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A tale of taking other people's land by force
January 22, 2014 2:37 PM   Subscribe

A Guide To American Football. [2:48 Video] Superbowl Sunday is fast approaching. If you do not know the rules of American Football, here is a chance to learn.
posted by cashman (161 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think Robert Downey Jr's character said it best in Back to School:
"Violent ground acquisition games such as football is in fact a crypto-fascist metaphor for nuclear war."
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 2:47 PM on January 22 [5 favorites]


Is there a play called "the eminent domain?"
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:53 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


Soon to be obsoleted by the NFL's plan to get rid PAT kicks.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:04 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


Nearly 3 minutes and not one mention of the on-side kick?! I've been watching football for 30 years and I still don't understand how it works.
posted by photoslob at 3:05 PM on January 22


Not much to the onside kick, really. On a kickoff, the ball can be claimed by either team once it goes ten yards. There are some weird newish rules about how many players can be on either side of the kicker, but other than that, there's not much to understand.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:06 PM on January 22


That's actually a really good primer. I'd like to see one of those about cricket, which is totally incomprehensible to me.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:09 PM on January 22 [3 favorites]


photoslob: They kick it from the tee as if it were a kickoff. If it goes more than 10 yards, or is contacted by a member of the receiving team, a member of the kicking team is eligible to recover it. The strategy is to give a kick that will carom off of a member of the receiving team, or be caught and then dropped, at which point the kicking team tries to recover it.
posted by graymouser at 3:10 PM on January 22


Or to dribble it straight up the middle and have the kicker recover his own kick at exactly 10 yards before the other team touches it at all.
posted by nathancaswell at 3:15 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


At this point I don't want to learn how cricket works so I can continue to marvel at how absurd it is.
posted by kiltedtaco at 3:15 PM on January 22 [6 favorites]


Does it have an offside rule?
posted by Artw at 3:20 PM on January 22 [3 favorites]


At this point I don't want to learn how cricket works so I can continue to marvel at how absurd it is.

Cricket is awesome, and way less byzentine than American football. Probably simpler than baseball, even. And more fun to play on the beach.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 3:21 PM on January 22 [3 favorites]


"Violent ground acquisition games such as football is in fact a crypto-fascist metaphor for nuclear war."

Nah, nuclear war is wrong. Though it is probably a metaphor for Napoleonic-era setpiece infantry battles; basically two armies setting up across an empty field and beating the shit out of each other in order to capture a slice of ground, at intense personal cost and mostly for the benefit of the aristocracy looking on from a nearby hilltop.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:21 PM on January 22 [30 favorites]


This is way too coherent. I was hoping for something more like this guide to cricket.
posted by Madamina at 3:21 PM on January 22 [5 favorites]


Also helpful.
posted by nathancaswell at 3:23 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


> Does it have an offside rule?

It has a "silly mid off".
posted by benito.strauss at 3:24 PM on January 22


So who has the license to do a Blood Bowl comic these days, anyway?
posted by Artw at 3:32 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


yes it has an offside rule. at the moment the ball is kicked, the other 10 members of the kicking team cannot be past the line where the ball is spotted, otherwise those other 10 would be cheerfully heading downfield to block members of the receiving team before the kick.
posted by bruce at 3:36 PM on January 22


I've always thought a good game where field position is key most closely resembles the Korean War.
posted by nathancaswell at 3:36 PM on January 22


I thought the key rule of the super bowl was that you had to buy a pickup truck to be a real American.
posted by srboisvert at 3:38 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


What about penalty shots?
posted by gottabefunky at 3:42 PM on January 22


I think the players explain it better themselves.
posted by vrakatar at 3:45 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


most closely resembles the Korean War.

Huh, I think Curling is the best sports metaphor for that one.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:45 PM on January 22


No penalty shots but we do have the "Palpably Unfair Act", which is right up there with "Illegal Touching" as far as penalty names go.
posted by nathancaswell at 3:46 PM on January 22


I totally get kicking it to careen off a member of the opposing team and then recovering the ball but this whole-dribble-kick-10-yards-and-recover-it thing makes my head hurt.
posted by photoslob at 3:46 PM on January 22


The weirdest thing about the 10 yards and the ball is live on an onside kick rule is if you kick it deep and the receiving team doesn't touch it at all, the ball is NOT live.
posted by nathancaswell at 3:50 PM on January 22


Really? I don't think so. All kickoffs are live as far as I'm aware.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:53 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


No, that's why you get plays where a gunner downs the ball at the one or whatever, or when the kicking team crowds around the ball and waits for it to roll as far as it can before downing it. If the ball were live they would just pick it up and carry it into the endzone.
posted by nathancaswell at 3:54 PM on January 22


All kickoffs are live balls as soon as they go ten yards. Punts, on the other hand, cannot be touched by members of the kicking team until touched by a receiver
posted by enjoymoreradio at 3:55 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


You can only down a punt. If the kick returner doesn't grab the kickoff, it's up for grabs.
posted by enjoymoreradio at 3:56 PM on January 22


Oh shit, you're totally right, I was thinking punts. You never see a kickoff go over the head of a returner.
posted by nathancaswell at 3:56 PM on January 22


Opening sentence: "The guide to football: for liberals, ladies, and limeys."

Sometimes, after a few beers, you can get a conservative to denounce that their side contains even a shred of intellectualism.
posted by Brian B. at 3:56 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


The intentional dribble kick for an onsides kick accomplishes two goals
1) makes the ball difficult for the receiving team to field due to the irregular nature of the ball's flight/carom.

2) increases the travel time of the ball going that 10 yards so as to facilitate players on the kicking team getting to a position down the field where they can recover the live ball before the receiving team.
posted by Fezboy! at 3:57 PM on January 22


George Carlin:
In football the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy's defensive line.


posted by Cookiebastard at 3:58 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


"...100 yards of freshly cut American Astroturf, where each blade of grass..."

what

no
posted by Sys Rq at 3:59 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


In my head, the rules of Brockian Ultra Cricket are basically the same as the rules of regular cricket, and this is why I can never actually watch regular cricket, because I will be inevitably disappointed by the number of legs anybody has.
posted by Sequence at 4:03 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


"Well, you see, Elliot, although Barworld's main attraction is its bars, it is a resort world. It's got a lot of subdivisions."

"And this one's an island, right?"

"Yeah, that's right. It's a resort for drinking football players and fans."

"What's football?"

"I don't know. I mean I know, I got the explanation, but I couldn't understand a word of it. Something like two yards to conversion of a left out back, pass the ball and eat the goalpost. Or something like that."

"Sounds hideously complex. A sport only for intellectuals, I imagine."

"Yeah. The strain of thinking about football appears to be so great that the fans watch the teams play and then beat each other up. Once in a while, just for yucks, they drink themselves senseless, have a massive stampede and crush hundreds. Great sport, huh?"


—from Bill the Galactic Hero on the Planet of Ten Thousand Bars by David Bischoff and Harry Harrison
posted by XMLicious at 4:03 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


from that PAT link. I like the idea of making them try for the extra point from where the touchdown was scored. that's pretty cool. cause it is sort of a given it seems like.
posted by sio42 at 4:05 PM on January 22


Opening sentence: "The guide to football, for liberals, ladies, and limeys."

Sometimes, after a few beers, you can get a conservative to openly denounce any hint that their side contains a shred of intellectualism.

There are days when my last remaining thread of patience for American conservatism is stretched so taut you could string a crossbow with it, and today was one of those days, and still I took that in good humor.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:06 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


also even tho there are like eight comments here "explaining" on-side kick I am still baffled. I've stopped trying to figure it out.
posted by sio42 at 4:10 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


Guys, I am putting forward the proposal that not everything in this video is completely serious.
posted by Justinian at 4:12 PM on January 22


I heard this great thing in one of my classes about football that came to mind when I saw the bit about taking other people's land, and that's football vs. baseball as an American struggle between agrarian culture, as represented by baseball, where everyone has to be able to do multiple roles (as is the case on family farms) and the game lasts as long as it needs to, and football, where the roles are clearly regimented (as is the case with Taylorist assembly-line factories) and time is carefully split into segments.

I'm still not sure if I really buy it, but I still find it entertaining.
posted by NoraReed at 4:13 PM on January 22 [8 favorites]


sio42: its not complicated. It's when the kicking team kicks the ball short (but at least 10 yards) in order to try to get the ball before the receiving team. That's it. The rest is commentary.
posted by Justinian at 4:13 PM on January 22


"a few hundred pages of regulatory minutiae" about sums it up.
posted by xmutex at 4:15 PM on January 22 [3 favorites]


A kickoff is you buying a drink for someone you notice at the end of the bar. You let the bartender deliver and point to you but you wait for the receiving end to approach you. An onside kick is when you order the drink and as soon as the bartender delivers it to the person, you walk over to that person to attempt to engage.

A punt is when you buy a drink for a person and then leave the bar.
posted by perhapses at 4:16 PM on January 22 [14 favorites]


The only difference between an onside kick and a regular kickoff is that in an onside kick, the kicking teams intends to recover the ball and maintain possession. By rule the ball must travel 10 yards or be touched by a defender before they can recover. If they wanted to kick it really high 45 yards downfield with the idea somebody could run under and catch it they can do that too. It probably won't work, but then, the usual onside kick rarely works if the defense is expecting it.
posted by COD at 4:17 PM on January 22


My favorite guide to this year's super bowl: "We'll be punting a lot, on 2nd, even on 1st down."
posted by A dead Quaker at 4:18 PM on January 22 [3 favorites]


I used to hate sports because I didn't play them. I didn't play them, because I was always the last one picked for any given team. The Alpha's had it. I didn't. So I stopped, and found the keyboard and qbasic instead. In 7th grade, I was a remedial math student. Then, I started scripting and learning to make the computer do anything I wanted. And then I became an A math student. That was thirty years ago. Every few years or so I'd watch a game, an exciting game, where stuff happens, like Hockey or basketball (not like baseball where sometimes there are zero runs), and I just couldn't get into it. Not that I disliked it but because I frankly didn't give a shit who won. I tried putting money into it, betting for one team or another, but I always just thought I hated sports, and sports didn't seem very beneficial in any way. I started to loathe how TPTB would stir up vast economies in cities, using taxes and non-profit status to push whatever they wanted, having us taxpayers pay for much of it. And to top that off, taxpayer funded sports complexes would get more donations from powerful corporations, who would rename them so that I would have to say the name of a corporate entity that I hate each time I would make reference to that area "you know, that place right next to the Buy-N-Large Superdome."

And then I realized something that changed my view. Sports keep Alphas busy. This is a very good thing. Idle hands do devils work, so to speak. Can you imagine how much fighting and war we would have if we didn't have these false-and-mostly-harmless-conflicts? Imagine a world without soccer, or American football or hockey or basketball. The world would be flung into chaos without any outlet for the excitement and enthusiasm of the alphas.

So I like sports.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 4:19 PM on January 22 [8 favorites]


Also, when a player catches a pass or tackles an opposing player, a dance is normally performed. The dance is an elaborate display of jumps, arm flexing, and bodily gyrations, which may or may not accompany verbal intonations. Mating between players has not been observed subsequent to these displays.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 4:22 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


There is another way the defense can score, also with a safety, but it only counts for one point and happens during the point-after attempt. Happened last year during an Oregon game.

I think it's still on the books that you can try to drop-kick a field goal from the point of catching a punt, but I can't remember the last time anybody has ever tried it.

Onside/offside kicks never bothered me much, but I do find the various "illegal formation" and "ineligible receiver" calls a bit odd sometimes.

Football popularized "Heavy Action" as part of Monday Night Football, which will always be the One True Football Theme in my mind.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 4:25 PM on January 22


perhapses that is the best comment ever. at least about football.
I will remember that.
posted by sio42 at 4:32 PM on January 22


The dances also frequently contain various pop culture references.
posted by kiltedtaco at 4:33 PM on January 22


I still don't understand what a down is.
posted by Mizu at 4:33 PM on January 22


I think it's still on the books that you can try to drop-kick a field goal from the point of catching a punt, but I can't remember the last time anybody has ever tried it.

September 26, 2013. The 49ers tried a fair catch kick at the end of the first half. It missed. Wikipedia has a list of all the attempts. Hasn't worked since 1976.
posted by graymouser at 4:34 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


I think it's still on the books that you can try to drop-kick a field goal from the point of catching a punt, but I can't remember the last time anybody has ever tried it.

The last dropkick:

Believe it or not, the dropkick remains a legal maneuver in the National Football League today. It still exists in the NFL's official rule book. Rule 3, Section 8 defines the dropkick as, "a kick by a kicker who drops the ball and kicks it as, or immediately after, it touches the ground."

Obviously, the New England Patriots were well aware of this fact. In the team's 2005 regular season finale against the Miami Dolphins, quarterback Doug Flutie dropkicked an extra point following a 9-yard touchdown reception by wide receiver Tim Dwight in the fourth quarter. Flutie's point-after-attempt was the first drop kick converted in the NFL in more than six decades.


-

There is another way the defense can score, also with a safety, but it only counts for one point and happens during the point-after attempt. Happened last year during an Oregon game.


Don't believe it could happen that way in the NFL.

The NFL also allows for the one-point safety, but only for the offense. Because play ends on an NFL conversion as soon as the defense gains possession, the only way this really could happen is if the defense batted the ball from the field of play into its own end zone.

NFL Rule 11-3-2-d: If there is no kick, and the Try results in what would ordinarily be a safety against the defense, one point is awarded to the offensive team.

posted by Drinky Die at 4:35 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


I still don't understand what a down is.

