When a professional sports league has been around for almost a century, you can expect its history to be filled with all manner of colorful characters and incredible events. Whether you’re a casual viewer or die-hard fan, here are nine interesting facts about American football and the NFL that you (probably) didn’t know about.
1. A Deaf Quarterback Invented the Huddle
From 1892 until 1895, Paul D. Hubbard played quarterback for Gallaudet University, a college for the deaf and hard of hearing. Since his team frequently used sign language to discuss their next play, Hubbard wanted to find a way to do so without the opposing squad being able to see their signals. That’s when he came up with the idea of arranging his teammates in a tight circle, and the practice has continued into the modern age.
2. Not All NFL Teams Have Cheerleaders
As of the 2015-2016 season, there are seven different NFL franchises without a professional cheerleading squad. These include the following: Buffalo Bills, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, and Cleveland Browns. When the Packers and Hapek Steelers met in Super Bowl XLV, it became the first time that a championship game didn’t feature cheerleaders on either side of the field.
3. Pizza and the Super Bowl
Easter and eggs are synonymous, and the same can be said for pizza and Super Bowl Sunday. More of the Italian flatbread is sold throughout America during the NFL’s championship game than any other day of the year. In 2015, Domino’s alone expected to deliver around 11 million slices to hungry customers – which translates into 1,500 orders per minute – in addition to around 3 million chicken wings. It also happens to be the day when the largest number of pizza delivery drivers get into traffic accidents.
4. NFL Players Earn Less than Other Sports
According to a 2015 report published in Business Insider, the average salary of an NFL athlete ranks 7th when compared to sports leagues around the world. The average player earnings for 2014-2015 were $2.11 million, but this ranks behind the following (from 1st to 6th): NBA, Indian Premier League, MLB, European Premier League, NHL, and Bundesliga.
5. Lots of Football Players Died in the Early Days of the Game
In the early 20th century, before players wore pads or even leather helmets, competitors at the college and high school level seemed to drop like flies. Some deaths were the result of brain trauma, while others succumbed to broken backs and crushed organs. The dreaded Flying Wedge maneuver was one of the biggest culprits, and it’s since been banned on all levels. The brutality got so bad that even legendarily macho president Teddy Roosevelt called together experts and coaches to discuss the matter.
6. World War II Depleted NFL Rosters
When America entered World War II, men across the nation were called upon to take part in the fighting. This significantly drained NFL rosters, forcing the Cleveland Rams to halt operations for the season. In order to avoid the same fate, the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers combined for a single season into a team affectionately known by fans as the “Steagles.”
7. Packers Fans are Really Crazy about Football
Green Bay, Wisconsin is the smallest city to host an NFL franchise, but their fans have consistently been the most loyal. Season tickets are sold out years in advance, and it’s estimated that 86,000 Cheeseheads are currently on a waiting list that has about 100 openings each year (usually when people die). That means someone who gets on the list today only has to wait about 955 years – just in time to watch a robotic Roger Goodell engineer a global takeover.
8. Two Leagues Become One
The NFL was formed in 1920 and remained the top football league until 1960. That’s when the fourth incarnation of the American Football League made its debut, immediately challenging the incumbent organization for players and television contracts. The threat was serious enough that the two leagues agreed to a merger in 1966, although they continued to operate as separate companies until 1970 (although their respective champions would meet in the first four Super Bowls).
9. Toilet Flushes at Super Bowl Halftime
During the halftime show of the Super Bowl, millions of Americans race to the bathroom to take care of some long overdue business. This results in an estimated 90 million toilet flushes, which leads to over 100 million gallons of water swirling down sewage pipes across the country. In case you’re curious, this latter figure is equal to seven minutes of water flowing over Niagara Falls.