courtesy of prior vacations spent with my Orioles-supporting cousins).
Unfortunately, there was no extensive coverage of soccer in those days in the US. And considering that I landed in June, the only sport I could watch was baseball. I followed the "galacticos" of the New York Yankees for a while, and on the whole, I was impressed by the extent and depth of baseball coverage and the level of game and player analysis.
And then the NFL hit me.
I had heard, in the past, about the Super Bowl (and the famous commercials). I had heard of Joe Montana and John Elway. And that was pretty much it. But, make no mistake, by the Fall of 2004, I was left in no doubt whatsoever about the identity and status of the religion that is the NFL.
In a few weeks, I was pretty much hooked onto a weekly dose of football. I gradually became better acquainted with the rules. I finally realized the importance of a first down!! I began to appreciate the physicality of the game. And over the years, I gained a fair realization of why "football" is indeed a massive sport, and why it means so much to America.
I also began to compare the NFL to my favorite game, soccer, and I realized that there were many things that each sport could learn from the other, both on and off the field. I thought about this comparison even more, when I moved to the UK (where I also watched the NFL every Sunday night!!) four years later and gained a ringside seat to the world's best and most popular soccer league.
And today, seven years on, having moved back to India, I decided to pen down some of these thoughts.
Here is Part 1: Five things football can learn from soccer.