According to a study reported by the Wall Street Journal, there's only about 11 minutes of actual playing time in a 60-minute NFL game. I think that's true of college football games, too. Eleven minutes of action, and 49 minutes of standing around. And since the players are split into offensive, defensive, and special teams, and there are substitutions throughout the game, even first team all-Americans may average just a few minutes of action a game. And most of the players, the linemen, don't even have to move more than a yard or two from their stance in a given play.
Of course, a lot can happen in those short bursts of activity in between the longer periods of standing around or warming the bench. And there's no denying that those few minutes of running, passing, blocking, tackling, etc. do require highly developed athletic skills, strength, and conditioning. But could you blame fans of soccer (which is called football everywhere but in the U.S.), basketball, or hockey for saying that American football is less demanding athletically than their sport?
After all, in those three sports all players on the field, court, or ice (except goalies) are moving every minute of the game, playing both offense and defense, running or skating back and forth, often at full speed. And every player handles the ball or puck many times in the course of a game, using their feet in soccer and their sticks in hockey. There are substitutions, of course, but the first team soccer, basketball, or hockey players certainly see many more minutes of action in a game than their American football counterparts, and they play many more games a season.
So what's with all the fuss about American football? Is it much ado about nothing, mostly standing around in colorful uniforms, and only exerting oneself for a few seconds at a time, lest one might break a sweat, while the superior athletes are going all out in soccer, basketball, or hockey for long periods every game, in more games per season?
Please vote in the poll and comment below. Some may say that baseball, water polo, or some other team sports deserve to be included in the poll, but I am exercising my discretion as author of this piece to leave them out. By all means check "Other" in the poll and feel free to tell me why I'm wrong to have omitted your sport.
NOTE: This was cross-posted on two other SB Nation blogs--The Daily Gopher (University of Minnesota) and Bruins Nation (UCLA).