It may seem hard to imagine, but America didn’t always have football. There was an age of American history where football was not mass televised and broadcasted to the world. In fact, it has only been in the last 58 years that America has been able to organize an institution that would not only coordinate games and hire coaches and referees, but televise each match for the whole country to spectate on.
At Matt & John’s Gametime Sports Bar, we appreciate the sport of football and its beloved history, because of this we have decided to give you a quick run-through of the history of broadcasted football and the beginning of the National Football League.

Football on TV: An Origin Story

Way back, before television was invented, if you wanted to catch a quick game of football you had to attend an actual game. This meant, that you would either have to travel to a local university or high school to watch the game. Of course, most people either had to have a profound interest in the game or attend the school in order to watch the game. The idea of broadcasting football games is likely to have come from the growing popularity of the game itself. In 1911, over 1,000 people gathered to watch a mechanical reproduction of the Kansas vs. Missouri football game while it was being played. You may wonder, how did that work? Well, Western Union would wire telegrams to the people of Kansas from Missouri, giving them step-by-step plays of the football game that was in process. Due to the popularity of the game and how many people wanted to see it, it was apparent there was a demand to broadcast local sports games. Unfortunately, technology and innovation did not catch up with this demand until the 1920s.

The Beginning of Televised Sports

Radio and voice broadcasts had been popular throughout the 1920s. The first radio broadcast was on August 5th, 1921, at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field. This was a baseball game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Philadelphia Phillies, which only made the need for broadcasting sports games that much more apparent, as millions of people would tune into radio specials of games. However, the real “game-changing” innovation came in 1927 with the invention of the television.
Shortly after the television was introduced to the public, it was used as a tool to broadcast major sporting events. In fact, the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin was the first-ever sporting event that was broadcasted. After this monumental moment in sports and television history, the television was used to broadcast the first ever American football game in 1939, between Fordham and Waynesburg College. In the early years of American televised football, most games were between universities. The National Football League (NFL), which has been established since the early 1920s has been playing between regions and states for many years. However, they had not been broadcasting the games until well past the first televised sports event. In those days, the NFL had very weak television deals and did not have the backing of American viewers. It may seem hard to image now, especially because today the NFL is worth over 2.5 billion dollars. 

State Teams

Though the NFL initially had its struggles to gain viewership, it eventually picked up ratings and developed into a multi-billion dollar industry. Once the league began to organize teams and set specialized NFL Championships every year, the game of football was taken to a new level. In addition to colleges playing against each other, states began their own rivalries. The inclusion of states, rather than schools in televised events, united entire regions. For many in those times, schooling and degrees weren’t as common, which meant that college football had the potential to be isolating for a large population of the country. With states competing, however, this widened the number of people that could identify with a team and claim themselves as “fans.”

The Game Today

With the increase in fans and the expansion of the NFL, more games were able to be broadcasted. Throughout the 1960s the NFL reigned king over American television sets. In the 1960s, the organization expanded to create Monday Night Football, NFL on Fox, and NBC Sunday Night Football. Due to the scheduled football games, people were able to schedule out when they could tune in to the games. As stated, today the NFL controls 32 teams spread out nationwide. As the television developed to provide new forms of watching matches, the spectatorship has also changed. Today, watching football, or any sport for that matter, has blossomed into a full-fledged event. Instead of just watching the game, viewers can experience playback features, halftime shows, and so much more.

Matt & John’s Gametime Sports Bar

At Matt & John’s Gametime Sports Bar, we cherish broadcasted sports. From baseball, basketball, and yes, football, we watch each game with awe and wonder. We are so appreciative of broadcasted sports and we take our spectatorship very seriously. If you are interested in cheering on your Iowa teams, our bar is the perfect place to do it. We have seven monitors to catch every aspect of your favorite games. Watch with us at our gametime sports bar!