American Sports: An Englishman’s Opinion

I grew up in the South West of England, nowhere near a major city or sports club, but I have always been a big sports fan, everything from football (soccer), rugby, cricket, Formula 1, tennis, darts and more. I never excelled at these sports but I love to watch them (yes, even cricket). But sport as I knew it was about to change forever!
A year after I was married, my American wife Michelle said, “I am moving back home to California, are you coming with me?” I didn’t really have a choice, did I? So in August 2011, I received my green card and I was off to start my life in the Bay Area. It wasn’t long before I realized a lot of small talk between family and friends was very similar to back home, it was about sports, but I couldn’t join in. I knew nothing of the major sports over here, so much to my wife’s disappointment the challenge was set: I now had to learn a few more sports. So where should I start? I had to pick a sport, but which one?

American Sports

Baseball – MLB (Major League Baseball)

“Cricket with a round bat”12787431_10154512200790110_142243529_o I decided to start with baseball as at the time the San Francisco Giants were doing well and they had recently (2010) won the ‘World Series’ (also known as the ‘Fall Classic’) and eventually went on to win again in 2012 and 2014. Don’t get me started on the name ‘World Series’, there is no ‘world’ about it. The league consists of all American teams bar the occasional Canadian team. Disputing ‘World Series’ with an American baseball fan is asking for trouble as it has been called this or something similar since the 1880s [1].

The baseball season starts in April and ends in October and is played outside on a grassy ‘diamond’. A single game consists of nine innings…yes that’s right, nine innings! This means that each team has a chance to bat nine times. An inning ends after three batters are called ’out’. A typical game lasts around three hours and there are 162 games per team in a regular season! It is also worth noting that in a baseball game there has to be a winner, so if the teams are tied after the nine innings, then they will continue to play inning after inning until one team scores more runs. The longest game in MLB history was 25 innings that lasted eight hours and six minutes. If you want to know more about what it is like going to a game check out Felicity’s article.

American Football aka Football – NFL (National Football League)

American Sports - Dave and Baby at Super Bowl 50 Sign

“Rugby with padding and you can throw it forward!” The next sport on my list was American football. I didn’t think I was going to like this sport as from my naïve point of view it seemed to be a slower version of rugby but with padding?! The regular season is only 16 games across 17 weeks. In 2012 I started following the San Francisco 49ers, and I came to respect the complexity of the game and even understood why they wear all the padding! The tackles come from everywhere and they definitely hit harder. The 49ers even made it to the Super Bowl that year.

The regular football season starts in September and ends in January. Games are played both in and outdoors and some games are even played in other countries. They are also played on different surfaces like grass or synthetic/artificial turf. A game consists of four 15 minute quarters, but like baseball the actual length of a game is around three hours because of all the stoppages. I even remember reading somewhere that the ball is only in play for an average of 11 minutes out of those three hours!

Basketball – NBA (National Basketball Association)

American Sports - Golden State Warriors Basketball Game“Netball with bouncing” For the last year and half I have been following the Golden State Warriors. Now this is a sport I can get behind! It’s fast paced and the skill level is immense. It helps that the local team (Golden State Warriors) are currently the best team in the league, and arguably one of the best teams the NBA has ever seen. They won the ‘NBA Finals’ last year and this year have the best starting record in the history of the NBA with 51 wins and 5 losses. They are chasing the record of 72-10 held by the ‘95/’96 Chicago Bulls.

The regular basketball season starts in October and ends in April. There are 82 games in a season and they are played indoors on a highly polished wooden floor known as a court. A game is made up of four 12 minute quarters, but again games last around 2.5 hours because of all the stoppages. When you hear these stats it makes you realize how these American sports can be so social, half the time there is nothing going on so why not talk to the people you are watching it with!

So what’s next for me?

I am yet to get into (Ice) Hockey, maybe next year? Sorry Michelle.

Teams in the Bay Area:

San Francisco Giants
Jan Jose Giants (Minor League Team)
Oakland Athletics
Oakland Raiders
San Francisco 49ers
Golden State Warriors
San Jose Sharks
– San Jose Earthquakes

[1] A brief history of the name of the World Series

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