Sunday, October 10, 2010

Football 101

Football season has arrived at my house. I'm the one most likely to be the one parked on the couch on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, eagerly watching the college and NFL games. Of course, I have to cheer on my alma mater (Virginia Tech Hokies!) and Hubby's (Old Dominion University, who recently brought their football program back after about 50 years). The local team, the Carolina Panthers, haven't been doing well so far this season., but we're of the "anyone who plays against the Cowboys is our team of the day" mindset.

My mum told me the story about how she stumbled over (American) football. It was 1976, the year my family moved from England to the United States, and Mum was watching a (then-Oakland) Raiders game with my dad. Dad had to explain the rules to her, since it wasn't exactly like rugby, definitely not like cricket, and obviously like "football" as the rest of the world knew it.

1) Each team has 11 players on the field at one time. One team is the offense, the other is the defense. there's a third group called "special teams". The only time you see the special teams group is during kickoffs and extra points (explained below).

2) The field is 100 yards long, with goal posts situated at either end (like rugby). There is a designated area in front of the goal posts called the end zone.

3)The game starts when one side's special team "kicks off" the ball to the other special team. The receiver  has to bring the ball back as far as they can before he gets stopped (usually, tackled) by the other side. The ball is placed on the spot where the carrier got stopped.

4) The special teams leave the field. The offense (the team that possesses the ball) and the defense (the other one) take to the field.

4) The offense has a total of four tries (each try is called a "down". First down, second down, third down, fourth down) to advance the ball forward 10 yards. The guy who coordinates every play is called the quarterback. He throws the ball to an available receiver, who attempts to traverse the 10 yards. If the offense is successful, it's considered a "first down", and they have a fresh set of tries to continue down the field. If they fail after the fourth down, the offense and defense leave the field and the special teams come back on. The offense forced to "kick off" the ball to the other team. Now it's the other team's turn to try to score. They become the "offense" now.

5)If the offense is close enough to the end zone by the third down, they have the option to "kick a field goal" through the goal posts (also called the "uprights") A field goal is worth 3 points.

5a) If the offense reaches the other team's end zone, it's a touchdown, and worth 6 points. After a touchdown is scored, the offense sets up to "kick the extra point" through the goal posts. If that's successful, the extra point is added, for a total of 7 points.

5b) After a touchdown, the offense has the option of a "2-point conversion" instead of kicking an extra point. In that case, the offense has 1 chance to throw the ball into the end zone (like a touchdown). If they're successful, 2 points are added, for a total of 8 points. If not, no extra points are added and it remains at 6.

6)After the end of each series, the offense kicks off the ball to the other team and the game continues.

7) The defense's job is simple: keep the other team from scoring.

The referees (dressed in those infamous black and white "zebra" uniforms) call fouls that players make against each other and review controversial plays. Fouls usually bring penalties in yardage (for example, a personal foul carries a penalty of 15 yards). Some fouls include (but aren't limited to) personal foul, delay of game (quarterback taking too long to start a play), and extra people on the field (12 instead of 11).

So say the referee announces, "Personal foul, pass interference, 15 yard penalty, first down!" It translates to: "Personal foul because the receiver was roughed/tackled by the defender before he had a chance to catch the ball, the ball gets brought forward 15 yards, and that means it's a first down!"

So that was basically Football 101, and Mum grasped the concept pretty fast. So now she's a die-hard Cowboys fan.

That's OK. We all have our preferences.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

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