How to Watch a Football Game – A Guide For Women
Men may call it football. But to you, it looks more like a half-off sale at Macy’s.
Speaking of which, you can always go shopping while the game is on. But football season lasts a long, long time. And anyway, cuddling up on the sofa with your beloved on those cold winter evenings does have some appeal.
But if you don’t know what’s going on, and if your beloved (as so many beloveds do) makes it clear that he’d prefer you not ask questions while the game is on . . . what’s a football challenged woman to do?
Well, we’re about to tell you.
The thing is, learning the basics of football – that is, enough to make game-watching fun – is at about the same degree of difficulty as learning to send e-mails. Without attachments.
Okay. Get comfortable. Fix yourself some herb tea. Or a vodka tonic. Make sure you have a clear view of the television screen.
Now, pick a team to root for. Doesn’t matter which one. Pick them for your own reasons. Because you like the color of their uniforms. Because one of the guys on the sidelines reminds you of your high school crush. Whatever.
It’s just more fun when, as they say, you have some skin in the game.
But do feel free to switch to the other team if the one you picked is getting creamed by time the game is only half over. It’s easy to tell when that is, by the way, because there’s this long break away from the game with lots of commentator ‘analysis’ and many commercials that allow you time to refill your beverage of choice. Not surprisingly, this hiatus is called ‘half time’. See? You know some jargon already.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s get back to the beginning of the game.
Things get kicked off by . . . well, by kicking off the football. Who gets to kick the football and who gets to receive the football is decided before the game by a coin toss.
After that, each team is allowed four chances (called ‘downs’) to move the ball a minimum of ten yards. There are white lines drawn across the field at five-yard intervals, so it’s pretty easy to judge the distance. Plus when you’re watching on TV, they superimpose this really cool digital line in bright yellow so you really can’t miss it.
Anyway, if the team with the football succeeds in moving it ten or more yards, they get another four chances. If they don’t, they have to kick the ball to the other team and allow them their four chances to do the same.
And that’s about it for the format of the game.
To understand the action, you need to focus on the football.
You’ll notice that, when the action starts (each piece of action is called a ‘play’), the ball is sitting on the ground between the two teams. There are eleven men on each team, and you’ll see that a bunch on each side stands in a line facing each other. These are called (all together now!) LINEmen!
Told you it was easy.
Anyway, the teams take turns trying to move the ball to the opposite end of the playing field. The guy in the center of the line (called, amazingly, the CENTER) tosses the ball backwards between his legs (weird but true) to the guy directly behind him, who is called the quarterback, and who is like the general of the team.
While the linemen on his team try to keep the guys on the other team from pounding him into the Astroturf, the quarterback attempts to get the football moving down the field toward the goal line (that is, the line that marks the end of the playing field).
He does this by running with it himself, handing it to someone else to run with it, or throwing it to someone else.
Meanwhile, their counterparts on the other team are trying to prevent them from succeeding.
But if the quarterback or his guys do manage to get the ball all the way across the goal line (called a ‘touchdown’), they are awarded six points, to which they can add another point by kicking the ball between the uprights of the goalpost (you know what that is, right?) after the touchdown. This is generally referred to as a ‘point after.’
If they can’t get all the way to the goal line by running and throwing the ball, they can give up short of the goal line and try to kick the ball between the uprights from wherever they are on the playing field. This is called a field goal, and gets them three points.
Whoever has the most points when time runs out wins the game.
That’s really all you need to know to watch a game of football. So go ahead: pick a team; focus on the ball; cuddle.
What happens next is up to you.