The Girl Who Couldn’t Learn Football

I’ve never been a football fan. Truth be told, I’ve never understood the sport at all. Keep in mind that despite cheering for the sport for a number of years in my youth, I’ve never been able to learn more than what a first down is and a hand signal or two. Basically, I know the sign for ‘holding’ and ‘touchdown.’

I know, sad.

Over the holiday break, I drove to Massachusetts to visit my family. During my vacation, I spent a couple of days visiting my sister in New Hampshire. One night, the Patriots game was on the television and I made the mistake of thinking my sister and I were spending quality time with each other. Imagine my surprise when she looked at the screen and hollared, “YOU GOTTA CATCH THOSE!!!”

Shortly after that, she began to scream at the ref in much the same manner as any man might do when watching the game with his buddies. I said to her what I’ve said to those men: “You do realize they can’t hear you, right?”

And yes, I received the same look of exasperation from her that I’ve received from men in the past.

In all fairness, I have tried on several occasions to learn the sport. I would ask questions while watching the game but soon realized that my questions that sounded something like, “So the guy in the blue shirt is the quarterback, right?” or “Which direction are they going in?” or “Why are they playing in the rain? Aren’t they cold?” were not as well received as I would have liked.

So why, despite my trying to learn the sport, am I unable to do so? I am a fairly intelligent person. I’m college educated and have been able to hold down a job since graduation. I speak grammatically correct, can make change without a calculator and can read instructions in order to assemble any number of household items. Why, I ask, does this football thing escape me? Why do I find it nearly impossible to keep track of who’s in what place or who is trying to get to which goal? And never mind which player ran so many yards in a game in 1973. Do we really care about this? Yeah, yeah, I know some of you do.

The thing is; football is great! If i were to watch any sport, football would be it. I love the crashing into one another, the die hard play-in-any-type-of-weather mentality, and let’s face it, the tight pants aren’t all that bad either.

So here is my New Year’s resolution: This is the year I will learn the fundamentals of football. I will learn the proper way to tackle someone without getting a penalty, I will learn what causes a penalty and perhaps even a play or two. I will learn all the positions as well as the qualities that are best suited for those positions. (Currently, I only know that typically, a big, burly guy is the center and a quick, smaller guy is a running back. But that’s two positions down! How many to go?)

In addition, I will follow a team through the season and cheer them on. I will make an effort to watch every game they play, even if it means I miss an outing with a girlfriend.

Now, who’s going to teach me the game?

Donna Small is the author of two novels: Just Between Friends and A Ripple in the Water. Both are from Second Wind Publishing.


Filed under writing

7 responses to “The Girl Who Couldn’t Learn Football

  1. Stop yourself. You’re currently a very intelligent person, and your sister and her preoccupations are…
    Learn to pretend. Learn to sit before a football game and while others are yelling at the screen, look at magazines, read papers, blog nothings.

  2. Donna: The basics of football aren’t too difficult. The team on offense has four downs in which to move the ball ten years down field; by doing so, they are awarded a new set of downs. In this way, they move the ball toward the opponent’s goal line in an effort to cross it, thereby scoring six points and the opportunity to add the PAT (point after touchdown) by kicking the ball between the uprights. If they don’t make ten yards on three downs, they often choose to punt the ball to the defending team rather than risk not making a first down on fourth down, thereby giving the ball to their opponent at that point on the field. Punting is often referred to as playing a game of field position, because the team receiving a punt often starts deep in their own territory.

    There are plenty of nuances that make the game unique, including use of four-letter words directed at officials and opposing players who show-up the home team with ludicrous dances in the end zone when they score, and even the home team’s quarterback when he throws an interception during an attempted fourth quarter comeback (Detroit Lions fans are particularly adept at this), which I won’t go into here simply because, with instant replay and the constantly changing rules from one season to the next, the NFL has pretty much ruined the game I grew up watching.

    I understand the necessity of instant replay, in getting the call right in a seventeen-game season, in which every game is important (more so than in other team sports—more than 80 games in hockey and basketball, and 162 games in baseball), and especially in the playoffs with the one-game lose and you go home to play golf format. But even instant replay doesn’t guarantee the right outcome.

    Case in point, in yesterday’s Green Bay-San Francisco game, they called a completed pass to a Forty-niner receiver at the sidelines. Green Bay challenged the call, but upon further review, the call on the field was upheld. Yet three years ago, a similar play during a Lions-Bears (oh, my) game was initially called a touchdown but was overturned after review determined that Calvin Johnson didn’t demonstrate control of the football through what the NFL calls “Act II” of the catch. It wasn’t enough that Johnson came down with the football firmly in his grasp, landing on both feet, then his backside, where he rolled himself up onto a hip, then his knees, and getting to his feet to celebrate a winning touchdown, leaving the ball (not dropping it) on the ground. Apparently, Act II of the catch means handing the football to an official. The NFL later claimed that, in the spirit of the rule, they got the call right. Yesterday, in Green Bay, same rule, different outcome. In the spirit of the rule, they must’ve gotten it wrong.

    Long rant, I know. I’m not even a Lions fan. But I prefer college football over the NFL. They’re kids playing for love of the game and a chance to turn the head of a pro scout and sign a contract in the NFL. The rules don’t change nearly as often.

    You’re better off not knowing the rules of the game—you’ll just end up as frustrated as many fans are by the forever changing rules and what constitutes a penalty from one season to the next. Who knows, after a few years, you’ll end up not much caring for the game at all, and you’ll end up right where you are today.

    But, I’ve gotten you started. Let someone else finish explaining the game to you.

  3. I, also an educated and intelligent woman, have never understood football past the “four tries to move the ball ten yards” part.

    (JCG, it’s funny how people who know a lot about something think it’s easy to understand. Computers. Internal combustion engine. Foreign policy. Football. But I digress.)

    I like some sports and have even come to watch my husband’s beloved Yankees with him. Sometimes. I even know about the infield fly rule! Tennis, too. I just don’t like football (or hockey), partially because of the built-in violence, but mainly because of the mania that attaches to it. Wow, football fans are….. passionate. Ever try to tell a guy who’s watching a football game that his house is burning down? (OK, it’s an exaggeration, but you know what I mean.)

    Here endeth my rant, though I could go on and on. I admire your goal, Donna, but mine is different. I don’t want to understand. I’ll settle for trying to remain calm when I hear the sound of the announcer’s near-hysterical voice.

  4. I know just enough to keep me from getting hurt in public. If Sheldon Cooper can learn, so can you.

  5. Anita

    My husband hated me asking questions every week when I first started watching football with him. Watching it every day with so,wine who knows the rules and is willing to explain things to you and you will have it under control in a season. 😊

  6. Nah, it’s got to be soccer–I learned to enjoy it in self-defence. But now our family’s in mourning for ManU.

  7. I went through high school and my brother’s college games having little clue what the game was all about, except touchdowns and field goals. I cheered “First and ten, do it again,” with the rest of them, not knowing what it meant. I found out later. I finally figured out it was my lack of interest. I love most sports, but the only televised one I enjoy is basketball. One of my daughters is the biggest football fan in the family. She was watching a game a couple of weeks ago, and got excited when the Packers won in the last seconds. She said, “The Packers got a touchdown and are going to the Playoffs.” Her two year old son repeated it for me, in the way he understood it. “Grandma, the Packers got a touchdown and are going to the Playhouse,”

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