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Understanding Football- A Guide for Wives of Football Addicts

Updated on September 18, 2010

There is a phenomenon that occurs each fall. It is an event that causes enemies to come together for a common cause. It causes grown men to cry. It is American football. Many men are engrossed in the game of football. They have friends over for parties to watch the game. They can't get enough of it. In fact, many such as myself, count the days to training camp, the first sign of a new season. American football has become such a huge phenomenon that Super Bowl commercials cost millions of dollars for a 30 second spot. Companies have come to understand that if they want their product to be recognized then that company needs to be the official sponsor of the NFL.

As exciting as football is to many men, often their wives are left wondering what the big deal is. They just don't get it. Many women realize that if they want to connect with their husband it needs to include a connection with football. However, the problem is that many women don't understand how football works. They don't understand what the rules are, how the scoring works, or how other aspects of the game come into play. Another thing that causes frustration is that men often struggle to explain it to their wife when asked. I know that my wife tends to ask me during a game to explain certain things. I want badly for her to understand the game, but during a game I want to just focus on the game. So, I am writing to explain the basics of football. We will talk about why men are so captured by the game, what the different positions are, the basic rules and scoring. Before we move on I want to make a concession- I understand that many women love football as well. Just look at the games on television and you will see that many of the fans are female. Too, my mother is a big football fan and totally understands the game. Here, we are dealing with men who are engrossed in football and their wives who want to understand it. Too, you will probably not get it the first time you read this article. You may have to read it a few times. However, your husband will be glad you did.

Why Men Love Football

Why do men love football? Why does it engross them? Why do they spend so much money on tickets, extra television channels, food, beer, and souvenirs? Why do they talk about it all week at work, read news articles on the games and their teams? Listed below are a few reasons why football has such a following among men.

1. It inspires emotion

While men tend to shy away from emotion, football evokes an emotional response. I know that when I watch football or read about it, I get a certain emotional high. There is a euphoric feeling that comes with football. The great thing is that there are no side effects or destructive physical behavior involved with the high, unless you're the guy getting punished on the field. There is such a sense of greatness and a sense that something big is happening when a football game is being played, especially if it is the NFL or a major college game.

2. It brings a sense of community

Let's face it, the sports bars are full on Sundays. Men enjoy being together. They find a sense of community with each other when watching football. Look how big football stadiums are compared to baseball stadiums or basketball arenas. There is just something fulfilling with men when they can talk, yell, laugh, and offer an opinion without judgment. I am not talking necessarily about judgment from their wives, but from their boss, co-workers and others that put them down.

3. It brings a sense of purpose

Football gives purpose to an otherwise normal life. Whether that purpose is routing for a winning team, or just dreaming of personal greatness, football gives men a sense that they can be great. Football aids in the hero mentality. Men want to be heroes. The successful football player is seen as a hero.

4. It allows for physical punishment

Men tend to be physical. Violence appeals to many men. However, those men don't believe in violence that purposely harms a fellow human. So, football allows for violence within accepted bounds. Yes, players get injured, but usually heal, and some have died. However, there are enough rules in place to protect the players as much as possible. Too, note that at the end of the game the opposing teams congratulate each other and laugh with each other. So, there is physical punishment involved, but it is between people who are friends off the field.

Playing Positions

Before we discuss how the scoring works and the basic rules, let's look at the positions the players play. We will not look at each individual position, but rather at the basic set up of the offense and defense.


During a play, there are 11 players on offense and 11 players on defense.

Offensive line- There are generally 5 players on the offensive line. These are the really big guys that are lined up with the football. Their job is to block the defense so that they can't get to the quarterback before he gets rid of the football. They also try to clear a path for the runners to advance the ball.

Quarterback- This is the main player that tends to be focused on. He is the one who either hands the ball to another player or throws the ball. He is the leader of the offense and calls the plays.

