Welcome to the It’s a Numbers Game! Football Blog Tour!
To celebrate the release of the newest addition to the It’s a Numbers Game series AND the start of football season, this week blogs across the internet will be featuring special excerpts from It’s a Numbers Game! Football by Eric Zweig with a foreword by NFL superstar Patrick Mahomes. Join us each day this week as we explore the stats, digits, and dimensions of the game. And be sure to have a pencil and paper ready to try your hand at some fun gridiron calculations!
Where It All Began
To kick off this blog tour, let’s start from the beginning.
How long have people been playing football? The first official game in the United States was on November 6, 1869. On that day, Rutgers College beat what is now Princeton University 6–4. But what they played that fall day didn’t look much like the football that we have now. So, how did the game come to be what it is today?
SOCCER + RUGBY = FOOTBALL
The first football games in the United States were based mainly on soccer. They were played with a round, soccer like ball, and no one was allowed to throw the ball or pick it up and run with it. And, unlike today, there were 25 players on the field for each team. Having more players was similar to rugby, a game that students at Canadian universities played in the 1860s and 1870s. Like soccer, rugby came from England. But rugby uses an oval ball, and the rules allow players to pick it up and run with it. In May 1874, the team from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, traveled to Massachusetts, U.S.A., to play a two-game series against Harvard University. Harvard players and their fans liked McGill’s rugby rules much better than their own soccer-style game. They introduced rugby to other American universities, and the game caught on. Still, there were some parts of the soccer-style game that players wanted to keep. Soon, teams began taking some of the things they liked from soccer and adding them to rugby. Then, in 1876, representatives from Rutgers, Yale, Princeton, and Columbia met to discuss the game. They came up with the first set of rules—lots more would come—for a brand-new type of football.
In the 1880s in the United States, football was played mainly by students at colleges and universities. After these players graduated, many of them still wanted a way to hit the field. So, they formed their own teams. As more fans came to watch their games, the rivalries between teams grew more intense. By the 1890s, teams began paying their top players. By the 1900s, a few U.S. states had enough teams to form professional leagues. The NFL celebrated its 100th season during the fall and winter of 2019–2020. Before the NFL’s first season in 1920, players used to jump from team to team and from league to league, and there wasn’t always enough money to pay them. Forming one big league, where all the teams played by the same rules, seemed like the solution. Originally, this league was known as the American Professional Football Association. It didn’t become the National Football League until 1922.
In Canada, football stayed closer to its rugby roots longer than it did in the United States. Canada didn’t reduce the number of players from the standard rugby lineup of 15 until 1903. Some leagues in Canada cut down to 12 players that year. None ever went down to 11. The standard in Canadian football remains 12 players to this day.
The Tennessee Titans have the ball against the Jacksonville Jaguars. On first down, Titan quarterback Ryan Tannehill hands the ball to star running back Derrick Henry. He gains eight yards before being tackled. On second down, Tannehill hands off to Henry again, who goes straight up the middle. This time, the Jacksonville defense pushes him back for a two-yard loss. On third down, Tannehill fires a short pass up the middle to wide receiver Julio Jones. It’s a gain of six yards. Has Tennessee gained enough yards on these three plays to make a first down? Add or subtract the yards gained or lost on each play to see if the total comes to more than 10 yards.
ANSWER: Tennessee has gained 12 yards, so the Titans have earned a first down.
Do you know how to calculate a quarterback’s completion percentage? What was the score of the highest scoring Super Bowl game? Become a football fanatic and learn all about the numbers and math behind this popular sport.
With every throw, tackle, and kick, numbers are being calculated on the football field. Get ready to learn all the ways digits and math factor into the game, from the countless statistics used to measure an individual player’s performance to the numbers used in defensive formations. Read about the greatest players from football history and get fascinating facts, like the price of a Super Bowl commercial. Discover which NFL team defenses have allowed the fewest points and check out cool graphics that show the angles in different pass patterns. Also features a er
Jam-packed with sports trivia, awesome photos, and fun activities at the end of every chapter, this number-focused look at the game is a definite touchdown.
About the Author
Right: Young Eric as quarterback!
Originally from Toronto, ERIC ZWEIG grew up as a fan of the CFL’s Argonauts, the NHL’s Maple Leafs, and the MLB’s Blue Jays. When he broke his wrist as a young boy, Eric got Argonauts quarterback and future NFL star Joe Theismann to sign his cast. Eric has been writing professionally about sports and sports history since 1985. He worked for a small Toronto-based publisher affiliated with the NHL for more than 20 years, and has written more than 40 books for adults and for children since 1992. Eric currently lives in Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada.
- Five (5) winners will receive the 4-book It’s a Numbers Game! series, including Football, Soccer, Basketball, and Baseball
- US/Canada only
- Ends 9/25 at 11:59pm ET
- Enter via the Rafflecopter below
- Visit the other stops on the tour for more chances to win!
Blog Tour Schedule: