Bitcoin as a Football Game


If you love football, you should like Bitcoin and if you understand football, you can understand Bitcoin.

The Bitcoin network is a lot like football if you make a few small adjustments and you know what to look for.

In this style of football, we only have to imagine a few ways the game works differently than in real life:

  • Many Simultaneous Games: There are millions of football fields and each one has a single game being played on it continuously, forever. Teams can enter or exit their field at will and no one needs permission to start playing on a new field of your own.

(Many simultaneous football games being played)

  • No End Zone: Each field’s length extends into infinity. Because there is no end zone, the offense is always offense and the defense is always defense.

(Each field is infinitely long)

  • For every first down, you get 12.5 points (at a minimum)
  • Global Defense: The same defense plays against all offenses on the millions of fields all at once.

The goal is to move the ball 10 yards in as few downs as possible, with an unlimited number of possible downs.

Who is the Opponent in Bitcoin?

(The defense gets stronger or weaker over time to adjust to the offense)

Defense = The Bitcoin mining difficulty algorithm is the real opponent. At first glance, it seems like the other mining companies are your opponent, but this isn’t entirely true. In an economic sense it is true because all the miners are competing for a limited number of bitcoins and transaction fees, but simply beating the other currently competing miners is not always sufficient to gain a first down.1

Every approximately two weeks, the mining difficulty of the Bitcoin network adjusts to meet the calculation strength of the global mining operation. Because more mining equipment has entered the network historically as the price of a bitcoin has risen, this “difficulty adjustment” has meant that it gets more difficult to mine bitcoins by requiring more hashing calculations before a new block of transactions will be mined/found. In our example, as the cumulative offense (all mining operators) across all teams gets stronger or weaker, the global defense adjusts its strength up or down to make the average time between first downs (i.e. new blocks mined) average 10 minutes. This makes it impossible for the offense to get too many first downs in a row without the defense “making halftime adjustments” to counter the stronger offense.

(Each play is a single SHA-256 hash)

A Single SHA-256 Hash = a single play. Sometimes, a team will run very few plays per second and get a first down. Some teams will run many trillions of plays per second and don’t get a first down for a very long time. Recently, there are approximately 22 quintillion plays per second (22,000,000,000,000,000,000 or 22,000,000 trillion calculations per second) in Bitcoin. This number has been growing exponentially recently.

(High School teams (Northridge pictured) feed talent to NCAA college teams)

Highschool Football Players = ASIC (bitcoin mining equipment – special computers which perform these trillions of calculations per second) manufacturers. Many high schools across the country compete to produce the players with the most ability and potential. The best players and well-functioning ASIC miners get scooped up to compete at the next level.

(Bear Bryant and Satoshi Nakamoto share certain qualities)

Bear Bryant = Satoshi Nakamoto. Both set a great vision of what the program should be and are now gone but never forgotten.

(Protocol developers define the rules of the game)


NCAA = protocol developers/Bitcoin Core process. These people live the process and hold themselves to the utmost standard of excellence. They prioritize code safety (ball security) as they improve Bitcoin performance and propose changes to the rules of how the game will work. Note that they only propose the rules, they do not enforce them.

(High powered offenses and ASIC mining hardware)

Offensive Players = Bitcoin mining (ASIC) hardware. These powerful computers are made for one thing only – calculating as many SHA-256 hashes as possible. Some teams will have weaker players and some have incredibly strong players. Some teams can barely field an 11-man squad and some teams have thousands of players on the field. Note that because all offenses are playing against the same full-strength defense (mining difficulty algorithm), weaker offenses may simply not have enough computing power to realistically ever get a first down.

(Nick Saban and Jihan Wu)

Nick Saban (& Coaching Staff): Mining company management. These people try every conceivable option to gain an advantage over the competition in order to get the ball down the field for a first down. It might mean finding a location with cheap power or great internet connectivity, investing in the best offensive players, or monitoring hashing metrics to optimize the potential of the team. They use the resources available to produce the best result possible.

(Strength and conditioning coaches (Scott Cochran) provide hardware the power they need)

Scott Cochran (Strength and Conditioning) = Electricity, the powerhouse. To power these high-octane offenses, teams need access to a tremendous amount of power. The best coaches will find cold climates and inexpensive power resources to maximize returns and give their players the power to achieve their full potential.

