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The end zone refers to the scoring area on the field, according to gridiron-based codes of football. It is the area between the end line and goal line bounded by the sidelines. There are two end zones, each being on an opposite side of the field. It is bordered on all sides by a white line indicating its beginning and end points, with orange, square pylons placed at each of the four corners as a visual aid. Canadian rule books use the term goal area instead of end zone, but the latter term is the more common in colloquial Canadian English. Unlike sports like Association football and ice hockey which require the puck or ball to pass completely over the goal line to count as a score, both Canadian and American football just merely need the nose of the ball to break the vertical plane of the outer edge of the goal line.
A similar concept exists in both rugby football codes, where it is known as the in-goal area. The difference between rugby and gridiron-based codes is that in rugby, the ball must be touched to the ground in the in-goal area to count as a try (the rugby equivalent of a touchdown), whereas in the gridiron-based games, simply possessing the ball while it is in the end zone is sufficient to count it as a touchdown.
The end zones were invented as a result of the creation of the forward pass. Prior to this, the goal line and end line were the same, and players scored a touchdown by leaving the field of play through that line. Goal posts were placed on the goal line, and any kicks that did not result in field goals but left the field through the end lines were simply recorded as touchbacks (or, in the Canadian game, singles; it was during the pre-end zone era that Hugh Gall set the record for most singles in a game, with 8).
In the earliest days of the forward pass, the pass would have to be caught in-bounds, and could not be thrown across the goal line (as the receiver would be out of bounds). This also made it difficult to pass the ball when very close to one's own end zone, since merely dropping back to pass or kick would result in a safety (rules of the forward pass at the time required the passer to be five yards behind the line of scrimmage, which would make throwing the forward pass when the ball was snapped from behind one's own five-yard line illegal in itself). Thus, in 1912, the end zone was born. Each league used a different approach: Canadian football, which adopted the forward pass and the end zones in 1929 (far later than the Americans), merely appended 20- to 25-yard end zones to the ends of the existing 110-yard field, leaving the goal posts on the goal line and creating a much larger field of play. American football, on the other hand, took a different approach: 12 yards of end zone were added to each end of the field, but in return, the playing field was shortened from 110 yards to 100, resulting in the physical size of the field being only slightly longer than before. Goal posts were originally kept on the goal lines, but after they began to interfere with play, they moved back to the end lines in 1927, where they have remained in college football ever since. The National Football League moved the goal posts up to the goal line again in 1932, then back again to the end line in 1974.
A team scores a touchdown by entering its opponent's end zone while carrying the ball or catching the ball while being within the end zone. If the ball is carried by a player, it is considered a score when any part of the ball is directly above or beyond any part of the goal line between the pylons. In addition, a two-point conversion may be scored after a touchdown by similar means. The National Football League changed its rule in 2007, so that a ball carrier merely touching the pylon is insufficient to score a touchdown; the ball must actually enter the end zone.
The end zone in Canadian football is 20 yards long by 65 yards wide, while the end zone in American football is 10 yards long by 53⅓ yards wide (Canadian football is played on a longer and wider field). The end zone stretches from pylon to pylon on an American football field.
The goal post
The location and dimensions of a goal post differs from league to league, but it is usually within the boundaries of the end zone. In earlier football games (both professional and collegiate), the goal post began at the goal line, and was usually an H-shaped bar. Nowadays, for player safety reasons, almost all goal posts in the professional and collegiate levels of American football are T-shaped, and reside just outside the rear of both end zones.
The goal posts in Canadian football still reside on the goal line instead of the back of the end zones, partly because the number of field goal attempts would dramatically decrease if the posts were moved 20 yards back in that sport.
At the high school level, it is not uncommon to see multi-purpose goal posts that include football goal posts at the top and a soccer net at the bottom; these are usually seen at smaller schools and in multi-purpose stadiums where facilities are used for multiple sports. When these or H-shaped goal posts are used in football, the lower portions of the posts are covered with several inches of heavy foam padding to protect the safety of the players.
Most professional and collegiate teams have their logo, team name, or both painted on the surface of the end zone, with team colors filling the background. Many championship and bowl games at college and professional level are commemorated by the names of the opposing teams each being painted in one of the opposite end zones. In the CFL and Arena leagues, along with bowl games, local, national, or bowl game sponsors may also have their logos placed in the end zone.
In many places, particularly in smaller high schools and colleges, end zones are undecorated, or have plain white diagonal stripes spaced several yards apart, in lieu of colors and decorations. One notable use of this design in higher levels is with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who kept their diagonal-line end zone decoration at Heinz Field after positive fan reaction.
One of the quirks of the American Football League was its use of unusual patterns such as argyle in its end zones, a tradition revived in 2009 by the Denver Broncos, itself a former AFL team. The XFL standardized its playing fields so that all eight of its teams had uniform fields with the XFL logo in each end zone and no team identification.
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- "NFL Rules Digest: Field". Nfl.com. Retrieved 2012-11-23.