Tis the season for the start of the NFL. Fa la la la la, la la la la. For men, this often means studying stats, drafting fantasy players, and dedicating every Sunday for the rest of the year to one thing: the game. For women, the start of the NFL might mean the very same thing or it may mean something entirely different.
The first kickoff may mean women have the ability to tell their husbands anything on Sundays – that they wrecked the car, that they are having an affair, that they used to be a man – and their husbands will utter an, "Oh, that's nice honey." Football, when it comes down to it, leaves many men in a trance, from September to February.
Men's obsession with football is understandable: it is a fun game to watch. Yet, why is this obsession generally only limited to the male species. Football is a game involving well-built, good-looking men in tight outfits. So, why aren’t more women watching it?
Some women may find themselves easily frustrated by the rules and laws of the game, but nothing about the game is above female comprehension. All it takes is a basic understanding.
The Essentials: Football is a battle between two teams, with each team striving to score more points than the other by advancing a ball made of pigskin; it is a game based on selfish motives: every player wants the ball, every team wants to win, and no one ever feels sorry for the pig.
Eleven men from each team are on the field at a time. The players with possession of the ball are called the offense — their aim is to move the ball down the field and score points. They can advance by throwing the ball, running the ball, or flirting with the refs. The players without the ball are called the defense and their aim is to regain possession of the ball by stopping the offense. This can be done by intercepting the ball (catching a pass that was intended for an offensive player), recovering a fumble (grabbing a ball that has been dropped by an offensive player), pushing an offensive player out of bounds, or tackling (pulling down an offensive player until at least one of his knees touches the ground).
Ten yard increments on a 100-yard field are the cornerstone of the game (yes ladies, this only further perpetuate men’s obsession with length). The offense is given four downs (or chances) to go these ten yards. If a team goes ten yards, they are awarded a first down and four more chances to go ten more yards. If they don’t go ten yards, coaches scream, innocent clipboards are thrown to the ground, and possession of the ball is turned over to the other team. The roles then reverse.
Refs: Each football game is overseen by seven officials who are strategically placed in certain areas of the field. The general rule of thumb is simple: whenever the refs make a call in favor of the opposing team they are deemed blind degenerates of nature who should be dragged out into the street and shot. If the opposing team wins, it is always, always the ref’s fault.
Time: One game of football is divided into four 15-minute quarters and a 12-minute half time break. Because the clock stops with every incomplete pass, when a player goes out of bounds, when a penalty is committed, or when a team takes a time out, time in football is not real time. Women must keep in mind that a reversal of the ideology that enables men to describe a two-minute romp in the sack as a “full night of love making” applies to football and each quarter will always last longer than fifteen minutes. A good rule of thumb is to multiply the amount of minutes on the game clock by three. If there are ten minutes left in the game, assume that those ten minutes will take a half hour.
Scoring: There are five ways a team can generate points in a football game. They can score a touchdown, get an extra point, score a two-point conversion, kick a field goal, or get a safety.
Touchdown: A touchdown is worth six points and is awarded on offense when the ball is carried across the goal line into the end zone, or caught in the end zone by an offensive player. The defense can also score a touchdown by running an intercepted ball or a fumble recovered ball into their own end zone.
Point after Touchdown: Following a touchdown, the coaches can opt to go for an extra point. An extra point, or Point After Touchdown (PAT), involves placing the ball on the 2 -yard line and having the kicker kick the ball through the uprights. A PAT, because of its simplicity, is usually thought of as a sure thing and is worth one point.
Two Point Conversion: After a touchdown, the coaches can go for a two-point conversion instead of a PAT. Two-point conversions are more difficult than an extra point and thus, they are typically only used when a team is trying to tie a game, when a team is desperate, or when a team is trying to cushion their lead by a certain amount of points. Like an extra point, a two-point conversion involves lining up on the two-yard line. Instead of bringing in a kicker, however, the quarterback and the offense remain in the game. Upon snapping the ball, the offense has one down to get the ball in the end zone. If they are successful, two points are awarded. If they are unsuccessful, the coaches yell and the kicker, knowing he would have surely made the extra point, secretly gloats.
Field Goal: If the offense cannot score a touchdown but is still within field goal range, they may opt to go for a field goal. Though field goals can be attempted anywhere on the field and on any down, most field goals are attempted inside a team’s 45-yard line on the fourth down. In order for a field goal to be good, the ball must sail over the crossbar and in between the two uprights. Field goals, worth three points, are usually the deciding factor in many last second or overtime games.
Safety: Safeties are the rarest way to score in football; teams can go for entire seasons without scoring one. They are only scored by the defense and only occur when the offensive ball carrier (usually the quarterback or running back) is tackled behind his own goal line. When this happens, the team that did the tackling is awarded two points. In order for a safety to even be possible, the offensive team must be pinned very deep in their own territory.
Once a woman understands the basics of football – how the game is played and how points are scored – she will be well on her way to understanding football in its entirety. She might not necessarily understand the men watching football, but football itself will be comprehended.
When all is said and done, football is not a hard sport for women to understand. It is a sport aimed at men; thus, it can’t be that hard to understand.