Can anybody help me fake some football basics?

For work reasons, I am going to have to attend a pro football game this weekend: the Philadelphia Eagles versus the Minnesota…um, well, I don’t actually know the name of the team from Minnesota.* That’s part of the reason I’m starting this thread; I know virtually nothing about football, and if I’m going to have to fake interest for however long these games last, I’d like to rectify that. Can anybody volunteer stuff I should know?
*Okay, I just looked it up; it’s the Vikings. I suppose that makes sense.

You should know the basic structure of the game. It is played as a series of individual plays with short breaks between them. The team with the ball has 4 downs (attempts) to advance the ball and either (1) score or (2) advance the ball 10 yards to get a first down again. The announcers will describe the current game state in the form “down and length remaining”, for example “1st and 10”, “3rd and 3 (yards)”, “2nd and goal”. On the 4th down, teams will usually attempt to kick a field goal (if they’re close enough), or punt, which is kicking the ball away to the other team. Occasionally they’ll just run another normal play, but this is not common.

There are two basic ways to score: carrying or catching the ball in the end of the field (the end zone) is a touchdown, worth 6 points + a chance at an extra 1 or 2 points (almost always 1 point via a kick), or kicking the ball through the goalposts (field goal) worth 3 points. There are other ways to score, but they don’t come up in most games.

The positions all have specific names and responsibilities. Here are a few important ones. The Quarterback is the guy who has the ball and (usually) passes it or hands it off for someone to run. The Receivers are the guys who catch the ball. The Running Backs are the guys who carry the ball and run with it. The line is the group of guys on both teams that line up and push against each other to try to tackle the guy with the ball or make a hole for the guy with the ball to get through, depending on which team they’re on.

Clock management is a big part of the strategy of the game. Some plays stop the clock and some keep them running, and the same is true of penalties. Depending on the time left in the game, the teams may play differently to either give themselves more time to come back, or to try to run the clock out on their opponents.

Penalties are a common occurrence. Some common ones are:
False start. The offense has to be in a set formation before starting the play. If one of the players on the offense starts moving before the offense snaps the ball, this is a false start, and they’re penalized.

Holding. This is when one player holds onto another player to prevent him from moving. This is often called on the offensive linemen who are holding one of the defensive players back from getting to the players with the ball.

Clipping. This is blocking from behind.

Pass interference. This is when a player tries to prevent a catch by interfering with the player attempting it. It’s legal for either player to try for the ball, but not to try to screw with the other player intentionally.

Who will the people you’re going with be rooting for? The Minnesota Viking will be wearing purple, while the Philadelphia Eagles will be wearing green helmets and white shirts.
If you’re faking interest, it’s important to cheer only for one team.

Minnesota, I assume, as the client is in Minneapolis.

Wikipedia says it’s a domed stadium; how warm should I expect it to be inside?

Are any of the Eagles’ players especially notorious for rules violations, so I should be ready to disparage them?

(And no, I’m not going to use the word “disparage.”)

It’s too bad you’re not a girl. People LOVE explaining sports to girls. Even if I have a sort of basic understanding of a sport, I ask people like my dad’s clients to explain it to me because it makes them feel really good about themselves. :slight_smile:

Your job requires attendance at NFL playoff games? I want to work where you work.

You’ll be attending what is known as a Wildcard playoff game. The Vikings are the NFC North division champions. The Eagles are a wild card team. Whichever team loses is done for the year. The winning team will advance to the next round of playoffs.

The Eagles quarterback is Donovan McNabb. He’s a seasoned veteran, a good player, not really in a good situation this year. There’s some friction between him and the Coach…and one or both of them may be unemployed after the season.

The Eagles are favored to win the game, which is somewhat unusual in that they’re the visiting team.

Also, Philly fans are notoriously obnoxious. They’ve been known to boo Santa, among other indiscretions.

Actually, the Eagles were one of the least penalized teams in the league this year.
Just be aware that when you see a yellow bit a fabric (called a flag) fly up in the air, somebody broke the rules. The head referee will announce what happened to the stadium via a PA system.

