In a very special Sunday edition of my usual Monday post I am pleased to present:

Football for the Uninformed

As someone who doesn’t understand football, I feel it is my duty to explain the sport to those who know even less than I do.

In modern football, two teams of approximately fifty players each stand on the field. Each player has a different position. There’s a quaterback, a receiver, a halfback, a quarterafter, a fullback, a moneyback, a sexyback, a nickleback, and a blindside. None of the other positions have names, since their job is to just mill around the field until someone gets tackled and then jump on the pile to create an adequate dog-pile.

The most important player on a team is called the ref. The ref wears a special black and white uniform to distinguish himself. The ref tries to do things to make it impossible for the opposing side to win, much like the seeker in Quidditch when he catches the snitch, only the ref does it by throwing flags onto the field. You’re not allowed to tackle the other team’s ref, but you can yell and spit on him.

You may think it gets confusing if all teams’ refs wear the same black and white uniform, but it’s obvious which side the ref is on by the calls he makes.

ref (640x375)
That’s my team!

Football games are divided into quarters because in each of the four time-periods, the ref throws a quarter in the air. The quarterbacks are called quarterbacks because it’s their job to try to catch the quarter when it comes back down. Whoever can catch it automatically wins that quarter (both that section of the game and the actual quarter, which is good because I don’t think football players make very much money). If no one catches the quarter, then they have to play round two with a football.  If no one remembered to bring a football, round three is charades.  But someone almost always remembers to bring a football.

In round two, all the players line up facing each other, then someone hands the quarterback the ball. I can’t think of a good reason why the quarterback doesn’t just start out with the ball.

Once the quarterback has the ball, his job is to throw it. He has three choices: he can throw it to a teammate, he can throw it to the other team, or he can throw it at the ground. Now, throwing the ball at the ground is technically not allowed. It’s called “grounding”. For some reason, though, no one ever enforces this rule. Not when quarterbacks do it to footballs and not when airlines do it to airplanes full of passengers for four hours.

A receiver is the guy who the quarterback throws the ball to. Each team only has one receiver, who the quarterback picks with a round of one potato, two before the game. In order to keep the other team from finding out who the receiver is, all the players dresses alike and wear padding like mall Santas to hide their body types and disguise their faces with helmets.

A failed attempt to disguise the receiver.

There’s two ways to score in football. One way is to kick the ball through that giant yellow thing. If you make it, the refs have to stop and do the YMCA dance. Unfortunately, due to the financial problems football often struggles with, they can no longer afford to license the rights to the YMCA.  So the refs just make the letter Y, which is as far as they can go without getting sued for copyright infringement.

The other way to score points is to make a touchdown, which means the receiver failed to get tackled, but made up for it by getting to the end zone.  This is also referred to as a field-goal, because you’ve made a goal by running in from the field. The receiver has to make it to the end zone that is painted with the logo of the opposing team. He does this by communicating with people in blimps flying over the stadium.  People in the blimps tell the receiver which way to run.

blimp control (640x420)
Meanwhile, in the blimp: “Boy, that receiver is not going to be happy when he finds out we meant our left.”

Like basketball, which has a three-point line that a player must stand behind in order to make his basket worth 3 points, football fields are divided into point zones. Those are the numbers painted on the field from 10 to 50 and back down to 10 again. In-between each of those lines are 9 single point lines. The announcers call these “yard lines” because that’s what they call points in Europe. At the same time that Europe unified their currency to the Euro, they also unified their point system to the yard. (Yes, that is why it’s called “Scotland Yard”. It’s a cute, self-affirming name, like the “A-Okay Plumbing Company”)

If a team is on the 1 yard line and makes a touchdown, then the touchdown is worth one yard or 1 metric point. If a team is on the 50 yard line and makes a touchdown, the touchdown is worth 50 points. You’ll notice the numbers go down after the halfway point of the field. That’s because nobody likes a show-off, so if a team makes a touchdown from too far down the field, it’s worth fewer points. It may sound silly, but this point system helps football players keep the humble attitudes they are known for.

For those of you who are just watching football to be social and can’t wait for it to be over, there’s a little clock in the corner of the screen and when it’s out of time, the game has to be over. Unfortunately, the clocks they use are internet clocks and because football stadiums are still using dial-up (those pesky money problems again) the clock stops running a lot as it takes time to buffer. The officials never seem to take this into account, so football games can last a very long time.

When the clock finally gets to 0:00 in the fourth quarter, whichever team caught the most quarters or made the most touchdowns wins. If there’s a tie, they throw a fifth quarter. If neither side catches the quarter, then whoever makes a touchdown first wins the whole game because everyone is tired of football at that point and just wants it to be over.

Once the official game is over, the journalists, who have been waiting on the sidelines all this time, get their chance to run onto the field and tackle the quarterback.

I hope this has helped you understand the game better.

And I hope, for the sake of brevity, the quarterbacks catch a lot of quarters this big game.

And you can quote me on that.

(Be sure to share this with all your football-challenged friends!)