A down is an attempt by the offense to advance the ball. They get four downs to move the ball 10 yards. If they succeed, they get a new set of four downs to do it again, etc. etc. If they fail, the other team gets the ball.
posted by Etrigan at 4:38 PM on January 22


Okay, but this still doesn't explain the leotards and the bicycle helmets.
posted by monospace at 4:40 PM on January 22 [7 favorites]


Downs are covered 53 seconds into the video.
posted by cashman at 4:41 PM on January 22


You want as little loose clothing as possible to be grabbed onto by the opposing team, or to slow you down with wind resistance and chafing. It's a bad idea to run full speed into a large, athletic man who is trying to stop you from doing so and the 'bicycle helmets' are (probably literally given the NFL) the least possible protection to your brain while doing so.
posted by codacorolla at 4:42 PM on January 22


Dreadlocks are also a poor style choice if you can avoid wearing them.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:44 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


Given the media coverage on blown calls and other mistakes, sometimes even the game's referees and umpires don't know all the rules.

Honestly, I can't blame them. Rules change every year; must be difficult to keep track of whenever something that used to be legal is now illegal, and vice versa.
posted by CancerMan at 4:44 PM on January 22


The best American Football penalty is "Giving Him The Business."
posted by Rock Steady at 4:47 PM on January 22 [8 favorites]


This seems as good a place as any to note that Bill Harris of the wonderful Dubious Quality has just released a football card game on Steam called Gridiron Solitaire.

He's also put a guide to American Football on the forums.
posted by Sebmojo at 4:51 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


Oh! And a preview.
posted by Sebmojo at 5:04 PM on January 22


Idle hands do devils work, so to speak. Can you imagine how much fighting and war we would have if we didn't have these false-and-mostly-harmless-conflicts? Imagine a world without soccer, or American football or hockey or basketball.

Actually, the violent psychos are being distracted by Dungeons and Dragons and Doctor Who. Both developed by the CIA specifically for that purpose. Sports are just another harmless version of reality TV.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:07 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


A down is 1/4 of your turn. If you make it 10 yards, you get another turn. Use your turn to try to advance the MacGuffin (the ball) to your goal. Your goal is 50 yards from the center of the playing field, which is the opponents job to prevent.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 5:08 PM on January 22


Years ago I saw John Cleese in an interview saying that the American national sport is actually talking. The gist was that American football contains very little actual playing compared to the amount of time the various people involved in the game spend talking.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:26 PM on January 22


Then there's Canadian Football. One less down, ten more yards, more men in motion... And probably some other weird differences I can't remember. Because the arcane rules of American Football weren't weird enough.
posted by tonycpsu at 5:27 PM on January 22


"A down is an attempt by the offense to advance the ball. They get four downs to move the ball 10 yards."

Just replace "down" with "try" or "attempt". And "end zone" with "home area".

You get four tries to move the ball ten yards (not ten yards each try, but ten yards total) toward the other team's "home area" at the end of the field, which is how you score a touchdown. If you don't manage this, the other team gets the ball wherever it ended up on that last "attempt". If you do manage this, the count starts over and you have another four "tries" to go another ten yards.

If you don't manage the ten yards, this is usually pretty bad, especially if you're still very close to your own "home area". (Because the other team will get the ball close to where they can score a touchdown.)

So almost always on that last "attempt" the team with the ball just kicks it, called a "punt", way down the field where the other team catches it and takes possession, much farther away from the first team's "home area" than if the first team had made that last "try", not managed it, and had to give the other team the ball right there.

The previously discussed onside kick is not legal during a punt. However, a team can set up as if they are going to punt but then instead try to run or pass the ball to make the ten yards on that last "try". This rarely works.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:31 PM on January 22 [3 favorites]


Computer nerds shitting on sports is just as inane as sports nerds shitting on computers. High school sucked, let's not keep reenacting it our entire sad lives.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:32 PM on January 22 [28 favorites]


I like explaining games. Let me try, again in general terms and not explicating minutia, and open to correction:

AMERICAN FOOTBALL --

The OBJECT is for your team to gain possession of the ball and advance it to the opposite end of a 100-yard field. The team with the ball is called the OFFENSE; the other team tries to stop them, and is the DEFENSE. The game proceeds in small increments called plays, beginning with the SNAP and ending either with a TACKLE, OUT-OF-BOUNDS, or scoring points.

Between each play, the ball is considered to be a spot on the field where it ended up at the end of the last play; the horizontal line across the field where that ball rests is called the LINE OF SCRIMMAGE. The act of putting the ball into play from this spot is the Snap. There is a degree of formality regarding these regarding how the ball is snapped and how the players are lined up, but in general the ball is handed to one player on Offense called the QUARTERBACK, who may then at his option: 1. run the ball forward himself; 2. pass it to another player laterally (behind the line of scrimmage) who tries to run it (LATERAL PASS); 3. pass the ball forward to a RECEIVER beyond the line of scrimmage who has run downfield, who then tries to run the ball forward (FORWARD PASS); or 4. kick the ball (PUNT), abandoning possession of the ball to the other team but sending it a good way in the process, from which they will have to return it to score. Since this means moving to Defense, with greatly reduced scoring opportunities, this is generally only done as a last resort.

On each play, after the Snap, the Offensive team tries to advance the ball before the running ball carrier is brought down to the turf by a Tackle. The horizontal line where the carrier is brought down becomes the new Line Of Scrimmage, whether it is ahead or behind of the previous line. (The player with the ball can voluntarily end a play by running Out-Of-Bounds.) Ideally, the Offensive team will advance the ball at least a bit. They have four plays, or DOWNS, to advance the ball ten yards. Failure means the ball changes possession; the Offense team becomes the Defense, and vice versa. Success means the Down count is reset.

Throughout the game, each team tries to outscore the other team, through the gaining of points in four different ways:
* A TOUCHDOWN is when Offense manages to advance the ball to the end of the field, called the ENDZONE. This is worth six points, and is the primary goal of play.
* After a Touchdown, the Offense sets up again some way up-field and gets one play to advance the ball to the endzone again -- if they succeed, they earn two points. They may opt instead to kick the ball through the large, upright GOALPOSTS, for one point. This is the EXTRA POINT ATTEMPT, or CONVERSION. Afterward, the ball changes possession.
* Instead of running the ball in, if the Offense can instead kick the ball through the Goalposts, they instead earn three points. This is a FIELD GOAL; the ball changes possession and no extra point attempt is allowed. It's kind of a letdown if you were hoping for a Touchdown, but it's better than nothing.
* If Defense manages to force the ball back far enough so that they effectively force the Offense to score an "own goal," they earn two points; this is called a SAFETY. The ball also changes hands.

Forward passes are the most efficient way to advance the ball, but are risky; if the other team can catch the ball before the Receiver gains possession, it's an INTERCEPTION, and the ball changes hands immediately. This doesn't end the play, and the Defense can immediately try to run the ball in for a Touchdown. (Since the players are generally in disarray at this time, trying to prevent the former Offensive team from reaching their endzone, this can turn into a great opportunity.) Running plays are safer, but they require getting past the DEFENSIVE LINE, a line of players behind the Line Of Scrimmage who serve as an obstacle to advancement, and are not entirely safe; if a runner loses possession of the ball before they're brought down, such as after a jarring hit, it's a FUMBLE, and the ball is generally live, can be recovered by either side, and if the Defense gets it they can immediately try to run it in.
posted by JHarris at 5:33 PM on January 22 [9 favorites]


Nah, nuclear war is wrong. Though it is probably a metaphor for Napoleonic-era setpiece infantry battles

football vs. baseball as an American struggle between agrarian culture, as represented by baseball, where everyone has to be able to do multiple roles (as is the case on family farms) and the game lasts as long as it needs to, and football, where the roles are clearly regimented (as is the case with Taylorist assembly-line factories) and time is carefully split into segments.