(A portion of all unconfirmed transactions are grouped into “footballs” after each first down)

The Football = unconfirmed bitcoin transactions (i.e. bitcoins that are in transit from one address to another). In our game, after every first down, thousands of transactions are grouped together in the shape of a football and used by the offense to try for a first down. Also note that as every game around the world is going on, there are different “footballs” being used in each field’s game. Have you ever notice why the referees switch the ball out after every first down? It’s because that set of transactions is now confirmed and a new ball of unconfirmed transactions is ready to be mined. Whenever any offense gets a first down, the other teams also switch out their football (or supplement it) with a new set of unconfirmed transactions.

(Referees all over the world enforce the rules that the NCAA has set)

Referees = Fully validating nodes. Referees in “Bitcoin football” are extremely important and validate what is happening on the field for entry into the game stat sheet (blockchain). These aren’t normal referees who have bad eyesight and sometimes get confused about the rules of the game. These referees all follow every rule with exact precision. So, when the offense tries to sneak a volleyball into the play instead of a football or otherwise breaks the rules, the referees always notice – and the penalties are stiff. If a flag is thrown, the referees make the offense start all over again at 1st and 10. This is devastating because it means the offense wasted all the work they did on the previous plays without any reward.

Fully validating nodes are great at communication. Whenever a valid first down is made (i.e. block is found), they tell all the other referees in the other games and each of those games starts over at 1st and 10.

(Fans inside the stadium have a good time but can’t impact the outcome)

Fans Inside the Stadium = SPV nodes (nodes that only verify certain relevant transactions or connect to a trusted fully validating node). These fans can see a lot of what is going on and they think they see everything happening, but they don’t necessarily. They may know the rules of the game, but they have no way of enforcing them or knowing if they are being enforced.

(Tailgaters know there is a game on, but have better things to do)

Fans Outside the Stadium = Users of trusted third-party systems (custodial exchanges). These people sort of care that the game is on, but they would be fine watching baseball (Litecoin) or basketball (Ethereum) if someone changed the channel. Lots of these people don’t know the first thing about football and that’s OK. They are free to yell at the referees and the NCAA and call them names, but it won’t have an impact on the rules or outcome of the game.

(Confirmed transactions are enshrined into the immutable blockchain)

Game Stat Sheet = blockchain. After each first down, the bitcoin transactions that were just validated are published in the public game stat book for everyone to see. As you can see, it makes no sense for there to be “blockchain without bitcoin” because the only way the blockchain is produced is as a result of using the Bitcoin network. If you ever hear someone say they “see tremendous potential in blockchain technology but don’t particularly like bitcoin”, just sit back and smile.

(Education and HODL juice are best found on Twitter)

Big Al = Twitter. The best motivator a person could ask for. Constantly educating and encouraging good habits (“H-O-D-L Hold That Line!”).

BCash / Non-Consensus Hard Forks = UCF. They can claim to be the National Champions (or be “Bitcoin”), but everyone (including themselves deep down) knows it’s all a big joke/marketing ploy. They are simply playing a lower-tier game – even though it’s a type of football (albeit Conference USA Football). These types of things shouldn’t be discouraged because the scammers ultimately self-select out of the system. It’s a feature, not a bug.

So where are my bitcoins? Notice how “bitcoins” that are not being currently transacted are not present anywhere in the story. This is because when you control (and HODL) bitcoin private keys, there isn’t anything else you need to do to get all the benefits of the games that are being played around the world. You may be a referee part of the time or only when you see a football with your personal transactions in it or you may always be a passive observer and trust other referees to not lie. Only when you want to send a transaction somewhere does your transaction get grouped with many other transactions and participate in the game as a football. The rest of the time, your bitcoins are securely stored in the public, immutable game stat sheet.

Who is the most important participant in the game?

We are all somewhere in the process of understanding Bitcoin, but it is something that we should all at least try to do. Like football, it can be confusing at times, but it is a lot of fun when you begin to understand how it all fits together.

Poll: Which participant group do you believe is the most important in Bitcoin football?

  • High School Programs
  • Coaches
  • NCAA
  • Referees
  • Other

By: Daniel Hinton



1: In the extreme case of a large exodus of mining power from the network, even if you were better than all the other miners, you will not necessarily be the “winner” and successfully mine a block if the difficulty level is simply too great for your operation to achieve in a reasonable amount of time.

However, if you can beat the mining difficulty algorithm, you will always win and successfully mine a block. So, the real opponent is the mining difficulty algorithm because beating this opponent is sufficient to win the game.

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