THE SPORTS WIDOW'S GUIDE TO FOOTBALL
Football 101 for Beginners ]
[editor's note: I hope to divide this up into individual pages for each chapter in the near future. Sorry for such a long posting.]
Chapter 1 : Introduction : Why ?
Chapter 2 : The Basics of the Game
Chapter 3 : The Rules of the Game
Chapter 4 : Offensive Football
Chapter 5 : Defensive Football
Chapter 6 : The Special Teams
Chapter 7 : History &
Heroes of the Game
Chapter 8 : Terms, Trivia & Tidbits
Chapter 9 : Questions &
Chapter 10 : What Now ?
1 : INTRODUCTION : WHY ?
A few years ago, I was at a local store,
waiting in the checkout line, on Super Bowl Sunday. I was probably picking up some last-minute
snacks for the game. Behind me in the
line was a young lady, who was quite noticeably excited about something. I asked her if she was going to watch the
Super Bowl, to which she enthusiastically replied, “Yes!” Her answer to my next
question would provide the basis for this book.
I asked her, “Which quarterback do you
like best?” She paused, then asked me,
“Umm-- what’s a quarterback?” and then apologized or offered an excuse for not
This portrays an error that we
oftentimes make when dealing with others: we
assume people’s knowledge or familiarity of something that we ourselves accept
and take for granted. This girl was
obviously excited about spending the afternoon with her friends, watching a
football game, but having no earthly idea of what it was really all about.
Over the last few years, I have begun to
notice attempts on the part of various people and organizations to increase
awareness of this sport. Collegiate and
professional sports teams have sponsored seminars and webinars for novices to
learn more about football. Authors and publishers
have also seen the need and responded with basic books.
some of these attempts at educating have tried to be so complete in their
explanations that it has instead driven the otherwise sincere student farther
away from understanding the game.
I no longer take for granted that others
have the same knowledge or familiarity that many of us do about something so
popular as football. Neither do I take
for granted that everyone will automatically wish to learn more. Some may desire to just stay in the
background, and remain clueless or ignorant of the details of this game. However, for those that do wish to increase
their awareness, this book will attempt to answer some basic questions about
the game and help those that live with “sports nuts” to blend in, rather than
stick out, and maybe actually enjoy the experience more.
2 : THE BASICS OF THE GAME
While it is important to not assume any
knowledge for a beginner, it is also crucial to begin with some basics upon
which everything else will follow. Be
sure you understand the basics before you attempt to go on and try to learn
more or gain an overall familiarity with the game.
Here are some of the BASICS of the game
|An American Football|
- Football is played with a football. This may seem a rather elementary and unnecessary statement, but nothing is assumed here. This is a picture of a football. It may be helpful here to clarify that the game of "soccer" is also referred to by many as "football", but it is quite different from the American version. While a portion of our game involves kicking ("foot"), a greater part is involved in running and passing the ball.
- Football is a team game. While a
football team usually includes many more team members, there are eleven players
for each team allowed on the field at any given time. There is an offensive team, a defensive team,
and a group called Special Teams, which includes all of the aspects of the
- Football is played on a field.
Originally, all football games were outdoors, played on grass. In later years, some fields were moved
inside, and the playing surface sometimes was changed from grass to an
artificial “turf.” Most of the reasons
for this were weather-related. Some
football purists believe that part of the essence of the game is the playing in
natural conditions, whether on a sunny, dry field, or in the snow or mud.
- Football is a time-based game. While baseball is based on outs and innings, and
therefore could theoretically go on indefinitely, football is a timed
game. REGULATION time lasts for
sixty (60) minutes, divided up into four 15-minute quarters, with a halftime
break. The time clock is usually stopped
on dead balls, which include incomplete passes, out-of-bound plays, after
scores and on time outs. At the end of
regulation, if the game is tied, an OVERTIME period will normally be
played to determine the outcome of the game. Overtime rules vary, depending on whether it
is high school, college, or professional football. [see RULES OF THE GAME].
3 : THE RULES OF THE GAME
The football game is played on a
rectangular field that is measured in yards, 100 yards long and [ width of
field ]. The field is divided by lines
and markers. Each ten-yard section of
the field is marked by a line and number.
Between these are five-yard marker lines. The five and ten-yard lines run from one
sideline to the other. Then, one-yard dividers, called hash markers, are positioned
between the line markers on each side of the field.
|A Football Field|
Each end of the field (50 yards) is considered
a team’s territory. The yard lines are numbered 0-40 on both sides of the
field, with one 50-yard-line marker at midfield. Since the field is numbered this way, when
one team passes over the 50-yard-line, they are considered in their opponent’s territory.
At the end of each side of the field is
a goal line, marked with a ‘G’, and a ten-yard END ZONE.
There are goal posts at each end of the
field, usually positioned at the BACK of
the end zone. A goal post has a support
post, topped by a horizontal bar, and two vertical posts on each end. The goal post is used to mark a successful
field goal or extra point [ see SCORING ]. A kick is successful when it crosses over the
horizontal bar, between the two vertical posts (uprights).
