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The National Football League is the premier and currently the only professional football league in the United States. The League consists of 32 member teams that play a complicated series of games throughout the fall and early winter months, including exhibition games, the regular season, the bowl games and the February Super Bowl.
* Although the National Football League war formed in 1920 with the initial eleven teams, it was not known as the National Football League until two years later after the second name change. The first League members were mainly from the state of Ohio. It was originally known as the American Professional Football Association, changed the name to American Professional Football League one year later. From the original eleven members, the League has grown to present day roster of 32 teams.
* Two of the charter teams are still in existence, both under different names namely, the Chicago Bears (formed as the Decatur Staleys) and the Chicago Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals. The oldest of the franchises still extant is the Green Bay Packers which joined the League in 1921.
* The two League conferences are the National Football Conference and the American Football Conference. The Conferences are further divided into four divisions with four teams in each division. During the regular season that begins on the Thursday night of the first full week of September, There are 17 weeks in the season during which each team plays sixteen games and has one bye week. The regular season schedule causes for each team to play six games against rivals in the same division, as well as games against teams from other divisions and other conferences.
* Once the regular seasons ends, the teams go into the NFL Playoffs during which the twelve top teams–six from each conference–compete in a single elimination tournament. The series culminate with the Championship game between the two Conferences known as the Super Bowl. The Pro Bowl follows one week later with all star players from the two conferences competing in a game typically located in Honolulu, Hawaii.
* The importance of the championship game has grown over the years since 1933 when it was instituted as an annual event. The annual draft was established in 1936. Unfortunately, segregation was an accepted policy during the years between 1933 and 1945 and the Washington Redskins remained all white until forced to integrate in 1962 by the Kennedy administration.
The popularity of football is undoubted in the United States. In fact, since 1965, professional football ranked as the most popular sport in the U.S. Collegiate football ranks #3. Professional football games have the highest per game attendance rate of any pro sport in the United States.
The number of games per season is relatively small, especially compared to professional baseball season which can extend to 162 games. Television and the practice of broadcasting an increasing number of games has influenced the scheduling of many games. Monday Night Football, Thursday night schedules and Friday night scheduled are becoming commonplace, thus adding to the viewers on the major networks.
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