Football Rules: A Girlfriend’s Guide
Living in a small town outside of Charlotte, sports, especially NFL football, are a big deal in our neighborhood. When the Panthers play you can literally hear the cheers and jeers throughout the subdivision. Man or woman, we have a “take no prisoners” attitude on game day.
My daughter has embraced the camaraderie of a unified cheering section. One of her favorite pranks is to invite unsuspecting friends over on game day. She thinks it is funny to watch their reaction when the first play causes an uproar heard throughout our neighborhood. As they jump up in a fight or flight response, she laughs as she explains that it is just football season in Cramerton Village.
Recently, my daughter attended a preseason Panthers game with her BFF. She came home ranting about her disbelief that her BFF has a dad with season tickets to the Panthers, but her friend knows so little about the game. My daughter was embarrassed for her friend, because she cheered when anyone else did, regardless of which team deserved the cheers.
My daughter asked me to help her friends understand football rules. She believed that they would grow to love the game, if they had someone, as she did, to explain the rules without making it overly technical in the beginning. My daughter pointed out that she learned to appreciate sports for two reasons: 1) it was just easier to live with me if she learned to love the game; and 2) I explained the rules in a way that did not make her feel stupid or confused by too much information all at once.
As I mulled this idea over, I thought back to how I came to understand the game. I was injured in 9th grade and could not participate in P.E. My teacher made me write a paper on NFL Football in order to get credit for class participation. When I handed in my paper, he made me rewrite it with more detail. He wanted to see exact numbers and penalties explained.
When I wrote it the second time he still felt that I did not understand the sport. As we discussed it he began using a bunch of technical jargon that I had not included in my paper. However, I felt that I had said the same thing in a way that made sense to me. He asked me to prove my understanding by demonstrating what I had written using the gym as a makeshift field. After our discussion he gave me an A on my paper.
I wish that I still had that paper to share with you today, but since I do not I have decided to write a series of articles on football rules designed for someone with little knowledge of football. These articles are not meant to be overly detailed. Football Rules: A Girlfriend’s Guide is designed to help young girls with no understanding of football to begin to grasp the game without being embarrassed that her questions will seem stupid. As the season progresses, hopefully girls will no longer feel left out of the game.
Part of what makes football confusing is that the terms and rules are interdependent. It was a challenge for me to decide where to begin without needing too much additional explanation about other aspects of the game. The first question that girls usually ask me about football is the how the scoring works.
Right off the bat football feels confusing, because there are several ways to score and each is worth a different number of points. Although it may seem convoluted, since scoring is the primary cheer making action, you will more quickly feel a part of the crowd if you at least understand what everyone is cheering about.
There are five ways to score in football:
- Touchdown – A touchdown is the most desired and difficult way to score. It is most desired, because it is worth 6 points. It is the most difficult, because a player must get the ball into the end zone (the painted sections at each end of the field), either by carrying the ball in or catching the ball while in the end zone.
After a touchdown the scoring team has two options for scoring more points.
- PAT – This stands for point after touchdown, aka the extra point. After a touchdown the scoring team may earn 1 extra point by kicking a field goal. The ball must go through the arms of the yellow goal posts at the end of the field. This is the most common attempt made at getting more than 6 points for a touchdown, making the total points 7.
- Two Point Conversion – In a close game the scoring team may decide to go for a two point conversion after the touchdown. As implied by the name it is worth 2 extra points. The ball is set at the 3 yard line and the team is required to get the ball into the end zone in the same way as a touchdown. These attempts are much more difficult than kicking a field goal and often do not go as planned, so a two point conversion is generally a sign of desperation.
Other ways to score:
- Field Goal – The offensive team (the team with the ball) gets a limited number of attempts to get the ball into their end zone for a touchdown. If a team only has one attempt left, but the ball is not close enough to the end zone to make a touchdown likely, they have the option to kick a field goal to score. If the ball is far enough down field that they believe their kicker could kick it through the goal posts, then they will attempt a field goal for 3 points. After all, 3 points is better than 0.
- Safety – The circumstances that allow a safety score are confusing for a football newbie. It takes a rarely seen sequence of events to make this happen. It usually means someone on the offensive team got confused as well. Just know that a safety means the offensive team scored 2 points for the defensive team by doing something stupid in the wrong end zone. It is kind of like throwing a basketball into the wrong basket and scoring for the other team.
Check out the NFL Football Schedule, pick a game and test your new found knowledge by watching a game. Next time we will cover the important areas of the field. By the time playoffs get here, hopefully, more girls will be cheering alongside their dads and really know what they are cheering about.