A coin toss at the beginning of the
game determines which team gets the choice of first possession, or on which end
of the field they will play. A kickoff
takes place, in which the team which will be on defense kicks the ball to the
offense. After the kickoff return, the
offense begins what is termed an offensive drive, in which they attempt to
advance the ball down the field and score a touchdown.
The two teams line up, with the
position of the ball marking what is called the “line of scrimmage”. The offensive team is given up to four plays,
called downs, to advance the ball a distance of ten yards. These plays
are numbered, being called first, second,
third & fourth downs. Each time
the offense goes ten yards or more, they are awarded a new “first down”.
The field is divided into two 50-yard
a team is in their own territory, yardage is added to achieve field
position. EX : If the ball is on the
25-yard-line and a team gains eight (8) yards, then 25 = 8 = 33 [the ball is now
on the 33-yard-line].
once they pass the 50-yard-line, yardage is subtracted to achieve field
position. EX : If the ball is on the
45-yard-line and a team gains eight (8) yards, then 45 + 5 = 50, and then 50 –
3 = 47 [the ball is now on the opponent’s
A team does not have to use all four
downs to get a first down, or to score a touchdown. They can gain ten yards or more on first
down, and so therefore, the next play will be first down again. The team
could also score a touchdown on any given play, by advancing the ball to the
If a team does not gain ten yards on
their first three downs, they have the choice of either trying for a first down on fourth down, or punting (kicking) the ball to the other
team. Most teams elect to kick the ball
away, instead of risking the attempt on fourth down, because if they do not
gain the yardage necessary for a first down, the opponent is awarded the ball
at that point. With a punt, the team is
allowed to move the position of the ball deeper into their opponent’s end of
the field before they take possession.
TOUCHDOWN- When the offensive team runs or
passes the ball past the opponent’s goal line, they score a touchdown. (6
EXTRA POINT- After a
touchdown, a team is allowed to attempt an extra point.
kick called an “extra point,” or “PAT” (point after touchdown) is attempted
from close to the goal. (1 point) If a team successfully kicks this point, they
score a total of seven (7) points instead of the six points.
‘two-point’ conversion is allowed, if the team chooses to line up and run or
pass the ball over the goal line. (2 points)
If a team is successful, they score a total of eight (8) points instead
of the six points.
a team’s drive stalls, and they are in field
goal range [meaning it is close enough for the kicker to make a kick], then
the team may choose to attempt a field goal on fourth down rather than try for a first down or touchdown. The ball is snapped to a “holder”, and the
kicker attempts to kick the ball through the goalposts. (3 points)
A group of officials, called referees, control and regulate the football game
the game clock ;
first-down chains to mark the position of the ball ;
a set of rules which, if broken, result in penalties.
4 : OFFENSIVE FOOTBALL
As stated earlier, each team is allowed
eleven players on the field at any given time.
A team will either be on offense or defense. The offensive team’s basic goal is to advance
the ball down the field, and to cross the goal line. However, the defensive team’s basic goal is
to prevent the other team from achieving this goal, and to get the ball back
for their offense.
In this chapter, we will take a look at
offensive football. We will define what
an offense is, and examine some of the basics of the offensive game.
Let’s start by looking at the individual
positions on the offensive team, and what each player’s role is in the overall
Most people consider the quarterback
to be the most important player on a football team. If for no other reason, this may be true
because the quarterback has the ball in his hands more than any other player on
The quarterback is part of what is
called the backfield. He is responsible
for executing the offensive plays, directing his team down the field, and
scoring touchdowns. He will call a play
in the team’s huddle, then usually either hand off the football to a running
back (RB) or drop back and throw the football to a receiver (WR or TE).
RUNNING BACKS (RB)
The running backs are typically the
offensive players whose job is to run (or rush) the football. They line up in the backfield, and will
either take a direct hand-off or a pitch-out from the quarterback, and attempt
to advance the ball down the field. Running
backs also receive passes from the quarterback.
There are normally at least one, and
usually two, running backs in an offense.The two types of running backs are
usually featured on an offense : the halfback
and the fullback. The halfback
is usually a faster runner who tries to outrun or elude defenders, while the fullback is usually a power runner who
is used in short-yardage situations or near the goal line.
RECEIVERS (WR & TE).
The receivers on an offense are
responsible for running downfield (pass patterns) and catching passes from the
quarterback. There are usually two wide receivers (WR), and a tight end (TE).
The wide receivers (or split ends), who line up on each side of the
offensive line, often catch more of the passes, and may be faster. The tight
end is usually a bigger player, and in addition to catching passes, often
blocks for the running backs.
The offensive line is a group of
players who form what is called the “Line
of Scrimmage.” It usually consists
of five or six players : a center, two guards, two tackles, and the tight end.
(C) is in the middle of this line,
and his primary job is to take the football and “hike” [hand] it to the
quarterback to start each play.
and two tackles are located on each side of the center and are designated
as LG and LT (left), and RG and RT (right).
end (TE) is considered a receiver, but is usually positioned on the
right side of the offensive line. This
player is often used for blocking, as well as receiving.
5 : DEFENSIVE FOOTBALL
6 : THE SPECIAL TEAMS
7 : HISTORY & HEROES OF THE GAME
8 : TERMS, TRIVIA & TIDBITS
9 : QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
10 : WHAT NOW ?