Receivers- There are generally two receivers. They are close to the sidelines when a play starts and run in various patterns to catch the ball and advance it.

Running backs- There are generally two running backs, but can be three on certain plays. There is a half back who is directly behind the quarterback and the full back who is behind the halfback. The running backs do one of three things- 1. run the ball down the field. 2. Run down the field and catch the ball like a receiver. 3. Block the defense like the offensive line does.








Defensive line- Just as the offense has five players that line up with the football, so the defense has five really big guys that line up with the football. Their job is to try to get to the quarterback to either tackle him or knock the ball out of his hand. Too, they try to stop the running backs from advancing.

Defensive Ends- There are generally four defensive ends. These players defend the receivers and try to keep them from catching the ball. If the receiver does catch the ball, then the ends try to tackle him to keep him from advancing. Too, besides the ones defending the receivers, there are generally two defensive ends at the back of the defense to prevent long throws from the quarterback. If the ball is advanced far down the field, then they try to keep the player from the end-zone.

Linebacker- This player is a floater. He stands behind the Defensive line, but moves around to help teammates who are struggling to defend their opponent. Just as the quarterback is the leader of the offense, the linebacker is the leader of the defense.


Now let's talk about how teams score points. Obviously, the team with the highest score at the end of the game, wins. This is not true in golf.

End-zone- before we can talk about scoring points, we need to define an important area of the field- the end-zone. The end-zone is the 10 yard area at both ends of the field. The goal is to get the ball inside that area as that scores the most points.Getting the ball into the end-zone is easier said than done.

Touchdown- A touchdown happens when the offense gets the ball into the end-zone. The team receives 6 points, and a chance to either kick the ball for one more point or put the ball in the end-zone from the two yard line for 2 more points. They only get one chance to score extra points.

Extra point- When a team scores a touchdown, they get an opportunity to kick the ball. If the ball goes between the two goal posts then they get 1 more point for a total of 7 points.

2 yard conversion- After a touchdown, the team can opt to go for 2 extra points instead of one. If they choose not to kick the ball for an extra point, then they can try to run a play from the 2 yard line. If they get the ball into the end-zone, then they get 2 more points for a total of 8 points.

Field goal- If the offense can't advance the ball any further, then they can choose to kick a field goal. What they do is kick the ball from wherever they are on the field. If they kick the ball between the two goal posts, then they get 3 points.

Safety- The defense can score points. If the defense tackles an offensive player with the ball in his own end-zone, then the defense gets 2 points for their team. Too, if the defense intercepts the ball, or in some other way takes the ball away from the offense, and then runs it into the end-zone, then the defense scores a touchdown.

Basic rules

Let's look at some of the basic rules of football. The rule book is huge, so we will only cover some basic and common rules.


Downs- The offense gets 4 tries to advance the ball 10 yards down the field. These are called downs. So, the offense gets 4 downs to advance the ball. Once the ball is advanced 10 yards, then the downs are reset. If the offense has taken 3 downs to advance the ball, but is unsuccessful, then they have to choose to either go for it (try one more time to get a first down), kick a field goal, or punt (kick the ball to the other team, giving up the ball). If the team is unsuccessful on fourth down to advance the ball the remaining distance, then they must give the ball to the other team.

Number of players- There must be 11 players on the field. If either team has more than 11 players, then they are penalized. This is a common mistake during substitutions.

Time- A professional football game lasts four quarters of 15 minutes each. That is, fifteen minutes in football time.

Size of field- A football field is 100 yards long, and 53 1/3 yards wide. The end-zones are an additional 10 yards on each end of the field. The field is divided into 5 yard segments.

Advancing the ball- the offense can advance the ball by either throwing it or running it. They cannot advance it by dropping it then kicking it forward.

Stopping the ball- the defense can stop the advancement of the ball in a number of ways, provided they do so in a sportsman like way. This basically means in a way that does not intentionally harm another player. Too, you cannot tackle the quarterback if he does not have the ball.


