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Football 101: A Girl's Guide to Faking it for Football Season

Based on a little bit of research (I asked some girlfriends), it seems that many women do not like football. In some cases though, it’s not that they don’t like it… what’s not to like about a sports with guys in tight pants tackling each other? It’s that they don’t understand it. And their disengaged significant other is too preoccupied with his fantasy team to explain. He just mumbles something incoherent to himself like,”Yea, Megatron is doing well for me, I need like 350 yards and 2 TD’s”.

What does that even mean? Well, I’m here to help you. Fortunately, I LOVE football.  I grew up in a family that was passionate about it. On Sundays, all of us would gather around the TV in suburban Tennessee and if we were lucky, we’d get to see our favorite team, the NY Giants play.  My father is from New York and so my sister and I were raised as avid NY Giants fans. But it’s not just the Giants that I love, as I’ve gotten older, I have fallen more and more in love with the game. I love the atmosphere of intensity and joy at a football game. I love the strategy of the game. I love how a well formed team with a good “battle” plan as it were can overcome a more powerful team with bigger stars and bigger salaries. Every week I vie for a spot at my favorite bar to enjoy a burger, beer and 45 TV screens to watch every game on and I have begun to resent sharing that limited space with people that know little to nothing about football or worse, don’t care. And I realize why a lot of girls go to bars on Sundays….to meet cute, red-blooded, beer drinking, wing munching, American men. But you are far more likely to be successful at this if you know a little bit about what you are watching.

So let me explain some basics of the game and some simple phrases and popular players to learn that will get you through the season and may help you score with your date…..and maybe….just maybe, you’ll fall in love with football like me.

Football 101:

Football is war. It is, essentially, a strategic game of Risk, where the 100 yards on the field are the battleground.
The offense (the team with the ball) makes their way up the field to score a touchdown. The defense must stop them…simple….not quite.

The offense has four chances or downs to get the ball 10 yards. Once they get those 10 yards, they are given another set of downs. Sometimes it takes a few tries to get the 10.

So when you hear 2nd and 6 it means that the offense has 6 yards to go and they are on their second down. It gets a little more complex when you get to the 4th down. Yes, technically, this is your last chance to get your 10 yards and why not take it?

Because if you take it and miss, the opposing team then gets to start, from exactly the spot that you left off, only they are headed in the other direction…..much closer to the end zone. You could also use your 4th down to kick a field goal (see Scoring).

This is where strategy comes in, is it worth the risk to try for the 1st down? Or is it better to punt (which is like a mini-kickoff)?

When the offense makes it into the end zone (the other side of the field), It’s a touchdown which is worth 6 points. They then have the opportunity to score an extra point by a kick.

Field goal– 3 points. A field goal is made when the team has run out of downs and aren’t close enough to the end zone to go for a touchdown, but close enough that the kicker can kick through the goalposts

Safety – 2 points – This is when the quarterback is sacked in their own end zone.

What’s a sack?

A sack is when the quarterback (think Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers) is tackled before he is able to throw the ball. Sacks are a big deal. Quarterbacks have had their careers ended by properly timed sacks, remember the beginning of The Blind Side?


A turnover can happen one of two ways: a fumble, which is just what it sounds like, someone on the offense bumbling a pass or toss and it falling to the ground to be picked up by the opposing teams defense.

Or the ball can be intercepted, which is also, just what it sounds like, the ball is intercepted when the quarterback throws it to someone.

There are many intricacies to turnovers. Whether someone has been downed (tackled) or not. If it is a fumble vs. a dead ball. We’ll get to that in “advanced” football.

You should know at least one player from each team (and not just the cute ones).  This is a list of all the teams in the NFL and one player to know from the team. It also includes some choice phrases you could say when they make a good play or someone brings them up in conversation. Even if you have no idea what it means, folks will think you know your shit. Be careful though, you may sound so smart that they want to talk more in depth with you.

Baltimore Ravens: Ray Rice – Running back —
Who he is: Easily the second best running back in the NFL. Maybe the best.
What to say: Easily the second best running back in the NFL. Maybe the best. Depends on the kind of day Arian Foster (see Houston Texans) is having

Buffalo Bills: Steve Johnson – Wide Receiver
Who he is: A potentially great WR on a mediocre team
What to say: “If Fitzpatrick (Bills QB) had better arm strength, Steve Johnson would have a chance to put up numbers like Calvin Johnson (see Detroit Lions)

Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton – Quarterback
Who he is: Despite an amazing start to his rookie season last year, this guy is so-so. What makes him special is that he is a quarterback who RUNS. He has almost as many rushing (running) touchdowns as he does passing, which is very impressive for a QB.
What to say: “Say what you will about his passing game, but Cam Newton is a scrambler…only guy who does that better is Michael Vick (see Philadelphia Eagles), when he isn’t hurt.

Cinncinati Bengals:  This is a pretty mediocre team…I guess AJ Green – Wide Receiver would be the only player that MIGHT come up in conversation.
Who he is: Top 10 draft pick in 2011, is the Bengals #1 wide-out, so should be targeted alot.
What to say: “I guess Green is okay, but I mean look at the team he’s working with”.

Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson – Running back
Who he is: Star running back from Alabama– first pick in the NFL draft, there are big expectations with this guy.
What to say: “He’s gonna get a lot of touches this year and as long as the Browns offensive line can keep defenses off of him, he could have a massive year. Of course that’s what everyone said about Peyton Hillis (another Browns running back) last year “

Dallas Cowboys: UGH. As a Giants fan I HATE this team… um Tony Romo- Quarterback,
Who he is: Pretty boy quarterback who has not met the expectations that were once set for him back in 2006 when he took over as QB for “America’s team” (blagh)
What to say: “That guys a douche”….okay okay, you can say “Tony Romo plays scared and over emotes on the field”…..I just really hate that guy.

By Becky Flaum

Featured image via.

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