Football 101: for Sisters!
Football 101 for Sisters!
Football season is right around the corner. I can’t begin to tell you all the reasons why I love this sport, but I’ll try. Football, in its most basic form, is a bonding activity. It brings disparate groups of people together into a tight knit family, even if just for a few hours. I love anything done in community, except maybe communal showers! Yikes, the embarrassing memories of junior high school gym class still haunt me! But I digress 😊! Back to football.
WHY I LOVE FOOTBALL
· I love that at the start of every game there is HOPE! Either team can win; either team can lose. Anything can happen, and it usually does during the season.
· I love that unlike so much in life, football is not serious; instead, it is FUN! It is a game, and if you learn to watch the sport without that foundation, you probably won’t like it for long.
· I love to admire the athleticism of the young athletes. As a Believer, I stand in awe of God’s handiwork. As a Mom of three athletes, I know a player’s dedication to his or her sport, their passion and their bravery for competing each weekend. My mother’s heart is full as I watch each game as I pray for safety for all. I also pray that on those fields of friendly, we, in community, learn how to win and lose more gracefully.
· I love that there are numerous commercial breaks for eating delicious snacks.
· I love that calories don’t matter during the game. I didn’t say that they didn’t count, just that nobody seems to care. There are no Jenny Craig or Weight Watcher commercials during the games - only Doritos and beer.
· I love that during a football game, my husband and I both enjoy what is on TV. And, we cheer for the same side. Unity!
· I love that a Football game is a lot like marriage (Marriage is like a Football Game: The seasons of Marriage).
I think that it is possible that you, my dear reader, may not be into football, but I bet that your husband may be. So, in the interest of increasing the time you and your husband spend together this fall, and in the hope of aiding your marital friendship (see my friendship series), I am going to teach you the basics of football - sister style 😊! And, I hope to convert you into a football fan to boot!
Cue the band; grab the pom poms!
Let’s start with some basic vocabulary words.
Football: This is the squatty brown ball with which the game is played. Once upon a time the football was made of real leather. Today, I believe, it is made of synthetic leather. The football is blown-up to a specified standard, and if there is ever any variance in the standard, it is a big deal that requires months of radio sport show hosts debating deflation fouls. Deflate Gate! Sounds silly, but it happened.
Football field: The place where the game is played. People will be annoyed if you call it a football court. Secret. When the players are running about, and if you squint your eyes, it will look like a magical kaleidoscope with contrasting colors all swirling and tied together by some of the most beautiful green grass you will ever see! The playable surface of the field is 100 yards long. It is broken up into 10-yard chunks – five 10-yard chunks from one end (the “end zone”) to the center field, and another five 10-yard chunks from the center field to the other end (the other “end zone”).
Quarter: This is the unit of time with which the game is divided up. 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarter; then it is over. Knowing which quarter the game is in is very important because it will help you gage how much non-football talk is allowed. In the first 10 minutes of the 1st quarter, your mouth needs to be on lock-down. The same is true for the last 10 minutes of the 4th quarter; unless your team is up by 40 points. It this be the case, talk away about the cheese dip recipe, the latest book you read or the color of the new nighty you bought to celebrate your husband’s team’s victory 😊. If at any point during the game the score is tied, “mumbs the word!” Extra talk at that point would be considered taboo.
Costume: I know the correct term is uniform, but costumes will get you pumped up and prepared for some of the drama you will see on the field each game. Drama occurs when the “underdog” is on a roll and the team who thought they were guaranteed an “easy win” begins to falter. If this happens, the players of the faltering team start to “drop like flies;” hoping to break their opponent’s momentum with very slow- moving medics coming out to take their temperature! This may sound crazy, but if you have children, you know exactly what I’m talking about … the day before your little Bobby is to take a math test on fractions, he suddenly gets a mysterious tummy ache. This is why I, a fairly compassionate soul, but a mother of two sons, often yell at the TV, “Get on up Junior, leave the drama for your Mama and get off my field!”
