Sunday, January 17, 2016

What I Know About Football

For most of my life, my attitude toward football has been indifference mixed with a little disdain. I had no interest in understanding its rules; it looked barbaric and chaotic. Men in suits commenting on the plays. Men on the sidelines calling the plays. Men on the field chasing and tackling each other. Men in bars and on couches cheering. Men men men men men. The only women you really see or hear about are the egregiously underpaid cheerleaders and the wives and girlfriends who make headlines when a player gets suspended for beating them.

In spite of this, I have always made a habit of watching the Super Bowl, and sometimes even hosting a viewing party. But that's only because I like spectacle and taco dip. The halftime show is always a shitshow for one reason or another (wardrobe malfunctions! left shark!) and the ads are usually amusing. And let's be real, I will jump on any excuse to entertain -- I love throwing parties. Oscar parties, election night parties, and sure, even Super Bowl parties. When it comes to parties, I don't discriminate. I never cared about the actual outcome of a Super Bowl game -- I would just randomly pick a team to root for, and be only mildly disappointed if they lost.

But as Elphaba in Wicked would say, something has changed within me. Something is not the same.

I sort of like watching football now. (I am actually watching the Broncos/Steelers game as I write this. Go Broncos!)

I know. It's crazy. But I live in Wisconsin, the state with the most notoriously rabid and devoted NFL fan base. Inevitably, I started watching more games -- purely for social purposes. Everyone knows when the Packers are playing. And when there's a game, the streets in Eau Claire are like a ghost down, eerily deserted. Because literally nearly everyone is glued to their TVs. Bars that don't serve food regularly have free food on game days -- crockpots of deliciousness, hot dishes galore, lemon and lime jello shots at the ready. 

The more I saw, the more I had to (somewhat begrudgingly) respect the complexity of the game. Because it really is complex. And the athleticism is astounding. It doesn't hurt that Aaron Rodgers is easy on the eyes AND the king of Hail Mary passes. Seriously. So for the first time in my life, I actually self-identify as a fan of a professional sports team. I am a Cheesehead. And I am proud. I am seriously considering buying Packer paraphernalia.

Now I would like to show off some of the things I have learned, mostly from watching with people who have been watching football their entire lives. Every game I feel like I learn something new!

1. It is important to "protect the pocket." I think this refers to keeping the quarterback from getting sacked before he can throw the ball. The pocket "collapsing" is bad for the offense. I think.

2. A football team is really like several teams! There are the offense guys and the defense guys, and the special teams guys like kickers. I JUST LEARNED THIS!  I had no idea the quarterback didn't play the whole game. Mind. Blown.

3. People talk a lot about "the line of scrimmage." Important shit goes on there. I'm not sure exactly what. Regardless, "scrimmage" is a fun word to say. Also fun: "blitz."  

4. Penalties can be declined. I find this a little confusing, to be honest -- in other sports, I'm pretty sure fouls are fouls.

5. Time outs are not just breaks -- they are strategic ways to slow down the game and are often reserved for the final minutes. But the clock also stops during a time out, so I'm not sure how that works. Maybe it can break the other team's momentum? I just know that if a team still has all their time outs toward the end of the game, and they are losing, it's good that they have those time outs. For some reason.

6. There are tricks! I just learned about fake punts, when the punt team (another team!) comes on the field, but then instead of punting, the QB runs a play. They fake out the other team, and it's sneaky.

7. Everyone is guilty of holding, but the goal is to not get called on it. And which way your body is facing can mean the difference between getting busted for pass interference pass interference.

8. Fumbles are exactly what they sound like. Adrian Peterson fumbles a lot, which is a bummer for Vikings fans.

9. Onside kicks are rarely successful but are exciting to watch.

10. Calling a time out right before a field goal is called "icing the kicker" so he might get psyched out and miss. It's kind of mean, in my opinion. Dude's been waiting to whole game to do his thing, so just let him, alright?

I'm really impressed with my knowledge. But not as impressed as I am with Aaron Rodgers's arm.