On the Sideline: Football

Football is the most male-dominated professional team sport. The only girls likely to be seen on that turf are either pirouetting, cart-wheeling or providing some other sort of moral support.

So for girls who haven’t had a boyfriend fulfill his manly duty of explaining the intricacies of the game, read carefully so you can impress your friends on Super Bowl Sunday.

Before the game, the captains from both teams join for the coin-toss. Winner gets to pick to receive or kick the ball, (they’ll do the opposite at halftime), and the loser gets to pick which way his team goes.

Kickoffs are the only play of the game where every single player, except the kick returner, are merely trying to imitate a wrecking ball and knock everyone down. The returner’s goal is to make it as far as possible.

After the kick-off, out trots the offensive and defensive units. The offensive coordinator or head coach picks a play for the quarterback. Depending on the QB’s skill and experience, he may be allowed to change the play depending on what he sees in the defense.

Peyton Manning is the well-known master of this skill, the audible. Tom Brady has been known to use it, and Eli Manning dreams about it. If you do not know what you’re doing, audibles are a major cause of interceptions.

The defense must stop the other team for three of the four downs. If the offense manages to get ten yards during the set of downs, barring penalties, the defense gets another shot. Penalties are given for everything, from holding to unsportsmanlike conduct.

Usually, fourth down means the punting unit comes out, unless it’s a close game near the end, or your coach is trying to run up the score on the other team (cough, Belichick, cough).

On any given play, the defense has to guard against both the pass or the run. Ideally, the idea is to sack (tackle) the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage (the imaginary line where the player who last had the ball was stopped, which teams can’t cross until the ball is snapped).

Better yet, the defense loves to pick off the pass, or intercept it. Watch for the Patriot’s Rodney Harrison, or anything that looks and sounds like a freight train, and you just might see a bone-jarring hit force a fumble.

So now you can hopefully watch the game Sunday with a little bit of understanding. Believe it or not, it’s not mass mayhem out there. Except when the Dolphins play.

If there’s a sport you would like to see featured or if you have questions, please email sweaver@eastern.edu.

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