Referees: These are the people who have to wear a dreadful striped uniform. And, they have to watch the boys play ball at the “smell level.” I always pray that they get paid well, because they get knocked about pretty hard during the game. They have yellow pocket handkerchiefs that possess their secret power. These powers I will explain later when I discuss penalties. Referees, also known as “REFs,” come in various shapes and sizes, and since 2015, there are female referees in the NFL! There is a Head REF (who wears a white hat), umpires, linesman, and the lot. Together, their job is, officially, to keep the players safe and the integrity of the game intact. Unofficially they are the police on the field. I must admit here that I have had my share of disagreements with the referees and their calls and lack of calls (ie: New Orleans Saints last game of the 2018 season, and as I angry type this I realize I have not fully forgiven yet, pray for me).
Spiritually speaking, referees help me remember that football is just a game and they give me ample opportunity to practice forgiveness. Poor ref calls are also a chance to demonstrate a little grace when their poor vision or personal bias botch things up and negatively impact my team. 😊 So much drama- you are going to love the game!
TOUCHDOWN: A touchdown is scored when a football player carries the ball into, or catches the ball in the other team’s end zone. A touchdown is worth 6 points, and when done well, it is the stuff that football legends are made of!
EXTRA POINT: After scoring a touchdown, the team can next kick the ball into the end zone. If the ball sails through the upright bars, the team that made the kick scores an additional point. If the ball is not kicked but is passed or carried into the end zone, the team gets 2 extra points!
FIELD GOAL: This is when a team has exhausted their downs and thinks that they are close enough to the end zone to kick the football through the uprights. If it goes through, the team is awarded 3 points. If not, the defending team gets the ball at that point on the field and then starts to run its offense. A team with a good kicker does very well at the college football level. There is one noticeable exception – BAMA seems to be able to make it to the big show each year without a good kicker. Go figure! At the professional level; however, a kicker who misses is beheaded! LOL!
Gatorade: This is the drink of choice for most players. And, this is the liquid that is used to baptize the winning coach at the end of the game. Please note, the “end of the game” is signified when the REF (see above) blows his whistle three times; not before. LSU’s coach got a premature bath of Orange goodness last year at the Texas A & M game. As it turned out, the REF made a pitiful call and determined that the game was not over. LSU went on to play 7 overtime segments and ended up losing the game based on six more pitiful REF calls. But I digress and am reminded of:
“Lord how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times? Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21
Forgiveness is another opportunity that football serves up to spectators 😊!
HOW THE GAME IS PLAYED
The Head REF tosses a coin in the center of the field with representation from each team. Typically, each team sends its biggest and most intimidating players to be their representatives. I believe this may be one of the reasons for the garish referee uniform, so that this little tiny man can be seen among the mass of giants from each team. One team gets to call either “heads” or “tails,” with the winner of the toss deciding which team gets the ball first. Today, most teams defer to the second half of the game (after the band plays) in order to get possession of the ball first in the third quarter. Personally, I like the confidence a team exudes when they claim the ball first. But probably, this has very little impact on the game, other than maybe intimidation.
The team that kicks the ball prepares a special team for this part of the game. I find this to be one of the most exciting parts. First, because as a child I remember trying to kick a football. This is not an easy feat. Second, because the players on the special team seem so happy! They jump around, run in place and clap their hands. They are simply excited to be on the field. The kickoff is actually one of the most dangerous parts of the game of football because when the REF blows his whistle, the ball is kicked way to the other end of the field so that the other team can catch it. If the player that catches the kick immediately takes a knee or waves his hands before he catches it, he is safe from the freight train that is huffing and puffing its way down the field to pulverize him. But if the player who catches the ball decides to “return the ball,” it meaning run the ball headlong into the other team. He had better have his shoes tied and kick his legs into 3rd gear because he will most likely end up smashed under a pile of HAPPY and motivated special team players. If the kicked ball goes into the end zone and is not returned, the ball will come out to the 25-yard line.
