The Beginner's Guide to Loving Football:
Who, What, Why? Touchdown!
Does football season ever end? For the non-fan, the answer is probably no, or at least that is how it feels. While the Super Bowl may be the last game of the year, there is still the draft, trade deadlines, training camps, preseason games,
and the Holy Grail for all die-hard fans, fantasy football.
You might not know what these things are, but if you find yourself in the presence of football fans on a regular basis (maybe you date one, work with one, or maybe you were crazy enough to marry one) you are surely going to hear about them.
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to walk away from a conversation without wondering what a Gronkowski is? And isn’t Tony Romo a steakhouse? Why is that guy yelling “Omaha”? (The player known for saying this, Peyton Manning, has retired.)
If you want to learn more and understand why people love this sport so much, huddle up and read this playbook.
Or maybe you're a football-mad Cheesehead who would love to be able to share the love of the game with your significant other, son, daughter, or even mother! This article is for you, too. BLUE 52, HUT!
12 Basic Football Terms
Though you might wish that the most important part of football fandom is the snacks,
knowing the rules and some basic terms will make Sunday afternoons a lot more enjoyable; the snacks are an added bonus!
Quarters: A football game consists of four 15-minute quarters. At the end of each quarter, teams have a two-minute break to switch sides then resume play.
The exception to this rule is halftime. At the end of the second quarter there is a 15-minute break. But you already know this; it’s why you watch the Super Bowl.
Kickoff: When one team, known as the “kicking team,” kicks the football to their opponents, know as the “receiving team.” This occurs at the start of the first and third quarters, as well as after every touchdown and field goal.
Downs: Progress in a football game is measured in yards. A professional American football field is 100 yards long (120 yards if you include the end zones). The offense gets four attempts, called “downs,” to move the ball 10 yards.
If they are successful, the offense will get four more chances to move the ball 10 more yards. This continues until the defense stops them, or they score a touchdown or field goal.
End Zone: An additional 10-yard area at each end of the field. The purpose of football is to have possession of the ball in your opponent’s end zone. But watch out! The defense is going to do everything they can to stop you.
Touchdown: One of, if not the most, exciting moments in a football game.
A touchdown is a scoring action that occurs when a player in possession of the football crosses their opponent’s goal line or catches a pass while within the boundaries of the end zone. It is worth 6 points.
Extra Point: After a team scores a touchdown, the offense has the opportunity to get an additional point by kicking the football through the uprights (the giant Y-shaped structure at the back of the end zone).
The kicker waits for the ball to be passed back to the holder at the 33-yard line. Once the ball is grounded, he makes his attempt.
If the football goes through the goal posts, the offense gets an extra point. This action occurs very quickly as the defense will be charging the ball and the offense.
Two-Point Conversion: Another option the offense has after scoring a touchdown is to try and do it again for an additional 2 points. They have one opportunity to run or pass the football from the 2-yard line into the end zone.
If they are successful they are awarded 2 extra points. This is a risky play and, as a result, most teams opt to kick for an extra point instead.
It is always an exciting moment in a football game when a team (hopefully the one you’re cheering for) successfully completes a two-point conversion.
Field Goal: When the offense can’t score a touchdown, they can attempt to kick a field goal. A successful field goal is worth 3 points. The offense can try for a field goal from anywhere on the field; however,
this usually occurs when a team is within 45 yards of the end zone and on their fourth down.
If the offense misses the field goal and the ball does not go through the goal posts, the defense takes possession of the ball at the spot of the kick.
Safety: When an offensive player in possession of the ball is tackled by the defense in their own end zone. If this happens, the defense is awarded 2 points.
Incompletion: A forward pass from the quarterback that is not caught by a receiver and falls to the ground. This is another exciting moment which usually results in cheers and jeers, depending on whom you’re rooting for.
Interception: When a member of the defense catches a pass intended for the offense, changing the possession of the ball.
Sack: A sack occurs when the defense tackles the offense’s quarterback before he is able to throw or pass the ball to his teammates.
Hail Mary: A long-shot play that is done is desperation at the end of a game or quarter.
The quarterback throws a long pass down the field and hopes a member of his team is able to catch it and score a touchdown. This play has a very slim chance for success but is always thrilling to watch!
