As if they were doing something really important, like landing on the moon or launching the D-Day invasion, football teams are compelled to be over the top. In order to move the ball down a hundred-yard field to score points, they have a whole regiment of players, divided into subgroups. There’s the offense, which is the team that’s in charge of scoring goals (touchdowns and field goals, six and three points respectively.) Then there’s the defense, (pronounced DE’ fense, not de FENSE’) that tries to keep the opposing team from scoring a goal. Finally there are “special teams” – the kickoff return team, the field goal team, the extra point team, the synchronized swimming team, the kick-boxing team and the Gatorade-pouring team.
The key players to watch on the offensive team are the center and the quarterback. If you keep your eyes on these guys, you’ll always be able to find the ball. At the beginning of each play, the center hikes or snaps the ball to the quarterback to start the play. The center crouches, oddly enough, in the center of the offensive line in a clutched up downward dog position. The quarterback will be behind the center, either under center or shotgun (called “in the gun.”) In the under center position, the quarterback strikes a pose that one generally will not see men assume in public in other conditions – directly behind the center with his hands between the center’s legs. In the gun, the quarterback stands a few steps back from the center. Once the quarterback gets the ball from the center he’ll either pass it, hand it off, or keep the ball and carry it. Of course he does this with a lot of finesse so you’ll have to watch closely. The quarterback might hand off the ball, but pretend he’s kept the ball and keep running forward. This is to confuse the defense so they have to think about who has the ball. Everyone who has the possibility of receiving the ball runs as if they’re holding a ball, to confuse the defense further. There’s so many people acting like they’re carrying a ball that sometimes the defense will spend a lot of time chasing down the wrong guy.
The offense gets four tries (or downs) to advance the ball 10 yards; they start out at “first and 10.” Every time they get at least 10 yards, they get another four tries. So say on the first play, the quarterback hands off the ball and the runner advances it 5 yards. Since they didn’t get at least 10 yards, now it’s “second and 5”. On the next play, if they get the ball at least 5 yards, then they’ll start over again at “first and 10.” This continues until the offense scores, or they use up all their tries/downs without scoring, or the apocalypse comes. If the offense does not score, they call out the special punting team and kick the ball to the other team for their turn. If they do score, then the call out the special kickoff team, who kicks the ball to the other team and they start the whole thing over. This process should take about five minutes, but in reality it may take as long as 20, from repeatedly stopping the clock while the down markers get moved, taking time-outs, the TV station calling TV time-outs, and the refs stopping to call their brokers. This can obviously continue for some time, which explains why football games last three and a half hours, even though technically they are only 60 minutes. In between all this, the TV coverage shows the coaches pacing the sidelines and yelling, with some toadie following the coach and carrying his headset cord. This is no doubt so the coach does not get all tangled up in wires and have to yell even more than usual. All in all, this makes for lively festive fun, which of course is what football is all about.
Coming up – join in the fun by cheering on your team with appropriate football banter, and more.
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