The NFL is currently celebrating its 100th anniversary, but today’s game bears little resemblance to the 1920 incarnation of the league. Chances to the rules and societal norms have evolved the game from a run-heavy affair to the game we all know and love. In this two-part series, let’s take a look back the moments which shaped America’s game.
The 10 Biggest Changes in 100 Years of the NFL, Part Two
The AFL Merger
The NFL hasn’t had a serious competitor in quite some time, but they used to battle the AFL for national relevancy. While the AFL was largely seen as the NFL’s little brother, the upstart league managed to poach away countless players from the NFL with larger contracts. After spending a few years ignoring the league and hoping it would go away, NFL executives decided to strike a deal with the AFL.
In 1966, these two leagues combined to form a 24-team league with two 12-team conferences. These teams would eventually face off in the Super Bowl, which ended up becoming the annual top sporting event in the country.
The Super Bowl
You don’t need to be a die-hard football fan to watch the Super Bowl. The big game is synonymous with friends, parties, and all the snacks your body could ever want. Friends and family come together to watch the NFL’s championship game, and the game itself has turned into one of America’s favorite traditions.
The Super Bowl started off as a simple championship game between the two conferences but is now everything short of an American holiday. With over 100 million viewers tuning in worldwide, this is one of the most marketable and beloved sporting events in the world.
The Halftime Show
With such a huge stage comes some of the world’s greatest performers. Every year the Super Bowl brings in a new guest or two to entertain the crowd during halftime. There’s no such thing as a dull moment in the Super Bowl, even when the teams aren’t playing.
No other league puts this much effort into the in-game entertainment, and it’s all thanks to Michael Jackson. Prior to 1993, the halftime show typically featured a traditional marching band. However, in 1993, Michael Jackson took the world by storm while drawing in 91 million viewers worldwide. Since then, everyone’s been trying to top the King of Pop.
The Salary Cap
The NFL Draft went a long way in creating parity around the league, but it didn’t do enough. Big-market teams could still dominate in free agency by outbidding small-market teams for their homegrown talent. This gave small-market teams a ridiculously small window to compete and basically forced them to hit on all their draft picks and win before they hit free agency.
That changed with the 1994 introduction of the salary cap. Every team in the league had a set limit on financial spending, controlling the market and giving the every team in the league equal footing in free agency. The salary cap has done a fantastic job of leveling the playing field for everyone except the New England Patriots. However, New England’s success is entirely due to the unparalleled combination of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick rather than Robert Kraft’s bank account.
Back in 1920, it was obviously impossible to play games overseas. Traveling across the country was hard enough, and this lack of transportation made it hard to market the game across seas. However, the NFL has made an active focus to try and market the game all across the world.
The NFL tried to install what was essentially minor league football in the NFL Europe, but the league didn’t last. Instead, the league now sends multiple teams to London and Mexico for one of their regular season games. There have been rumors of establishing a full-time franchise in London, so don’t be surprised if the London Jaguars are a thing in a few years.
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