Gladiatorial-like figures wait patiently in animalistic stances. One could almost smell the hostility in the air. Amid snarls, grunts, and various instructions bellowed down the hallowed Armitage turf, a simple “hut” is called. Anarchy ensues with bodies colliding together; a burgundy leather ball being the ultimate prize.
An onlooker would assume that this sport is effectively organised chaos, to the participants it is more a way of life. American football is quite an obscure sport to the average citizen in the United Kingdom with the gear, rules, and overall cultural dissimilarities. It is easy to understand why many are unaware of its growing presence and popularity within Britain and the world at large.
However, the sport has taken massive leaps in establishing itself, especially at an academic level, with the official University leagues being founded in 2007. The UoM team are the Manchester Tyrants, a Division 2 North West team who strive for nothing short of success.
Led by the imposing Head Coach Peter Birds who admittedly calls it a “strange sport”, he highlights the character building values such as “ethics, togetherness, and bonding”. These values can be traced up even to the most senior team members, like 6-year veteran, PhD student Luke Hart. His commitment being attributed to the discipline and brotherly structure the team provides.
The players demonstrate that the activity is not just one of mindless violence, but needs just as much the brains as the brawn, with the learning of offensive/defensive schemes, formations, and technique which add to the fun of trying something new. In addition, the game is not limited by gender with females eligible to participate.
Though they are valid concerns about the potential injuries associated with the sport, ex-captain Leslie Oppon rationalises it as “part of the game”, which teaches “braveness”.
As the team trains hard in preparation for this season, it is clear to see why so many play. There is a strong sense of unity and honour which is not regularly demonstrated with other University sports.