Picking Your Team
The time has come to pledge your allegiance to a team. With 32 teams in the National Football League, how do you know which one is right for you?
While you may be tempted to pick a team based on jersey colors, awesome cheerleaders, or good old-fashioned peer pressure, I don’t recommend it.
Each team has its own style of play and personality. Use the chart below to figure out which team is right for you!
Make Football Fun Again
There is more to football than just watching the games on Sunday. If you’re still confused by the game or not totally sold on why people love it, try participating in some of these fun football-related activities.
What is it? Fantasy football is a game in which you get to be the general manager of a football team. Start by joining a league online.
If you don’t know anyone who plays fantasy football, there are a variety of leagues you can join to play against strangers. Once you are in your league, you will have a draft.
During this draft, everyone in the league will pick an allotted number of players from the NFL to be a part of their imaginary football team.
These teams will then proceed to play against one- another for the duration of the regular season (17 games).
How do I play? Each week, the players you choose to be “active” on your roster will receive points based on how well they perform on game day. Every league has a different scoring system.
If you have any questions about how your league is scored, ask the commissioner (a fancy word for the person in charge of your league).
Your roster must be set before kickoff and cannot be changed once the game has started. If one of your players is injured in the first quarter of the game, you cannot replace him.
Pro Tip: Every team has one bye week (a week where they don’t have to play) each season. Make sure you don’t have too many players with the same week off.
This will leave a lot of holes in your roster and replacing them can be challenging.
How do I win? If the players on your team accumulate more points than the players on your opponent’s team, you are the winner for that week.
At the end of the season, the players with the best win-loss record will play each other for league supremacy.
Why would I want to do this? Fantasy football makes watching any football game exciting. The random collection of players on your fantasy football roster means you will always have someone to cheer for (or against),
even if your favorite team isn’t playing. It also gives you the opportunity to learn about star players and positions on other teams.
Before you know it you will be debating who the No. 1 wide receiver is for the Colts, and why the Vikings running backs are going to be extremely profitable this year.
Go to a Game
Are you lucky enough to live in a city with an NFL team? If so, grab your friends and head to a game. At an NFL game you're surrounded by thousands of people who feel the same way as you about your favorite team and favorite players.
If there aren’t any NFL games in your area, you can still experience all the excitement football has to offer at the college level, which can be as high-energy as an NFL game.
And don’t forget about tailgating! It’s the perfect opportunity to eat some great food, have a few cold ones, and get to know fellow fans before the game.
If you don’t have a NFL team in your city it can be tough to make it to a game. Toss on your jersey and scope out a local sports bar to see if they will be airing your must-see game of the week.
The atmosphere in a great sports bar on game day is contagious, and before you know it you will be jumping up and down and high-fiving fellow bar-goers.
Pro Tip: Make sure the bar you go to supports your team. If you are in Boston and ask them to put the Giants game on, be prepared to find another bar, ASAP.
Play the Game
Football is a physically demanding sport and often results in bumps, bruises, and injuries. Touch football is a fun, recreational way to get a firsthand taste of the game without needing gear, referees, and medics.
- Gather a group of friends together, grab a football, and find a large patch of grass.
- Set up cones on both ends to mark the end zones.
- Divide yourself into two teams of no more than eight players. Try to get on the better team to increase the likelihood of victory and gloating.
- Have a debate about whether you are going to play one-hand or two-hand touch football. In two-hand touch football, the ball carrier is considered down when they are touched above the waist by both hands, as opposed to one-hand, where only a single hand has to make contact.
- The rules in touch football are pretty similar to those in in the NFL. The goal is to move the ball down the field, into your opponent’s end zone. The first-down rule will vary depending on where you are playing. Set up markers, or choose landmarks to indicate different zones. Entering a new zone will reset your downs. This might not be necessary if you are playing on a small field, as four downs might be all you need to get from one end to the other.
- After a team scores, the ball is typically thrown to the other team as opposed to the traditional kickoff. Make sure you agree on this rule before the game and not when emotions are high after a glorious TD!
- Set a time limit for each half. The team that has the most points at the end of the game is the victor.
Football is more than just a game. It brings people together and offers a way to bond with friends and strangers alike. The next time someone invites you to watch a game, say yes. If all else fails, at least there will be delicious food.