In Japan, IBM employees have formed a football team complete with pro stadium, cheerleaders and televised games

IBM Big Blue Japanese football teamIBM Big BlueIBM Big Blue Japanese football team

What started off as a way for IBM employees working in Japan back in 1976 to enjoy an American past-time, football, has become a really big deal.

According to IBM’s Tumblr page, IBM’s employee football team, called Big Blue, now …

includes cheerleaders, a professional stadium and a nationally televised audience. It all started in 1976, when a handful of new IBM Japan employees gathered together and decided to start a team. By 2001, they not only had an undefeated record, but also reached the top division.

In fact, American Football has become a big deal in Japan. The country’s so-called X League was founded in 1971, just a few years before IBM joined.

Today there are so many teams that the league has multiple divisions. Teams can be made up of a company team (all players must be employees) or club teams (open to anyone via try-outs). X League players are often so good that they have reportedly been recruited to play for pro teams like the Japanese National Team, which competes in the American Football World Cup.

IBM Big Blue cheerleadersIBM Big BlueIBM Big Blue cheerleaders

IBM’s Big Blue team didn’t finish 2014 on top. It lost its playoff game to the Fujitsu Frontiers who won the X League for the first time ever, and then went on to win the national championship bowl, beating a university team.

However, the Big Blue team is still a popular one with its own website, its own Facebook page, its own mascot (mascots are very popular in Japan) and its own fan club.

And like many a pro U.S. team, the Big Blue cheerleaders are also popular, featured on the team’s website, with their own Facebook page, and a calendar of promotional appearances, too.

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