If you’re not a football fan, but your date is, the first Sunday in February can be a dividing day. But it could be uniting if you knew how to enjoy a good game.
The last time the Giants killed the Patriots in 2008 during Super Bowl XLII (42), fans everywhere were on fire. New England and New York already have a legendary rivalry with the help of baseball great, Babe Ruth, who left the Red Sox for the Yankees helping both teams get to the World Series.
Suspense is in the air
How to enjoy football
Here are some ideas of what you might think about football and an alternate way of seeing the game.
- There are a bunch of bodies in tights and armor running around a field, occasionally tossing the ball.
- Pay closer attention and you might find that football is not just what you see. In the minds of the players, there is strategy, team work, challenge, foresight, and a lot of quick decisions. Get to know some of the rules and the running can get exciting.
- The game seems slow.
- The pauses between plays allow the teams to talk strategy, exchange players, and to reset at the line of scrimmage, which is the line where the ball starts at each play, or where it stops at the end of plays. Pauses also allow referees to review plays and make judgments.
- Because so much strategy is involved in moving 11 teammates and a ball down the field, it takes a lot of thinking on the coaches’ and quarterbacks’ part. Watch the Giants’ Eli Manning and the Patriots’ Tom Brady closely. You will see in their body language how many decisions they have to make.
- What’s a down?
- Each down is basically a chance to move the ball 10 yards. When a team has the ball, its players are in offense and they get 4 chances, or 4 downs. Each time they are able to get the ball past 10 yards, they return to first down and again get 4 chances to move the ball another 10 yards.
- Sometimes when a team is close to the opponent’s end zone, the players opt to kick the ball aimed at the field goal to gain 3 points if getting a touchdown does not seem feasible.
- After 4 downs, if the offensive team is unable to gain 10 yards, the ball is turned over to the other team.
- There’s a lot of pushing.
- The quarterback has a huge responsibility. He decides the plays and, as the alpha dog, directs the team on how to employ their strategy. (See why I like football? For more on the alpha dog, visit my book’s website.) All the pushing happens so that the quarterback can complete the play either by passing the ball to his teammate or running the ball toward goal. But there are rules to passing. He can only pass the ball from behind the line of scrimmage.
- Sometimes the quarterback passes the ball to the runningback, who may also pass the ball or run with it. Whoever gets the ball behind the line of scrimmage, the passing rule still applies.
- Some teams have great defense. The Patriots this season had become famous for their defensive skills, or lack thereof. But their coach, Bill Belichick, has had something up his sleeve as their defense improved during playoffs. You can see great defense work when there’s a lot of pushing and tackling on the field.
- What’s with the waiting?
- Sometimes plays are disputed and referees need to discuss between themselves whether a play is valid. Other times coaches want to communicate with the team before their opponent makes a great play and calls a timeout. Each team gets 3 timeouts per half. Sometimes a penalty is called, or a flag is thrown, and play is stopped.
- The game is soooo long.
- The clock runs only when the ball is in play. If the ball is fumbled, a pass is incomplete, a penalty is called, or a runner with the ball goes out of bounds, play is stopped. The clock runs again when an official sets the ball down for the next play.
For more on football, visit NFL.com’s beginner’s guide to football.
Enjoy the game and your date!
P.S. If the date is in someone’s home, impress your companion by bringing beer or food, like wings, chili, nachos, or a savory salad if he or she is health-conscious.