Wherever the ball is fielded becomes the initial line of scrimmage. This is an invisible line. TV will add a yellow line to this spot. Do not expect this courtesy if you are seeing the game live – it won’t be there. You will know where this invisible line is based on where the REF places the football. Now, this is where the meat of the game is played. The team with the ball is on OFFENSE; the team trying to stop them is on DEFENSE. I have spent the last 10 years attempting to learn the various styles of play. I could show off and spout off this knowledge, but at this point, it would just be vain glorious. My goal for you in this post is for you to get the basics of football so that you can spend your Saturdays this fall like me – happily enjoying the game of football while snuggled-up next to my hubby and best friend on the couch, even if he has cheese dip dripping down his chin!
Okay, back to the game. The offense gets 4 attempts to move the ball 10 yards down the field toward the other team’s end zone (where the team names are painted). These attempts are called downs, simple enough, huh? You will always know what down it is because it is posted right below the score on the TV screen or on the JUMBO TRON, if you are at the stadium. The offense can move the ball on the ground with the quarter back, known as a “QB,” handing the ball off to a runner, known as a “running back,” or throw it down field to someone who will catch or receive the ball, known as a “receiver.” The QB controls the tempo of the game and also, depending on the team, makes the play calls for the offense. The QB is usually a tall and confident guy with a small number on his jersey.
The numbering system is still a bit of a puzzle to me, but the more hits the player can expect to take during the game seems to be reflected by the number on his jersey. If I had played football, I would likely have been the QB, but only if they would have given me the number “0!” 😊 I am, after all, still a girl, and a wimp. If you are new to this blog, please read, “The Grudge Game” - a post that tells the story of when I received my first and only football injury … knock on wood.
When an offense controls the “line of scrimmage,” meaning they are the boss and not getting pushed around by the defense, they likely run the ball more that pass the ball. A run will be described in different ways, depending on who runs the ball. If the QB keeps the ball and runs with it, this is called a “QB keep,” or a “triple option play.” If the running back steps into the QB’s place behind the typically large player that hikes the ball, known as the “center,” this is called a “wildcat.” Wildcat sounds cooler than it is. The “wildcat” player always gets stampeded by the defense, unless of course it is a trick play and the wildcat pitches the ball. And if a “fullback” gets a pitched the ball and runs with it, this is called a “veer.” All of these plays work best when the offense is winning the KING OF THE MOUNTAIN game on the line of scrimmage.
The linesman, on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball, are very large and athletic players with large numbers on their backs. So, they take a whole lot of abuse. Hopefully, they get substituted regularly by wise coordinators. They do not get a lot of glory, but every blue moon they recover a fumble and run it into the end zone like the “kings of football” that true football fans know they are!
The defense’s job is to stop the run, block or intercept the pass, penetrate the “O” line, and “smack” the QB before he can throw it. If the defense can “smack” the QB, this is called a “sack.” I prefer “smack” over “sack.” It is more descriptive and I can expect things to fly in celebration. A “sack” is a highly respected aspect of the game of football. And, some statistician somewhere up in some booth, and probably eating a hotdog, will announce how many times this has occurred this season. The defense also wants to control the line of scrimmage and not allow the other team to make it 10 yards with the ball. When the defense stops the offense, the crowd stands up and pays homage to the defensive team. As an LSU fan, this is my favorite move. LSU fans make a half bow with hands raised in the air! The LSU defense is always top notch. So, LSU fans do this often; once again, to work off a few calories 😊! When the defense is successful at stopping the offense from converting downs, the happy kicking team comes back out. The kicker’s job is to get the ball down between the 1 and 5 yard line, and in so doing, make the other team have a longer and more difficult way to move the ball to score. A good defense has a beautiful way of hiding their plan from the offense so that the QB, who is looking down at them, can’t tell where to throw the ball or which hole to send his running back through. The defense can play either man-to-man or zone coverage; depending on the down and/or how far the offense has to take the ball to make a 1st down and continue the offensive.
