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Girlfriend's Guide to Football Part 1: Basic Rules and Terminology

By Edited Feb 4, 2016 2 4

It seems to be a long-standing tradition that football is men's turf. Now I don't know if this is because women just aren't as interested or if they feel that they're supposed to be excluded, but I'm all for integration.

I recently had a conversation with my buddies about our wives and girlfriends. We noticed a common trend that the longer we were with them and exposed them to football, the more interested and invested they became. I've noticed this transition with my wife over the past year and I can tell you it's a good thing. My buddies seem to have come to the same conclusion as well. We love our significant others getting more involved with football.

So girlfriends and wives, this is for you. If you want to learn about football or you want to know what is going through your man's head, keep on reading. I don't know how much football knowledge you have so I'm going to start out at the very beginning. I am not to demean you in any way, I'm just trying to cover all the bases.

Finally, I know I will not be able to cover absolutely every facet of the game here. However, if you learn what I do cover here, any good man will be impressed enough to teach you the rest.

The Setup

Football is played by two teams. Each team is allowed to have 53 players signed on the active roster for each season. During a game only 11 players, from each team, are allowed on the field at a time.

The playing field is 100 yards long with an end zone at each end. The 50 yard line marks the middle of the field and the numbers count down to each end zone.

A game consists of four, fifteen minute quarters. The clock can be stopped after certain actions or events take place during the game. Therefore even though there is only one hour worth of clock time, a game can take 3-4 hours to play. Each team is allowed three timeouts per half.

Each game begins with a coin toss. The team captains will meet in the middle of the field with the head official (known as the Referee). The Referee will show both teams which side of the coin is heads and which side is tails. (The coins are often commemorative and therefore it can be difficult to decipher which side is heads and which is tails.)

The visiting team will call heads or tails and then the Referee will flip the coin into the air. The winner of the coin toss will have two options. They can choose to kick or to receive the ball during the initial kickoff. Whichever team kicks at the beginning of the game will receive during the first kickoff after halftime.

The team that loses the coin toss will also have a decision to make. They choose which side of the field they want to start playing on. This will alternate each quarter thereafter. This is not a big deal for indoor stadiums, but when dealing with the elements it can make all the difference. Which way is the wind blowing? Where is the sun shining in your eyes?

Teams Within a Team

There are three basic groups of players that make up a team. You have the Offense who controls the ball the majority of the time. You have the Defense which tries to stop the opposing team's offense from scoring. (Generally speaking, offensive players do not play defense and defensive players do not play offense.)

The third group is called Special Teams. They take care of plays like the kickoff, punts, and field goal attempts (basically any time they kick the ball). Special Teams are often composed of a mixture of offensive and defensive players.

Field Terminology

Line of Scrimmage - This is an imaginary line on the field. (Although in recent years television networks have begun to place an unofficial digital line of scrimmage on the screen for viewers at home.) Each play starts from the line of scrimmage. Prior to the snap the opposing teams cannot cross this line. The quarterback is not allowed to throw the ball once he has crossed the line of scrimmage.

Chains - This is a physical chain that is 10 yards long with large orange uprights at either end. One end of the chain is placed at the line of scrimmage, the other end is the first down marker.

First Down Marker - This is the location that the offense needs to move the ball past to gain another set of downs.

Backfield - The area behind the offensive line is known as the backfield.

Pocket - The pocket is an imaginary box on the field where the quarterback usually passes from.

Shotgun - When the quarterback is not directly underneath the center, but standing 4-6 yards behind the offensive line, he is said to be in Shotgun.

The Kickoff

The ball is placed on a tee, at the 35 yard line, by the kicker. After setting up the kicker will run forward and kick the ball off the tee towards the opposing team. The rest of the kicking team is not allowed to pass the line of scrimmage (where the ball is sitting on the tee) until the kicker has kicked the ball.

If the ball travels out the back or sides of the end zone it is called a touchback and the receiving team is awarded the ball at the 20 yard line.

If the ball is kicked out of bounds before reaching the end zone, it is a penalty and the receiving team is awarded the ball at the 40 yard line.

If the receiving player catches the ball in the end zone and drops to a knee while still in the end zone, it is a touchback.

If the receiving player waves one hand in the air above his shoulder prior to catching the ball and prior to the ball hitting the ground, this is a fair catch. The kicking team is not allowed to interfere with the player catching the ball and the receiving team will be awarded the ball at the spot of the catch.

In all other cases the receiving player will catch the ball and then try to advance it towards the end zone.

Kickoffs occur at the beginning of the game, at the beginning of the third quarter (the start of the second half), and after a team has scored.

Basic Gameplay

After the kickoff the offense and defense will line up of their respective sides of the line of scrimmage. Then you will hear the quarterback yell a bunch of nonsense, wave his hands in the air a bit, and eventually the center will snap the ball back to the quarterback.

From here the quarterback has three basic options. He can hand the ball off to the running back, he can throw the ball to one of the receivers running down the field, or he can keep the ball and try to run it himself. If the quarterback throws an incomplete pass, the player with the ball is tackled to the ground, or the player with the ball steps out of bounds, the officials will blow their whistles and the play is over.

At the beginning of each drive the offense has a major goal and a minor goal. The major goal is always scoring points. The minor goal is simply to get a first down.

When a team gets the ball for the first time it is always first and ten. This means that it is first down and they need to gain 10 yards to receive another first down.

Example:

First Play: 1st and 10 at the 20 yard line. They run the ball and gain 3 yards.

Second Play: 2nd and 7 at the 23 yard line. They run the ball and gain 2 yards.

Third Play: 3rd and 5 at the 25 yard line. They complete a pass for 4 yards.

Fourth Play: 4th and 1 at the 29 yard line.

Each team is allowed four downs. On fourth down you can run another regular play and try to get the first down, but this is uncommon. On fourth down the ball is usually kicked. If they are close enough to kick a field goal, they will attempt it. Otherwise, they will be forced to punt.

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Comments

Jan 15, 2013 2:15pm
emerald125
Great idea - I need a guide like this for all sports ;-)
Jan 15, 2013 3:03pm
BaronTarquin
Football is really my forte, but it's possible there could be more to come.
Jan 21, 2013 12:02pm
Marlando
Wow--as an old football fan, I think you've just written a vital article. Indeed, you ought to somehow commercialize the info--maybe a download that's called "Understanding the game?" I don't know but I see your thoughts and information as of value. Incidentally, my wife is as big of a fan as I am. I'm a lucky guy 'cause its she who turns on the TV every Sunday and Monday to catch the games. Anyway, five stars and a rating/
Jan 21, 2013 12:12pm
BaronTarquin
Hmm.. I never really thought about turning this into a product. Perhaps someday, but I have a lot of other project to work on right now. Thanks for the idea and the visit.
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