help a confused girl out

I’m gonna be going to a super bowl party on Sunday, but I’ve got a little problem. I can’t figure out the game. Can any of you give me a quick verbal rundown on how football works so I don’t look stupid?

I’m a football idiot, too, but Mr. Athena is a big fan, and here’s what he told me:

So there’s two teams. The idea is to move the ball down the field, 10 yards at a time. Each team gets 4 tries, or “downs” to try to move the ball at least 10 yards. If they succeed in that, they get another try for another 10 yards, and so on and so forth.

When you hear the announcer say stuff like “2nd and 15” that means that it’s the second down, and they have 15 yards to go to get their 10 yards. How do they have 15 yards, you ask, when the whole point is to only move 10 yards? Well, the ball can go backwards, too. Amazing.

While they’re making plays, all sorts of things can happen, but the worst is when the other team catches the ball. That means that you didn’t make your 10 yards, and now it’s the other team’s turn to try to make their 10 yards.

Don’t even ask me how scoring works. It’s a big mess. You get (I think) 6 points for a touchdown (ie, when you get the ball all the way to the end of the field) and then another point for kicking the ball through the goal posts (A field goal, right?) But then there’s some way to get 3 points for a field goal, too. I’m sure someone will drop in and explain.

(If this makes any sense at all, and anybody learns anything about football, I’ll be surprised as hell. I barely understand the game - too many rules. I’ll stick with Hockey.)

QI, don’t worry about it. It’s been my experience that you can play football without understanding the rules.

If you must know the basics each team wants to get the ball to the opposite end of the field. They take turns doing it. Each time a team gets the ball they have four turns, called “downs” to move it at least ten yards. If they get the ten yards they earn a first down which means another four turns. If they don’t thikn they can manage the ten on the fourth down they usually punt to send the ball as far as they can before the other team take posession. Add to all of that all kinds of arcane rules and penalties, tossed yellow hankies (sounds like Scarlett Friggin O’Hara), lots of violence and plenty of cheating (but not as much as if the Raiders were playing)

Personally I think you get a better feel for the game listening to George Carlin’s Baseball vs. Football routine.

OK, I’ll help you in your time of need.

There’s 11 guys on either side of the ball. The offense usually starts their plays in a huddle, where they all get together and talk about what play they’re going to run (pass the ball or throw the ball or whatever). It’s during this time they also decide where they will go for dinner afterwards and who gets the ball is decided by a round of rock-paper-scissors.

Where the ball is place is called the “line of scrimmage” This line extends across the widtch of the feild. No player can cross the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped or else it’s a penalty. Usually a loss of yards, but sometimes it’s a public caning adminstered by the referee.

The offense will line up in the formation discussed during the huddle. The quraterback at this time may call an “audible”. This means he will change the play from what was discussed in the huddle if he thinks the defense is anticipating what the offensive play is. The QB then gooses the center, who, in his surprise, snaps the ball back to the QB.

At this point everyone tries to jump on everyone else while the offense tries to move the ball downfield. They get 4 tries, called “downs”, to move the ball 10 yards. If they make the 10 yards, they get another 4 tries. This continues until they score or run out of downs.

You know, I could go on and on, but here’s a Layman’s Guide to American Football:

I almost forgot the best thing to put it in perspective. In American football only a couple of guys actually get to kick the football and that is only a few times per game. In the game the whole rest of the world calls football only one guy on each team is allowd to used his hands. With a game that makes that much sense do you really want to know all the rules? :smiley:

In most cases, when the team doesn’t get ten yards in three tries, or downs, they punt the ball. Punting is like the goalie kicking it in soccer, except the other team gets it. Then they get four downs to get ten yards (or more).

If a team has, for example, a yard left to get after three downs, sometimes they’ll do what’s called a fourth down conversion, wherein they try to get the remaining yard or whatever. If they succeed, they get a new set of downs. If not, tough luck and the other team gets the ball.

Say it’s first and ten at the 25 yard line of the Giants, and the Giants have the ball. Kerry Collins drops back to pass (think - he goes back five yards to see who’s open so he can throw the ball to that guy), and tony siragusa comes and tackles Kerry Collins where Collins is standing (five yards behind the line of scrimmage) for a sack (getting the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage is a sack). Collins loses five yards and it’s 2nd and 15.

A touchdown is where someone runs into the endzone with the football—whether they caught a pass or rushed it in is irrelevant. They can then go for the extra point (they kick the ball between two metal posts for a point), or a two-point conversion (get the ball in the endzone again).

A field goal is where you kick the ball through those metal posts (called the uprights) but didn’t score a touchdown on the previous play.

A safety is where you tackle someone in the endzone when they didn’t start out there. Tough to explain without visuals, but I’ll do my best:

Player Chris Simon takes a punt at the three yard line and tries to run to the side of opposing players George Lombard and Antonio McDyess. In order to do this, he runs part-way into the endzone. McDyess tackles him there and the football, when Simon’s first knee is down, is still in the endzone. Two points to McDyess’s team, and what follows is really screwy. Simon’s team actually punts the ball TO McDyess’s team and McDyess’s team gets the ball from wherever they return it to.

Anything else you want to know about . . . forward pass, intentional grounding, instant replay?

Queenie, let us know how much you want to know, and I’d be glad to throw my Beginner’s Guide to Football back up on the web somewhere (it came down when I lost my 'SC server space due to that pesky graduation thing). It was fairly comprehensive - all the positions and responsibilities, scoring, the more important rules and jargon, and so forth. It’s also bandwidth friendly! :slight_smile:

A touchdown is 6 points, the extra point (kicking the ball through the uprights) or 2-point conversion (getting the ball into the endzone again) I hope are self-explanitory.

To score a touchdown, it IS NOT necessary for the player with the ball to enter the endzone. The ball itself simply has to cross the line of the endzone, while the player has clear control (called possession) and is in bounds.


This is usually done on 4th downs when the team with the ball doesn’t think they can get another 1st down, but are close enough to the endzone to be able to kick the ball through the uprights. This is worth 3 points.

Let me see if I can’t explain this a little simpler, since you may not know all those names iampunha was using.

Remember his example of a sack? Imagine the quarterback drops back to pass the ball and in doing so enters the endzone his team is defending. If he is sacked while in his own endzone, the other team gets 2 points and then gets to receive a kickoff.