I've always thought football was just the ultimate expression of a sport for people to watch on TV.
posted by Sara C. at 5:36 PM on January 22


Once you've digested that primer, all you need to understand Canadian football is that it's played on a field with 10 yards bigger in every dimension, there's twelve positions on each side (except at the goal line, where the posts do double duty as defensive backs) and every play happens on a three tick cycle of two incomplete passes and a punt.

The name for the Canadian Superbowl and the contested trophy is the Grey Cup, which has been around way longer than the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The 101st Grey Cup was won by the Saskatchewan Roughriders beating the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Regina on Nov. 24th. Here is then-future-Premier of Alberta Don Getty drinking from it in the locker room after the Eskimos' 1956 win.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 5:37 PM on January 22


I believe it was George Will who described football as combining two of the worst aspects of American society: brutal violence and committee meetings.
posted by Hatashran at 5:40 PM on January 22 [10 favorites]


The single best explanation of American football that I've ever seen was posted on this site by It's Never Lurgi. Allow me to quote:

There are two teams. One guy (the quarterback) either throws the ball or hands off the ball to another guy. They run. They have four downs (attempts) to get 10 yards. If they make it they get another four attempts. If they don't they lose the ball. Usually if they know they aren't going to make it they will kick the ball away (punt). "First and 10" means first down (attempt) and 10 yards to go. "Second and three" is second down with three yards to go. "Third and 15" means that something went wrong and they went backwards. If they get to fourth down they will almost certainly punt. Feel free to mock the team for being insufficiently brave when they do this.

A touchdown is when someone gets into the "end zone". It's six points and they get to kick for another point (they almost always make it). A field goal is when the team kicks the ball through the goal posts. It's three points.

A one hour game takes over three hours to play. This is a feature, not a bug.

You now know all you need to know.

posted by magstheaxe at 5:45 PM on January 22 [6 favorites]


The thing I enjoy most about American football, aside from the large buff men in tight trousers, is that it is very like Australia to me in the sense that you can make up absolutely any "fact" at all about it and chances are I will believe it immediately, with suspicion levels varying from somewhat mild to none at all.
posted by elizardbits at 5:48 PM on January 22 [7 favorites]


I have heard people give the advice, quite sincerely, that if you want to understand football, you should try playing some football video games. It's good advice, but it's not specific enough.

If you're really and truly starting from scratch, this year's Madden installment will only help you if you're very patient and willing to lose a lot of games as you learn (and don't even think of playing random online opponents). You've got to play Risk before you play Axis and Allies, you've got to play War and Crazy Eights before you play Hold 'Em or bridge, and, before you play Madden, you might want to play Tecmo Bowl.
posted by box at 5:53 PM on January 22 [4 favorites]


Every year I end up watching the Superbowl with my brothers-in-law and I try really, really hard to get into it and like it and even though I have a good sense of what it's about I always feel like I'm misunderstanding some core aspect.

These explanations are helping me out, guys.
posted by Doleful Creature at 5:54 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


Most pro football players inject collagen into their butts to aid in cushioning, as well as for sexiness. Also, it's traditional for the quarterback to tell a homoerotic joke to his teammates during the first huddle of the game.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:54 PM on January 22 [7 favorites]


In 1970 Tom Dempsey kicked a 63 yard field goal to set an NFL record that stood until this year. He was born without toes on his right foot and no fingers on his right hand. He died in 1987 while wrestling a cougar at an NFL promotional event.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:54 PM on January 22 [12 favorites]


before you play Madden, you might want to play Tecmo Bowl.

Tecmo Bowl's a great little game- each team only has four plays, all the team lineups are from 1989 so some of the greats (Payton, Marino, etc) are playing, and it's as much keepaway as football. Also it's on 3DS now.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:57 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


If members of a marching band prematurely enter the field near the end of the game before the clock has run out, anyone in possession of the football scores two points for every tuba player he knocks out-of-bounds.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:58 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


They did away with the Tuba rule this year, Ivan Fyodorovich. Jon Brody won't admit it, but that's really how he got to his first Super Bowl and won.
posted by cashman at 6:01 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


I teach at a high school here in Tokyo. For a P.E. (and English!) unit I taught flag football to one of my classes. Flag football is already a simplified version of tackle football, but I had to simplify it even more, and put it in simple English so that everyone could understand. It wasn't easy.

When the kids played on the school field, it took a rather long time for them to get into the rhythm of play. I realized just how internalized I have the (basic) rules of football and don't need to think about them if I'm playing a pickup game of tag football. A group of Americans do this and you just know how to play.

With my Japanese students, for a good 20 minutes they kept wanting to pass and pass and pass the ball, so it resembled more a game of basketball than anything. Or I suppose soccer with its back and forth gameplay. I had to set up strict rules: "Ok, from now on ONE handoff only. But, quarterback, THROW the ball. And if you have the ball, RUN, GO to the endzone!"
Also, one person with no down markers trying to determine the line of scrimmage is hard. I kind of gave up and made up the downs on the fly.

BTW, as long as I'm on the subject, I think tackle football is terrible. It appears that it will die a rather quick death in the next decade or so, for which I'm glad. The fix is pretty easy though: get rid of all that padding. Each player gets a leather helmet and a mouthpiece, or in other words what they use in rugby. And that's it! The injuries will decrease dramatically and the gameplay will be a hell of a lot more fluid. Guys who are more lithe and fast rather than just human hippos will be the stars of the game.
posted by zardoz at 6:02 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


Football was originally played by teams of trained dogs.

Football uses the term "hut" because in ancient Greece, football players were forbidden to live in a city as the game, while much loved, was deemed uncivilized. During the competitive season, they would live in specially constructed huts near the playing field. While externally they were simple, plain huts, they often had quite lavish interiors.

Likewise, the term "hike" originates from Roman emulation of football, when Roman players would have to hike up their togas (togae?) to crouch properly at the line of scrimmage.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:06 PM on January 22 [9 favorites]


BTW, as long as I'm on the subject, I think tackle football is terrible. It appears that it will die a rather quick death in the next decade or so, for which I'm glad. The fix is pretty easy though: get rid of all that padding. Each player gets a leather helmet and a mouthpiece, or in other words what they use in rugby. And that's it! The injuries will decrease dramatically and the gameplay will be a hell of a lot more fluid. Guys who are more lithe and fast rather than just human hippos will be the stars of the game.