The rules listed above are very basic. Here are some of the common penalties that the officials will call on a player. These are the things you can't do.

Off sides- This happens when the defense jumps ahead of the ball before the play begins. Most penalties incur either a loss of yards (they move the ball backwards or forwards depending on whether the offense or defense was penalized) or a loss of down.

False start- This occurs when the offense jumps ahead of the ball before the play starts. Too, a false start can occur if the quarterback moves backwards before the ball is in play, so as to trick the defense.

Ineligible receiver- Some players cannot catch the ball. If they wish to do so, they have to announce it to the official that they are eligible. The official then announces it to the fans.

Unsportsman like conduct- This happens when a player acts in a way that is not professional. Examples include fighting, taunting the other team, or excessive verbal abuse of an official. This can result in a player or coach being kicked out of the game or in some cases, being fined a huge sum of money and not being allowed to play in a certain number of games.

Personal foul- this occurs when a player hits another player in a harmful way. Examples include a blow to the head, hitting the knees, or hitting a player that is already out of bounds.

Face mask- this happens when a defensive player grabs the face mask on the helmet of the player with the ball. This can cause neck injuries.

Holding- This happens when either an offensive or defensive player grabs hold of a player without the ball to keep them from getting away.

Intentional Grounding- This happens when the quarterback throws the ball towards the ground to avoid being tackled when there is no receiver around. The quarterback can throw the ball out of bounds without being penalized.

Interference- For the defense, interference happens when a defensive player keeps a receiver from having a fair chance to catch the ball. They can interfere by tackling them before the ball arrives, by holding them so they can't get to the ball, or by pushing them away from the ball. For the offense, interference happens when an offensive player keeps a defensive player from either having a fair chance to intercept the ball or a fair chance to defend the receiver.

This is a lot to take in if you have no understanding of football. You may have to read this a few times to get it. The best way to understand football is to do what your husband did. He watched enough games until it clicked. Ask him to explain what just happened during commercials. Most of all, just accept him for who he is and be excited that he has something that he enjoys and let him know it's okay to like football.

This video shows the various player positions


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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      nice job. I love football too, and I am a woman. Now I know to leave my husband alone when he is watching football.

    • Michael Davis profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael Davis 

      7 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      Bethany- I must admit that my team is the Broncos! I have always been a Denver fan. Thanks for the props.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great article! I started watching football with my husband last year because of Tim Tebow. Our little Colorado town was obsessed with Tebow and his 4th quarter I jumped on board...until I was hooked. Now, I'm really really hooked. I love Peyton Manning and Manti Te'O, and RGIII, and Damarius Thomas, and Andrew Luck...I get it. It's dramatic! It's impressive! Your article really cleared some things up for me - thanks. Write more!

    • Michael Davis profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael Davis 

      7 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      CK- welcome on Super Bowl Sunday to the wonderful world of men beating the crap out of each other.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I was very happy to find this guide. I have finally accepted, at age 42, that I should understand football -- much thanks for breaking it down!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Several miss-prints in the article. Defensive ends, rare they cover a receiver and usually are only two on the field. The only time an end would find himself in pass coverage would be in a dog zone play. Another, the full back lines up in front of the half back. Other than that great learning tool for women.

    • Michael Davis profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael Davis 

      8 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      babalola- Great! Have a good day of watching football

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      thanks! very helpful

    • Michael Davis profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael Davis 

      9 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      Good fact Chuck. Thanks for the heads up. As much as I know about football and love the game, this fact escaped me. It is corrected now in the hub.

    • profile image

      Chuck Mrosla 

      9 years ago

      Size of the field: 100 yards by 160 feet (53 1/3 yards). The width of an NFL football field has been my favorite football question over the years. Kindly look it up and verify.

    • profile image

      howto increasever 

      11 years ago

      Very good sounding advices.. Thanks for the info..


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