Football has been a large part of American culture for a long time — a central part of every high school TV series. And of course, the Super Bowl, which had approximately 113 million viewers in 2023 (being the second most-watched game ever), is treated as a global phenomenon. Although viewership is extensive, not all who call themselves fans understand the ins and outs of this complex sport we call football, and the influence it has on American society.
2023 marked the National Football League’s (NFL) 103rd season. Although an unassuming odd number, this season generated a lot of discussion. Paolo Freese (12) agrees, “Everybody loves football; understanding and being up to date in football is a huge asset in America.” Freese “knew nothing about football” until he joined Franklin’s football team this past year. He said his favorite player is Russell Wilson because of his “amazing 2022 season.” The sarcasm could not get any stronger. The past season was anything but amazing for Wilson, a footballer previously on track to become a hall-of-famer. NFL.com reported that 2022 was the “worst statistical year” for Wilson, as he is “on track to have career lows in completion percentage, touchdowns, and passer rating.”
Though Wilson had a less than ideal season, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes completed a season some are calling historic. Mahomes was named the NFL’s 2022 Most Valuable Player Award, bringing home a Superbowl Championship, and breaking Drew Brees’ (of the New Orleans Saints) 2011 record for total yards in a single season by 52 yards, accumulating 5614 yards compared to Brees’ 5562. However, Mahomes didn’t win every award, as Jimmy Garoppolo (San Francisco 49ers) was ranked as the number 1 Hottest Player in the NFL in 2023 by ranker.com.
Garoppolo is also Franklin senior Henry Takiguchi’s favorite player. Garoppolo seemed to bring drama in the 2022 NFL draft. It was unknown whether or not he would stay with the 49ers, as the team apparently considered trading their quarterback over a period of six months during 2022.
Joe Burrow (Cincinnati Bengals) also became an influential cultural figure of the NFL this past season, as he wowed the American public with his fashionable fits. Burrow is held in high prestige on ranker.com, as he was deemed number 1 on the list of Best College Quarterbacks of All Time, and number 3 on the Hottest NFL Players of 2023. Burrow was even named ‘The Most Stylish Ohioan Alive’ by stylecaster.com, an extremely reputable source in the fashion world.
Changes propelled by conversations with the public became a prominent talking point of this last season, as the Washington Commanders played their first season with a new name. Formerly known as the Washington Redskins, team owner Dan Snyder was quoted by USA TODAY in 2013 as saying, “ We’ll never change the name…It’s that simple. NEVER– you can use caps.” But, after a national racial justice reckoning in 2020, a push towards a new future for the team coincided with a rebrand of both the team name and logo, as it was deemed insensitive to indigenous peoples by the American public. From that point on, the team was known as the “Washington Football Team” until February 2022, when the team unveiled their new name: the Washington Commanders.
Another change to the NFL was made when the man christened the “G.O.A.T. of all G.O.A.T.S” by NFL.com, Tom Brady (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), announced that after 23 seasons, he will be retiring. This time, for good. He previously announced his retirement in 2022, but later announced that he would return for one more season. The 45-year-old quarterback has certainly made his mark on the NFL, as he went to the Super Bowl nine times, winning seven titles, and holding the record for the most regular season wins (251 games won). Takiguchi expressed his thoughts on the matter, saying that next NFL season he’s hoping to see Brady come back from retirement but that Brady “gets injured while trying to kiss his kid on the lips.” Not going into detail on that — that’s a whole other article.
Many fans, and even non-fans, of football rallied to support those in the NFL community this past season after Damar Hamlin, NFL athlete on the Buffalo Bills, collapsed on the field suddenly during a game in early January. It was later announced in a statement released by the Bills that Hamlin collapsed due to cardiac arrest. Medical professionals, as well as the general public, weighed in on Twitter, coming to the conclusion that Hamlin most likely collapsed due to a “phenomenon known as commotio cortis.” Commito Cortis is caused when “a blunt force, like a tackle, disrupts the heart’s normal rhythm,” according to the Morehouse School of Medicine. Hamlin received an outpouring of encouraging messages, love, and admiration across the world of professional athletics. Members of the Miami Heat, Boston Bruins, the Golden State Warriors, and even LeBron James himself sent Hamlin messages and well wishes through social media.
Overall, the 2022 NFL season had epic highs and lows, ranging from all points of seriousness. Both Freese and Takiguchi expressed their admiration for football, even though both are not the most dedicated or educated fans of the sport. However, the admiration expressed is not for the sport itself, but the connection and community it brings. Takiguchi said that football “is a good connection to my old group of friends,” explaining that he had been in a fantasy football league for the past six years even though he has “no clue what’s happening.” While Freese said that football “opens up so many avenues of conversation with people when there’s nothing else to talk about.” Freese went on to say that he appreciates that “knowledge of football can become a point of agreement for two people with completely contrasting points of view.” Though football brings excitement and community, both Takiguchi and Freese said that the most pivotal moment of the last NFL season was Rihanna being pregnant. Take that as you will.