There's a Giles line in Buffy that goes "I'm just amazed that a nation so obsessed with its virility feels the need to strap on fifty pounds of padding just to play rugby", which I keep correcting when I hear people echo it. The padding "lets" football be incredibly brutal by comparison. I was watching a playoff game... last week? Week before? There was a run of three or four downs where they were losing one player to injury on each one. Even by football standards, that's brutal.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:08 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


In 1970 Tom Dempsey kicked a 63 yard field goal to set an NFL record that stood until this year. He was born without toes on his right foot and no fingers on his right hand. He died in 1987 while wrestling a cougar at an NFL promotional event.

Are we playing "Two Truths One Lie"?
posted by Sara C. at 6:12 PM on January 22


In 1970 Tom Dempsey kicked a 63 yard field goal to set an NFL record that stood until this year. He was born without toes on his right foot and no fingers on his right hand.

And he is immortalized in the Dempsey Rule, which is part of Rule 5, Section 4, Article 2(g). " Kicking shoes must not be modified (including using a shoelace wrapped around toe and/or bottom of the shoe), and any shoe that is worn by a player with an artificial limb on his kicking leg must have a kicking surface that conforms to that of a normal kicking shoe."

Dempsey, with only half a foot, had a flat fronted shoe, and used that to drive the ball.

This is, by far, not the only rule named after a person. Indeed, Wikipedia's page on the Lore of the NFL is worth it, only because it is common consensus that, along with such moments as The Immaculate Reception, The Ice Bowl, The Holy Roller, and Bottlegate, The Butt Fumble has been enshrined.

Truly, the wiki is wise.
posted by eriko at 6:16 PM on January 22 [3 favorites]


I AM LEARNING SO MUCH ABOUT FOOTBALL brb flagging thread as fantastic
posted by elizardbits at 6:19 PM on January 22 [3 favorites]


Football was originally played by teams of trained dogs.

that's not correct - it was actually played by teams of trained turtles at first, but people got tired of watching 3 hour long games

little did they know ...
posted by pyramid termite at 6:26 PM on January 22


the day after the specific cal-stanford game to which ivan fyodorovich alluded, the sf chronicle ran a sports headline "game ends on sour note".
posted by bruce at 6:29 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


Then there's Canadian Football. One less down, ten more yards, more men in motion... And probably some other weird differences I can't remember. Because the arcane rules of American Football weren't weird enough.

The major differences are fairly minor:

-the field is 10 yards longer (110 versus 100)
-the field is about 12 yards wider (65 versus 53 ish?)
-the end zone is 20 yards deep, as opposed to ten.
-CFL is played with 12 players on the field, instead of 11
-teams get 3 downs to advance the ball, instead of 4 (with the target being the same 10 yards to get a fresh set of downs)
-the entire offensive backfield (except the quarterback) can be in motion before the snap in the CFL; in the NFL, only one offensive player is allowed to be in motion
-there is no "fair catch" rule in Canadian football - the receiver of a punt must play the ball; however, no opposing player is to be within five yards of him when he catches/picks up the ball
-the time clock is shorter (20 seconds versus 25)
-on a missed field goal or on a punt/kickoff that ends with (a) the ball leaving the field of play via the end zone or (b) the player from the receiving team taking a knee in the end zone, the kicking team receives one point ("the rouge").
-blocking receivers - in the NFL receivers can be blocked/held within five yards of the line of scrimmage. In the CFL, it is one yard.
-the posts are at the front of the end zone

There's some other nitpicky stuff, but these are the things most fans would immediately see as the differences.

The larger field, fewer downs and the rules around blocking receivers mean that the CFL encourages a fairly dynamic, open passing game rather than a "three yards and a cloud of dust" approach (which I don't think the NFL is guilty of much anymore).

Here's some highlights of last season
posted by nubs at 6:34 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


it was actually played by teams of trained turtles at first, but people got tired of watching 3 hour long games

You're just confused by the terminology, which is understandable under the circumstances. The game was of course originally played by trained dogs, but the dogs were very small* and lightly armored. Hence they were commonly called turtles and, given that they were typically intact, the game was originally known as "Turtlefucker."

*In most texts, adult football dogs appear to be slightly smaller than Chihuahuas. Sadly, the breed became extinct following the conquest by Rome when Romans, well, ate them faster than they could reproduce.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:36 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


All kickoffs are live balls as soon as they go ten yards. Punts, on the other hand, cannot be touched by members of the kicking team until touched by a receiver

Field goal attempts are also live balls, apparently, and can be run back, which is how Auburn beat Alabama on the final play of the Iron Bowl this year.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 6:42 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


The Pittsburgh Steelers' famous 'Steel Curtain' defense was originally named after an ill-advised piece of interior decorating at the old Three Rivers Stadium.
posted by box at 6:43 PM on January 22


Hi NoraReed,

I believe the essay you are referencing is Football Red, Baseball Green by Murray Ross (who I took some undergraduate lit survey course from about a million years ago).
posted by j_curiouser at 6:50 PM on January 22


Here's some highlights of last season

There were some pretty amazing plays in that highlight reel. Also a lot of "last laughs." Must be a jolly sport.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 6:53 PM on January 22


Opening sentence: "The guide to football: for liberals, ladies, and limeys."

I can't say that I know any British NFL fans but I know lots of liberal lady football fans. Hockey too.
posted by octothorpe at 6:54 PM on January 22


If only there were a Tivo setting to skip all the "not playing football" parts of a football game.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:10 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


zardoz, we played a touch football variant in PE in middle school that addresses many of the problems you describe. It's called fleetball. The field is shorter, maybe 30 yards, and there are no first downs. You have four downs to score a touchdown. Also, forward passes are allowed. It is a game that looks little more like soccer, because you sometimes have a receiver stop and look for other eceivers elsewhere on the field.

Padding and helmets were introduced in football because people were dying on the field due to skull fractures and chest ruptures. We're not going back to that.
posted by chrchr at 7:12 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


Sure, but can you describe American Football in BNF
posted by ctmf at 7:15 PM on January 22


George_Spiggott: "If only there were a Tivo setting to skip all the "not playing football" parts of a football game."

Judicious use of the 30-second skip button can achieve this as long as you skip as soon as the whistle blows. Occasionally, if a team's running a quick offense (e.g. the Eagles this year), I have to do a skip back (my DVR's set for 10 seconds back) and then a skip forward so I don't go too far, but I've watched entire games with this method and seen all the relevant action and very little of the fluff.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:15 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


"If only there were a Tivo setting to skip all the "not playing football" parts of a football game."

You would only need about 11 minutes to watch the game that way.
posted by COD at 7:19 PM on January 22


George_Spiggott: "If only there were a Tivo setting to skip all the "not playing football" parts of a football game."