You will totally understand zone coverage if you have ever tried to watch more than 2 kids at the same time. If you have 3 children, you don’t have enough hands to stop them from danger. So, instead of blocking your child, you block the firepit or swimming pool or whatever danger lies ahead. Being a mother of three under three, I have zone defense down! Back to the explanation of game play.
If the ball is 20+ yards behind the line of scrimmage and it is 3rd down, the QB will pass the ball and the defense will all of a sudden get a new burst of energy and try to sack him. At this point, the completion of the play comes down to a little luck and a lot of practice. There is much to be said about the strategy for play on both sides of the ball, but that is for another post. This one has already gone into overtime 😊!
When you see a young player run down the field, break out of coverage from his man-to-man defender, and while in full steam put out his hands and catch a well-launched ball over his back shoulder, secure the ball under his arm, and run it into the end zone for a touchdown, you can’t help but cheer! I’ll even cheer for a great play like this if done by the opposing team; because a Believer knows that this kind of play was only possible because of God-given talent. Coaches truly can’t coach this kind of catch – it is a God thing! Most of the humble coaches and players know this too! After this kind of play, you will next watch a “hallelujah party” occur in the endzone as players jump remarkably high in the air and celebrate. As long as the celebration is friendly and respectful, the referee will allow it. But if ever the celebration turns mean spirited and becomes more of a “neener-neener” directed at the other team, the REF will throw his yellow flag. Flags are important! When the REF pulls a flag from his pocket and tosses it onto the field, this means that something bad has happened and that someone will be penalized. It’s pretty simple stuff. If the REF throws the flag before the play gets good and started, it is probably because someone “got off sides” …meaning that an offense player prematurely started playing before the rest of his team was set. It seems silly, but it happens. It often happens because the crowd of fans in the stands are cheering so loudly that the players on the field can’t hear the QB call for the snap of the ball. So, for you sitting in the stands at a game, you have a role to play. When your team is on defense, you are to yell, clap, stomp your feet, or if you are a Mississippi State fan, ring your obnoxious cow bell to distract the opponent. But when your team has the ball, you are to be as quiet as a church mouse. But if you are watching the game on TV, your cheering will no effect on the play. But this has never stopped me. I love cheering! It gives me something to do with all my nervous energy, hopefully, it will burn-off all that cheese dip!
At the end of the game, the team with the most points wins. But really, if the players understand the privilege it is to play the game, they will all leave the field feeling like winners. A player’s purpose should be to graduate from college and enjoy the game as long as their body will allow them. Only 2% of college players make it to the next level – the NFL. So, a fans job is to be supportive at all times. No one likes a fair-weathered friend or fan. A true fan supports their players and team, even when the game doesn’t go as expected or doesn’t end in a win for the home team.
One team wins, one team loses; this is part of playing this beautiful game!
Now, for coaches, not so much. Their job is to win games, and for this, they are paid a hefty amount of money. The coach who leaves the game dry, or “unbaptized” you can say, will not have a good evening or week ahead of them. Perhaps, they’ll also have a long walk home, huh, Kiffin? 😊 But even then, there will always be another school team to coach, and a brand-new load of hope! Go Owls!
Thank you for reading today’s unusual post. I hope that I have increased your interest in football, and maybe explained some of the game basics.
This season, grab some chips, snuggle up next to your hubby and enjoy the game. And if all else fails, squint and enjoy the kaleidoscope of colors and the cheese dip! There are worse ways to spend a Saturday. And even if I have not converted you, make a hole in the couch next to your hubby and enjoy some time with your best friend (see post on Recreational Companionship)!
Geaux Tigers! Beat BAMA!
Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31