A Girl’s Guide to Understanding Football
The 2012 football schedule is set, and anticipation is already in the air. However, if to you football means nothing more than screaming fans and big men tackling each other, not to fear! While football is an extremely complex sport, the basics can be easily understood. Why bother? Not only is football (in my opinion) the best spectator sport, it’s also a great way to impress your guy. So what do you need to know to follow along?
Downs & Distance
The playing field is 100 yards long, with a ten yard end zone at each end (120 yards total). The goal line is the line between the playing field and the end zone. A team’s offense has 4 downs to move the ball ten yards—in order to get a first down. So, the first play of a series is “1st and ten” because it is the first down and the offense needs to move the ball 10 yards towards the end zone. When it reaches 4th down, the offense generally punts, giving the ball to the other team. If they are close, say “4th and 1” they may take a risk and go for it, but if the play fails the other team will gain possession with excellent position.
Touchdowns are the ideal outcome of a drive – the offense throws or runs the ball into the end zone to score 6 points. They then kick for an extra point, or can opt for a riskier 2-point conversion. Teams can also score by kicking field goals, which are worth 3 points. The team’s field-goal kicker must kick the ball between the upright posts in order to score. Teams can also score by tackling the opponent possessing the ball into his own end zone. This is called a safety and is worth two points.
Each team is composed of an offense, defense, and special teams. Special teams are used in kicking plays, such as punting/receiving or when one team is attempting a field goal. If a team has possession of the ball, their offense is playing. 11 men play at a time. There are currently 32 NFL teams, each with their own persona, hometown, and talent. Early predictions expect to see the Houston Texans, the New Orleans Saints, the New England Patriots, and the Green Bay Packers in top spots this season, though of course anything can happen.
There are many positions on a team and as a new fan you don’t have to worry about learning them all. The one player you definitely need to know? Your quarterback. The leader of any team, the quarterback starts the play after receiving the ball from the center by passing, running, or handing off the ball. Wide receivers are the pass-catching specialists and are important to know as well. Looking to learn more? The offense also includes the center, offensive guards, offensive tackles, running backs, and tight ends. The defense is composed of a defensive tackle, defensive end, linebackers, and defensive backs.
Spectator Dos and Don’ts
Now that you know the basics, what are the keys to being a good spectator? Ask questions, but not while the ball is live. We want to focus on the game—there is plenty of time to talk during commercial breaks or in between plays. Do bring plenty of food! Whether you’re tailgating or watching on the big screen, snacks and football go hand in hand. Stick to finger foods. Don’t start rooting for a team just because they’re #1. Everyone will be annoyed—no one likes a bandwagon fan! While many people cheer for their hometown team, others cheer for the same team as their parents, or because of a team’s attitude or persona.
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