By Jenn Brown
For all you ladies out there that are often caught watching football with your man or some friends, and find you have no idea what’s going on, I put together a quick cheat sheet on how to talk football, or at least fake it. Before you know it, you’ll have them all fooled, thinking you’re a football pro!
First things first, you need to understand the goal of the game—the offense tries to either run with or throw the ball to the end of the field (the end zone), while the defense tries to stop the offense and take possession of the ball. Once the offense scores or the defense gets possession, the teams switch rolls, with the defense now trying to score; this goes back and forth throughout four 15-minute quarters.
Since a game is only four, 15-minute quarters, you would think a typical game would only be one hour. Anyone who has been forced to sit through a game knows this isn’t true. The play clock stops when the ball goes out of bounds, there is an incomplete pass, or when a penalty is called (which is pretty often). The clock then restarts when the ball is reset in its position by an official. All of this, in addition to time-outs and half-time (which is always exciting for the forced-to-be-there fans), explains why you may find yourself watching the same game for hours on end…
You also have to know who does what. Each team is allowed 11 players on the field at once; they’re all terms you’ve heard- but now you can really understand what they’re supposed to do! With only one quarterback (QB) on the field per team, they are the one to pass or hand off the ball. There are one or two running-backs that run with the ball, typically only a few yards at a time with speed. Two or four wide-receivers catch the long passes from the QB, with the tight ends (one to two on the field) blocking the defense and catching passes as well.
Now to the points system – each touchdown is six points. After one team scores a touchdown, they are able kick for one extra point or choose to run/throw the ball into the end zone for two points. If the offensive team isn’t close enough to score a touchdown they can try to kick a field goal for three points. A safety occurs when the player carrying the offensive ball is tackled behind his own goal line, and is worth two points.
Aside from understanding some positions, the workings of the clock, and the point system, you’ll need to know a few more terms. A “down” starts when the offensive team snaps or kicks the ball and it is ready for play, and ends when the ball “ends” or touches the ground. First down is the first of the plays; fourth is the last down. A first down occurs after a change of possession of the ball, after advancing the ball 10 yards following a previous first down or after certain penalties. On the fourth down, the team in possession of the ball must punt it to the other team. This keeps going back and forth, until the clock is up!
These few points should help you get through your next game. For our next lesson, we can move onto which teams to root for!
Jenn Brown is a the only female correspondent on Inside the NFL; she’s also a reporter for ESPN’s College GameDay and ESPNU’s Road Trip, among other shows.