Is there a team sport that you are familiar with, so analogies can be made?

You underestimate the depth of my nerditude. Unless you can make a chess analogy.

I’m going to go to the bookstore and get a copy fo Football for Dummies later, though.

Weird things happen in corporate sales. I’ve gone to any number of baseball games.

I’m going to Minneapolis, so I assume I’ll be rooting for the Vikings.

I emailed **Kim the Rhymer **with the news about what I’d be doing this weekend, and she is simply furious…that she doesn’t get to go. Are these tickets likely to be in assigned locations? I could maybe buy her one and get in good with the wife, if nothing else. Plus it’s a social-business occasion and she is nothing if not sociable.

Ten zillion years ago, one of my bosses realized I knew nothing about football; he advised that we punt in regards to a given customer who wanted an unreasonable amount for the car she was trading in, and was horrified when I asked him to translate that into English. He decided to correct that, so we went to the sports bar next to our office one Saturday night so he and the other sales folk could school me. I was distracted by the waitresses, unfortunately, so nothing stuck.

I wish I could help, but the extent of my sports prattle consists of “So, how about them Lakers?” and then letting the other person just talk.

Chess is not a bad analog for football.
The quarterback is the king, the running back is the queen, the wide receivers are like the bishops and rooks. The tight end is like a knight. The linemen are somewhat like pawns, in that they push up against each other and the ones that push hardest win, the difference is that they’re bigger than everybody else.
Imagine if the king could take off the little cross on his head and throw it to another piece.

In any case, see if you can find time to watch a college football game or two in the next week. The basics are the the same, and you can come back here and ask questions.

If you see a yellow flag go up and the Viking are on defense, say something like, " That guy was holding!" If the Viking are on Offense, say something like, “Yeah, we got caught holding”.

“Holding” is a penalty that occurs on nearly every single play, though it doesn’t always get called. If the flag is indeed holding, you get football fan cred and can probably watch the rest of the game without anyone suspecting a thing. If the flag isn’t for holding and someone else sees an actual holding penalty that didn’t get called and says so. You get super fan cred for picking up on something the refs missed.

Even if no one was holding on that play, you won’t get negative cred because it still sounds like you know what you are talking about.

Use this trick sparingly - probably best to do only once or twice during the game. Good luck.

Holy, crap, brewha, I’ve been watching football for years, and can recite the nuances between rugby and football (including for the reasons and history behind different rules in different situations), and I never realized until just now that I do exactly what you’ve suggested. If there’s a flag that I didn’t see what the penalty was, I just proclaim that it was offensive holding. Weird. But I’m right 95% of the time, as long as it wasn’t illegal formation or something stupid.

**Sklad, ** the advice so far has been good. I’d advise learning what’s been posted so far, and not trying to cram much more in. Like my wrestling coach in high school taught me, it’s better to perfect a few moves then to know dozens of them sloppily.

If you’re gonna be hanging with a Vikings crowd, you might make favorable reference to Alan Page. He was a great player, and is now an Associate Justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Played for the Vikings from 1967-1978, finished his career in 1981 with the Bears. He was a defensive lineman, and I think his defensive unit was nicknamed “The Purple People Eaters”…but you might want to verify the nickname before using it for fan cred purposes.

I won’t go that far as to faking it, but I might ask about him. People are always happy to show off what they know.

In fact, now that I think on it, that’s exactly the sort of thing I should do. What sort of football questions should I ask a Vikings fan during small talk?

Shit, this is BEGGING for a T.O. / Jeff Garcia joke…

ETA : Oops, misread RB as Receiver. Still funny, tho…


Ask who the six monarchs were who started the team.VI kingsJust kidding. Don’t do that.

Maybe someone else can answer this. While I understand the rules of football and enjoy watching it from time to time, I don’t follow professional sports at all, and only follow college ball to the extent that I sometimes pay attention to Berkeley’s games so I can talk to my dad (who’s a big fan) about them.

My advice is to just stay away John Madden-like observances, such as: