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How to Watch Football: A Crash Course

Updated on December 11, 2008

It can happen to the best of us. You're sitting around, minding your own business, and all of the sudden you find a football game playing on the television. It doesn't matter if you're at a friend's house, visiting your family, or even on your own couch; if you regularly relinquish control of the tv remote, you are liable to end up watching something you don't want to watch.

For many of us, as incredible as this may be, that "something" is often football.

This is for those of you who know nothing about football but find yourselves forced to watch it. Face it: Understanding what's going on is way more interesting than having no clue, and if you just sit there whining, it'll only piss people off.


That right there is a football field. The white lines that make a box are the boundary lines (if you go outside of them during play, you are "out of bounds" and the play is over). The lines dividing up the field into little slices are yard lines, and there is one of them every five yards (they are only labeled every ten yards). This lets you know how far the players are from scoring.

The fork-looking things on either end of the field are the goalposts, through which one can kick the football to score. This is usually called a field goal. The other way of scoring is by running the ball into the endzone, which are the two areas towards the end of the field after the yard lines stop but before the boundary line. This is usually called a touchdown.

The Players

Eleven players from each team are allowed on the field at a time. They may substitute any player at any time when the ball is not "in play" (that is, not being tossed around). There are 46 active players on each team.

Each team has three units to divide the players: offense, defense, and special. This means that the guys throwing and catching the ball are not the same guys tackling the opponents when going the other way. That's why some of them are giant blobs of muscle, and some of them are small and spry.

The Object of the Game and Scoring

The object of the game of American football is to score the most points in the time allotted. A team does this by scoring touchdowns or field goals. When one team has the ball, the other tries to stop them by tackling them.

A touchdown is worth 6 points, and after a team scores one, they can either go for an extra point (by kicking the ball through the goalposts) or two points with a "conversion" (by running the ball into the endzone again).

A field goal is worth 3 points, and there's a special player who does the kicking. A team can try for a field goal from anywhere on the field, but the longest one ever kicked was from 65 yards away.

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Worth a Shot

Those are the bare basics. If you can't remember the names of the teams (or don't care to), just watch them by their colors! And if you have any questions beyond this, ask!

But be careful. Asking questions about sports has gotten me obsessed with baseball. Don't ask too many unless you're ready for a lifelong commitment!


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