I have a method for watching football games. Set the DVR for record, watch the kickoff and then go out food shopping. The store is totally empty because everyone is watching the game. Get home, unpack your groceries and then turn on the TV and start watching the game from the beginning. Use the 30 second skip to blast through the timeouts and lite beer commercials and you can watch the game in half the time but still finish watching at the same time as everyone else so it's not spoiled. This way you get the weeks shopping and watch the game in the same amount of time that everyone else takes to watch the game.
posted by octothorpe at 7:28 PM on January 22 [13 favorites]


You won't believe octothorpe's jawdropping football lifehack
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:33 PM on January 22 [6 favorites]


Lesson I just learned reading the NFL rule book: if the defense intercepts a pass in the endzone and then commits a foul in the endzone, it's a safety, unless the foul they committed was to execute an illegal forward pass, in which case the ball is still live and can be re-intercepted by the original offense and run in for a touchdown. Seriously, this is a specific case detailed in the rule book. Why on earth someone would try an obviously-illegal forward pass after intercepting the ball is completely baffling.
posted by kiltedtaco at 7:35 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


My method probably wouldn't work in one of those lesser cities where fewer than 95% of the metro population watches each week's game since then the supermarket would still be crowded.
posted by octothorpe at 7:40 PM on January 22


I have a method for watching football games. Set the DVR for record,

Once I set the DVR to record an NFC championship game because I'd be on the road. Drove 150 miles with no radio, arrived to within 5 miles of my home just at the time the game would've been ending, stopped at a light, rolled my window down, and heard the final score from the truck in the next lane.

My beloved Cowboys lost in a really close game but I had no desire to watch a foregone conclusion.
posted by chuckiebtoo at 7:45 PM on January 22


-on a missed field goal or on a punt/kickoff that ends with (a) the ball leaving the field of play via the end zone or (b) the player from the receiving team taking a knee in the end zone, the kicking team receives one point ("the rouge").

While in effect this is often the "consolation point" for a missed field goal, the consequences of this rule can be entertaining.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 7:54 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


Why on earth someone would try an obviously-illegal forward pass after intercepting the ball is completely baffling.

It seems like most illegal forward passes are the result of poorly executed lateral attempts. You still have to be a bit less than lucid to try a lateral in your own end zone, but stranger things have happened.
posted by prosthezis at 7:59 PM on January 22


My beloved Cowboys lost in a really close game but I had no desire to watch a foregone conclusion.

You probably shouldn't bother watching any Cowboys games toward the end of the regular season then.
posted by cashman at 8:24 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


Personal aside:

I recently turned 40. I'm also a girl. I love watching football. I grew up with it. I acknowledge its issues, but I still watch it religiously and I have favorite teams.

I have recently seen many predictions about how football won't exist XX years from now.

With all the fucking problems in the world (the serious problems, like climate change, drought in California, yada yada -- problems I know might personally affect me), the potential absence of football on Sundays makes me more anxious than any of those other things. I don't think that necessarily says anything about me personally (I love animals and I try to save them and I am a good person!), but I think it says something about something else. Those somethings are available for interpretation. Have at it.

Mama please don't take my Kodachrome NFL away.

On preview re: Cowboys: I grew up in the Dallas area. I grew up a Cowboys fan as much as I grew up Methodist. I had an LDS friend tell me once, "You don't understand how ingrained it is." The same could be true for Cowboys (or other NFL teams) fandom. It IS a religion of a sorts, in some places, for better or for worse. It is what it is. O say can you see. Hand over heart. Exit interview. Going to Disneyworld. All is well. Amen.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:35 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


OK, I'll take a shot at explaining the onside kick.

On a kickoff, as mentioned above, the kicking team may not touch the ball until the ball has either traveled at least ten yards or has been touched by a member of the receiving team. That's the rulebook part of it.

But why would a team attempt an onside kick? Simple. They need (sometimes want, but usually need) the ball back. For example, they just scored but they're still down by a few points and there's very little time left on the clock. Let's suppose you're down by six points and there's 45 seconds left on the clock. If you kick the ball to the other team like you would on a normal kickoff, they'll just run the clock out with a couple of plays and the game will be over before you get the ball again. Your only hope is to get the ball back via an onside kick.

This leads to why an onside kick is so difficult - the opposing team pretty much always knows when it's coming. They will put what's called the "hands team" (the guys who are the best at catching the ball) out there for the kick. They will also be ready for the short kick. You're not going to trick them into thinking you're going to kick normally. (Onside kicks are sometimes attempted when the situation doesn't call for it, to surprise the other team, so this stipulation doesn't apply then. But this is rare.) This means you have to devise a way to get the ball ten yards without them catching it.

The most common method for an onside kick is to kick it in such a way that it bounces off the turf and goes high enough that a member of the kicking team can run under it once it's gone ten yards. The bouncing kick also makes it more difficult for the opposition to catch the ball due to the weird bounces. If you just kick the ball up high in the air like a baseball pop-up, the receiving team can just call for a fair catch, which they can't do after the ball has already hit the ground. Sometimes the kicker will kick it in the dribbling fashion mentioned in the hopes that the other team will mishandle the ball or that it will bounce off of a member of the other team. Sometimes the kicker will attempt to drive a kick directly off a member of the other team, but this is rare because it's hard to pull off. Once in a while you'll see a kicker kick the ball in a decent arc 15-20 yards up the field to try to give one of the speedsters a chance to get under it.

But the usual method is the bouncing or dribbling kick. When you have to get the ball ten yards and the other team knows it, your best hope is to make the ball as difficult as possible for them to handle.

Here's a few vids. Look at the score and situation on each:
Onside kick attempt that didn't work.
One that did work (although kicking team can't advance the recovery)
Surprise onside kick - the situation didn't call for one at all.
posted by azpenguin at 8:45 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


Football? Isn't that the weak kneed asthmatic cousin of The Ba'?
posted by edgeways at 8:59 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


Not covered is what to do if the halftime show stinks, a very real danger this year. The solution is, of course, to watch the 2007 Prince halftime show in Miami. Again.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:27 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


"The same could be true for Cowboys (or other NFL teams) fandom. It IS a religion of a sorts, in some places, for better or for worse."

I lost my religion when Jerry Jones fired Tex Schramm and Tom Landry. Haven't cared about the Cowboys since, though I could probably still tell you the 1979 starting lineup. Fuck Jerry Jones.

I still have an autographed photo of a 1983 Cowboys Cheerleader. I worked with her boyfriend, who was a security guard at the Richardson Toys"R"Us where I had a holiday temp job watching the cashiers at the thirty-five open lanes for fraud. I was nineteen. He and his girlfriend were delighted at how giddy I was to get the signed photo.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:38 PM on January 22


On the topic of on side kicks and obscure rules about punting, a cool football story I've been following this year is the high school coach who never punts. He always does onside kicks. He almost always goes for it on 4th down. He's interviewed in this episode of the Slate podcast "Hang Up and Listen".
posted by chrchr at 9:40 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


Here's San Francisco 49ers kicker Phil Dawson's failed a 71-yard fair catch kick on September 26, 2013.
posted by PHINC at 9:43 PM on January 22


And if you want to know more about famous onside kicks, here's a 14 minute video about the Saints surprise onside kick in Super Bowl XLIV.
posted by chrchr at 9:45 PM on January 22


A down is when the ball itself, or the ball carrier's knee, elbow, or anything in between touches DOWN to the ground. That ends the play. You get four attempts to move 10 yards, and they each end when something touches down.

