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Fun Ways To Learn The Basics Of Football… Fast!

Not a fan of football?

As much as I hate to admit it, that’s me.

And as hard as people have tried through the years to convince me that watching football (in person or on TV) is a fun thing to do, I just don’t buy it.

  • I’ve tried front & center in the stands.
  • I’ve been up close & personal on the field.
  • I’ve enjoyed the luxury of skyboxes.
  • I’ve had tickets to some of the biggest games that should have meant something to me.

Still, for some reason, I tend to gravitate toward the fun party games and football party recipes instead of the actual game itself.

Poor Jim, he had no idea what he was marrying into (8 years ago). Unfortunately, I think he pays the price for his non-football loving wife being in charge of the TV remote control, too. That’s probably why he’s usually in the running for “the last place award” in the football pool each year. (Trust me, there’s a much worse name than that for such a prestigious award!)

Anyhoo, at least I have attempted to learn more about the game of football.

Here are some of the best links I’ve found for the non-football fans who want to learn the basics of football… fast!

The Basics Of Football

The Field

A standard football field is rectangular, 120 yards long, and can be grass or turf. (100 yards plus 10 yards for each end zone for a total of 120 yards)

  • The large numbered yard markers are 10 yards apart and the 50 yard marker represents the center of the field.
  • The hash marks (short stripes on each side of the field). The ball is placed at the nearest hash mark after a tackle, assuring that no matter where the tackle is made, the ball placement will be fair for both teams. The hash marks are exactly 70ft. and 9 inches from the sideline.

The Game

A game consists of a full 60 minute run time that is split up into 15 minute four quarters. The game begins with a coin toss to decide who gets the ball first. The average NFL game lasts 3 hours and 12 minutes. How does a 60 minute game last 3 hours? I’m glad you asked. We need to account for stoppages, commercials and breaks within the 60 minute play clock. Here’s an interesting break down:

  • Official game clock: 4 quarters of 15 minutes each. There is also 13 minutes allotted for the halftime. The Super Bowl halftime runs a bit longer.
  • The average active playing time is just 15-20 minutes (there is a 45 second play clock (like a shot clock in basketball) that continues to run to keep game play moving)

The Players

Two teams play against each other, with each team allowed to have 11 players on the field at any given time. Unlimited substitution is permitted, but players can only enter the field when the ball is dead and play is stopped.

  • Only certain players are allowed to touch the ball on offense during basic play. The eligible players are the quarterback, running backs, receivers and tight ends. There are exceptions to this rule if the ball is blocked, fumbled or tipped before an ineligible offensive (interior linemen) player can possess the ball.
  • The numbers on the jersey are assigned by position to help everyone understand who is an eligible player to touch the ball on offense. Eligible numbers in the NFL are 0-49 and 80-89 and ineligible numbers are 50-79 (unless reported to the official on each play that they line up in an eligible position.
  • It’s sometimes fun to pick out your favorite player and watch them through the entirety of the play. In the beginning, just pick the quarterback. It helps to see where the ball is going

The Downs

The basis of football is to advance the ball past 10 yards to get a new set of downs. For example, first down means this is your first chance to get 10 yards. While 4 downs are allotted, most of the time teams will punt the ball on the 4th down. The strategy is not to give their opponent good field position. In other words, make your opponent cover the maximum amount of yards to score.

The Scoring

Teams can score points by getting the ball across the goal line into the endzone. The offense has to take the ball into the end zone for six points which is called a touchdown. After a touchdown, teams can elect to go for an additional 1 or 2 points. They can choose to kick the ball for an additional point or try to run or pass into the endzone for 2 points.

  • The defense can also score 2 points by tackling the ball carrier in the opposite endzone.
  • The defense can also score 6 points by intercepting a pass or recovering a fumble and advancing it to their endzone.

Here’s a great video explaining the basics of American Football: