Growing up in Indiana, I knew everything there was to know about basketball and nothing about football. When the Colts started getting big, my brothers made it very clear that I needed to learn a thing or two about the sport when I had to ask what an interception was. Football used to seem long and boring, but after picking up the basics I was hooked.
Just like girls love when their boyfriend gets along with their friends, guys love when a girl can chill with the boys. So, as we’re in the heart of football season with the Super Bowl quickly approaching, this article will teach you all you need to know.
The next time you find yourself in a sports pub to eat on Sunday afternoon or Monday night and notice a cute guy by the bar, rattle off some of this basic terminology and he’ll be putty in your hands.
The offense has four chances to get a first down. Basically this means that the team with the ball has four tries to move forward ten yards. So, when the announcers say “first and ten” or “second and eight,” that’s telling you which attempt they’re on and how much farther they have to go to get the necessary yardage. If the announcer says “first and goal,” it means that they’re on their first attempt and have ten or less yards to get to the end zone and score. Even though each team gets four chances to advance, they very rarely will chance the fourth try. Instead, they usually kick.
Touchdowns, Field Goals, and Two-Point Conversions
It’s pretty common knowledge that touchdowns are worth six points and the field goal kick that follows is worth one additional point, but you may not know about two-point conversions. After a team scores a touchdown, they have a choice. They can opt to go with the classic choice of kicking a field goal, or if they’re in a losing situation, they could choose a two-point conversion. This means that they can throw the ball for another touchdown after they score, but this time it only counts for two points. Also, if the offense can’t get a first down and they choose to kick the ball from the 50 yard line, for example, that counts as three points.
An interception is when the team that’s on offense throws the ball and a player on the opposite team catches it. If you really want to show off, call it a pick. It’s called a pick because the quarterback’s pass got picked off by the other team.
If the referees toss a bright yellow flag onto the field, it’s because a player has violated the rules. The ref will call a penalty or foul against the team in violation. Flags get thrown on the play for pass interferences, horse collar tackles, face mask tackles, off sides, late hits, etc. Penalties result in the offending team getting the ball moved five, ten, or fifteen yards (depending on the penalty) towards their end zone.
When the quarterback throws a pass to the receiver and the receiver gets tripped, pushed, pulled, cut in front of, or gets his arms pulled by the defensive player guarding him, that’s pass interference. If the defense messes with the receiver in any way to keep him from catching the ball, the referees will call a penalty.
This tackle is when a player tackles another player by grabbing his shoulder pads in the back and inside—by the collar. Get it?—near the nape of the neck.
This kind of tackle occurs when a player tackles another player by grabbing the face mask part of the helmet and dragging him down.
A late hit is a penalty that takes place when player tackles another player after the whistle has been blown and the play has stopped.
This is a penalty where a player, either defensive or offensive, moves before the ball is snapped to the quarterback. The center snapping the ball is what starts the play. Players are not allowed to move before the play starts because that would give them an unfair advantage to tackle a player on the opposite team.
When the announcer says that the quarterback got “sacked” or “laid out,” this means that the defense broke through the offensive line (the line of guys that block for the QB) and tackled the quarterback before he got a chance to throw the ball to the receiver.
This should get you started. The different positions and the more difficult rules will come to you the more you watch the game. So, be confident, spout off your new knowledge, and learn the true meaning of shooting fish in a barrel.