Warhammer 40k and Football share the most similarity in their execution of the game. I think this is likely due to the fact that they are both attempting to simulate certain aspects of war itself. One similarity is that they both capture the tactical aspect – making a series of short-scoped decisions that get your closer to your goal while keeping your opponent away from theirs.
Interestingly, they differ on which aspect of war itself that they emulate. In the case of football, it’s not a far stretch to see it as a McGuffin delivery – the team on the offence has to deliver the ball to their goal line with the defensive team lined up between them and their goal. Warhammer 40k on the other hand emulates capture and control – both teams are attempting to reach a McGuffin and defend it against the opposing team.
In both cases though, the effect is the same: the game awakens our need to see our people survive over our enemies at any cost. This, I believe, is what makes the competition between players so fierce, and, in turn, what makes fans so passionate. Granted, Warhammer 40k is not quite the spectator sport compared to football, but I would bet people would watch a game if it were narrated by John Madden and given the spectacle we see in the NFL.
I’ve been making the argument that Warhammer 40k and football have effectively the same components, and yet they attract very different audiences. Each has a distinct cultural identity which changes and shapes the game, but I like to think that my family’s Warhammer 40k Thanksgiving game is a big a deal to us as the Broncos game is to the rest of the state.