Seriously though if you know four downs to go ten yards and a very basic primer on touchdowns vs. field goals, the commentators do a pretty good job of explaining everything else that's going on, especially when its a close play, a weird penalty, or a funny part of the rule book.

A quarterback who looks like he has all day to get his pass off is usually a good quarterback; a quarterback who looks rushed is usually not as good. You'll be able to see that Sunday watching Manning even if you know nothing about football: He makes the same ten seconds look twice as long as his opposing quarterback does, even if he's about to get sacked. (Cutler is my guy and he always, always looks rushed no matter how long he has.) It's an easy-to-see little bit of the game that even novices can understand, because the camera follows the QB and the play evolves around him. It won't tell you who will win the game, but you'll be like, "Ohhhh I see why the announcer thinks this guy is doing a good job!"
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:38 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


PS, if you're going to run for office, the correct time to do the door-to-door canvas is during your city's Sunday NFL game. A higher percentage of people are home than any other time during the week AND you have an automatic conversation starter. "Oooh, what's the score on the Bears game? And will you sign my petition?" Downside, you will not get to see any Bears games.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:51 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


One thing you might try is what my dad always does, which is watch the game with the sound off and set up a boombox in the room and listen to the game on the radio. (If you don't live within a few hundred miles of the stadium, this may be less feasible.) The radio announcers assume you can't see the action, and their descriptions are usually more vivid and interesting than the TV announcers.

I would totally watch a few episodes of show that's a football game but with different announcers who assume you don't really understand the game and therefore explain what's happening and why- not just rules, but also what sort of formation's in use, why a particular call was made, that sort of thing. Maybe you could do one video like that, sell it on DVD as "Understanding Football", have all kinds of rewinding and drawing on the screen to illustrate points. I'm just babbling here.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:47 AM on January 23


Did the expression "hands team" come about recently as a reference to Allstate? I don't remember it used when I was a kid.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 1:41 AM on January 23


Every few years or so I'd watch a game, an exciting game, where stuff happens, like Hockey or basketball (not like baseball where sometimes there are zero runs), and I just couldn't get into it.

I'm not into team sports at all (won't even play sports videogames), but I will watch the occasional game with company: it's fun, because except for the basic rules I have a very limited grasp of what is going on, so the experience is one of vaguely impending menace/triumph.
posted by Dr Dracator at 3:13 AM on January 23


The best way to watch sports is in the company of a bunch of excited people who are all rooting for the same team. Preferably the one you're rooting for.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:23 AM on January 23 [2 favorites]


zardoz, we played a touch football variant in PE in middle school that addresses many of the problems you describe. It's called fleetball. The field is shorter, maybe 30 yards, and there are no first downs. You have four downs to score a touchdown. Also, forward passes are allowed. It is a game that looks little more like soccer, because you sometimes have a receiver stop and look for other eceivers elsewhere on the field.
We played a variant that removes pretty much all the problems with people understanding rules (there's probably something similar everywhere). In New Zealand it was called Murderball and was simplicity itself. We played it on a (field) hockey field, but I think that was because the PE teacher didn't want us messing up the Rugby field. There were two teams of whatever size the total number of people present equaled divided by two - shirts and skins. The game was played with a medicine ball and the object was simply to get the ball in your opponent's goal more times than they got it in yours. The game lasted as long as the time available and the rules were simple - no kicking, punching, biting or scratching. That's it. If the weather was too bad, we played an indoor variant that had the same rules, but was played in the gym using mattresses for goals (had to get the ball on the mattress to score) and a football bladder instead of the medicine ball. Any teacher that tried to play that today would probably be shot.
posted by dg at 4:28 AM on January 23


Eyebrows McGee: "PS, if you're going to run for office, the correct time to do the door-to-door canvas is during your city's Sunday NFL game. A higher percentage of people are home than any other time during the week AND you have an automatic conversation starter. "Oooh, what's the score on the Bears game? And will you sign my petition?" Downside, you will not get to see any Bears games."

Are you insane? You'd get killed. I worked on a congressional campaign and the '08 Obama campaign and one iron-clad, never-break rule was "DON'T CAMPAIGN DURING THE STEELERS' GAME. EVER." Don't make phone calls and don't knock on doors. People will hate you. People will yell at you and throw things at you. People will vote for anyone but your candidate. The game is not to be interupted.
posted by octothorpe at 5:27 AM on January 23 [5 favorites]


A couple other interesting notes on American Football as played casually in schoolyards and backyards:

There is a casual non-tackle variant called "two-hand touch" in which the ballcarrier is deemed to be tackled if a defense player can touch him or her with both hands at the same time. This is what our teachers required us to play in the schoolyard when I was growing up. "Flag football" is the more formal variant of this, in which players wear a belt with two 12" ribbons attached to it at the hips by velcro and a tackle is awarded if the defense can rip off one of the ballcarrier's flags.

Often in these sort of casual games you are not playing with full 11-player teams, and so you might omit the linemen and only have a quarterback, running back and several receivers. If this is the case, one player on the defense is usually allowed to rush the quarterback to attempt to tackle him before he can throw the ball, but since the QB does not have the protection of the linemen, the rusher must wait a predetermined number or seconds before rushing. This is usually done by having him count out loud "One Mississippi, Two Mississippi, etc" before rushing.

"Two Hand Touch" and "One Mississippi" are kind of the "Jumpers for goalposts" of American Football.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:53 AM on January 23 [2 favorites]


Did the expression "hands team" come about recently as a reference to Allstate? I don't remember it used when I was a kid.
posted by professor plum with a rope


I've been hearing that term forever. In this situation, it's the best hands you want out there, because you're not at all concerned about setting up a return. (The kicking team will also have the hands team out as well.) The hands team is typically wide receivers and defensive backs, although I have on rare occasion seen a quarterback out there.
posted by azpenguin at 5:55 AM on January 23


Tight Ends are also almost always on the Hands Team, as they have practice handling the ball, but are also large enough to knock opposing players out of the way if need be.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:57 AM on January 23


I still don't know what a down is.

In Dungeons and Dragons terms, a "set of downs" in football equals a "round" and a "down" equals an "action." Each set of downs contains four downs. If a team moves the ball 10 yards in four downs, they get a fresh set of downs. They proceed in this way until they either score a touchdown or they fail to move the ball 10 yards.
posted by echocollate at 6:10 AM on January 23


In Dungeons and Dragons terms, a "set of downs" in football equals a "round" and a "down" equals an "action." Each set of downs contains four downs. If a team moves the ball 10 yards in four downs, they get a fresh set of downs. They proceed in this way until they either score a touchdown or they fail to move the ball 10 yards.

Okay, so a full-round action takes 4 downs. Got it.

Except... if it takes a full-round action to open a gate to the Astral Plane and dropping the ball into the gate is a free action, does that count as moving it more than 10 yards?

Do they get 6 downs when under the effects of haste?
posted by Foosnark at 6:35 AM on January 23 [4 favorites]


(There are probably official rules about that. The NFL does not believe in Rule 0.)
posted by Foosnark at 6:36 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Football in Dungeons and Dragons(PDF). Article starts on page 35.
posted by octothorpe at 6:40 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Flutie's drop kick mentioned upthread. *head explodes*
posted by photoslob at 6:53 AM on January 23


Guys, I am putting forward the proposal that not everything in this video is completely serious.

I would likewise propose that football itself is not serious.

Everything I need to know about football, I learned from my cousin who, when asked why she did not watch football, said it was because she had never found anyone willing to pay her to do it.

What amuses me is that "watching football" is considered the default position, no explanation necessary, while "not watching football" makes you an outlier who gets asked to explain herself. My own newly arrived boss asked me the other day what team I liked, and when I told him I don't follow the game, he said (cheerfully) "We'll have to do something about that."
posted by Flexagon at 9:48 AM on January 23


What amuses me is that "watching football" is considered the default position, no explanation necessary, while "not watching football" makes you an outlier who gets asked to explain herself.

You could always move to Los Angeles, which doesn't have an NFL team, but which does have an abundance of other teams in all the other usual sports.

You see lots of diehard Dodgers, Lakers, and Kings fans, and you see certain people with affinities for this or that football thing (and I think fantasy football is pretty popular), but there just isn't the assumption that you definitely watched the game last night.
posted by Sara C. at 9:52 AM on January 23


The absolute easiest and best time I had in Chicago was during Superbowl Sunday years and years ago, driving was easy, wide open lanes, the Art Institute was sparsely attended ... and gosh darn it I wasn't filled with incoherent dislike for humanity by the time I got to the other side.
posted by edgeways at 10:12 AM on January 23


elizardbits: "The thing I enjoy most about American football, aside from the large buff men in tight trousers, is that it is very like Australia to me in the sense that you can make up absolutely any "fact" at all about it and chances are I will believe it immediately, with suspicion levels varying from somewhat mild to none at all."

American football was invented in 1846 by Edward G. "Scallawag" Football, III.
posted by Mister_A at 10:18 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]


@Sara C. how much do I love that the Lakers are, charitably, the second best basketball team in LA? Much.
posted by Mister_A at 10:20 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Do they get 6 downs when under the effects of haste?

They call it the "hurry-up" offense, or "no-huddle" if the team is permanently under the effects of a Haste. You get the same number of downs but they go by a lot more quickly.
posted by graymouser at 10:21 AM on January 23 [2 favorites]


I'm mentally adding "because of the metric system" to the end of all the differences with Canadian Football.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:03 AM on January 23


Do they get 6 downs when under the effects of haste?

You may get 5, 6 or more downs if under the effects of Mordenkainen's False Start, Bigby's Unabated to the Quarterback, or even just a plain old Hold (Linebacker) spell.
posted by Freon at 11:17 AM on January 23 [3 favorites]


The problem with using Haste in football is that it rapidly ages your players out of viability.
posted by JHarris at 11:27 AM on January 23 [2 favorites]


There are other spells that are frequently useful on the field:

-Protection from Normal Missiles to confound the receivers;
-A well timed Wall of Force/Stone/Iron/Fire/Ice or even a Dig spell can provide either extra blocking for the ball carrier or seal off the goal line/first down line for the defense;
-Invisibility to allow your receiver to slip unnoticed into the open, or for a blitzer to get into the backfield untouched;
-Bigby's Stiffarm to help gain a few extra yards;
-Fumble is obvious;
-Shocking Grasp is great for the defensive linemen, but not the offensive - holding is a ten yard penalty!
-Power Word, Sack is expensive but sometimes worth it!
-Time Stop when you really need an extra time out.
posted by nubs at 1:31 PM on January 23 [4 favorites]


Power Word, Omaha saw a lot of use recently. It causes defensive linemen to inexplicably jump offside.
posted by graymouser at 1:42 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]


The gist was that American football contains very little actual playing compared to the amount of time the various people involved in the game spend talking.

I stopped watching football around the time they started doing news reports on the commercials expected to air during the game.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:18 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


-Power Word, Sack is expensive but sometimes worth it!

I imagine this going something like "Fus-Ro-something."
posted by JHarris at 8:29 AM on January 24


graymouser: Power Word, Omaha saw a lot of use recently.

Also Cause Serious Wounds, Cornerback.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:34 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


If refs and the coaching staff all started dressing like wizards, I would SO watch football.
posted by Sara C. at 9:16 AM on January 24


Football as a D&D cosplay has so much potential...
posted by nubs at 9:22 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


You mean, D&D characters cosplaying as football players?
posted by JHarris at 9:23 AM on January 24


Well, that would kinda be Blood Bowl. I was thinking of football teams cosplaying as D&D characters. The linemen as dwarven warriors, running backs and receivers as elven rangers, and so forth...
posted by nubs at 9:46 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]


nubs: The linemen as dwarven warriors, running backs and receivers as elven rangers, and so forth...

One does not simply QB Read Option into the Endzone!
posted by Rock Steady at 9:51 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


"The Balrog settles in to take the snap. He's got time...looking waaaaaay downfield...he's got a man open! Oh! At the last second, the cornerback - Gandalf - gets a hand on it, breaking it up! What a play!

Looks like Gandalf's getting a flag on the play though - Unsportsmanlike conduct? Taunting?"

"Yeah, Bob, he got up yelling "You shall not pass!" and shaking his finger at the Balrog. That's going to be a trip to the roots of the mountain for him..."
posted by nubs at 10:02 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]


"Balrog's getting a personal foul too, for Illegal Use of Whip. So that's offsetting."

"Still, this game is heating up! Looks like Sauruman might be coming in to take over at QB now...He's got a great eye, you know, Bob, and he runs that offense like a machine...We'll have to see if the defensive secondary gets changed up, maybe put some Ents in there for better coverage..."
posted by nubs at 10:08 AM on January 24


"Well, with Sauron on the sidelines calling the shot, Sauruman's ability to see the field is impressive."

"And watch for a lot of effort to draw the defense offside, Bob. They like to try to tempt the defensive players into doing something they shouldn't...Boromir, for example, is prone to jump."
posted by nubs at 10:16 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


"Now watch this right here.. I'm not so sure that isn't a Dead Cornerback of Dunharrow who came out of nowhere to deflect that pass." -- Dan Dierdwarf
posted by Rock Steady at 10:48 AM on January 24


"Now on the list of best defensive coordinators of all time - I think the number one spot has to go to Acererak. His complex defensive schemes have tricked many an offensive juggernaut to their doom."
posted by nubs at 11:32 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


The famous Nazgûl defense line is hard to beat
posted by edgeways at 1:32 PM on January 24


Well, if football were like that, I might understand it better. Or at all.
posted by dg at 2:25 PM on January 24


ob1quixote: “Not covered is what to do if the halftime show stinks, a very real danger this year. The solution is, of course, to watch the 2007 Prince halftime show in Miami. Again.”
I want it noted for the record that I owe Bruno Mars an apology. I presumed he was a no-talent hack like most pop-stars these days. He's actually absolutely amazing. I'm sorry, Mr. Mars. You made me a fan tonight.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:41 PM on February 2 [2 favorites]


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