We’re guys, right? Yeah!!
We like football, right? Yeah!!
So we know a lot about it, right? Uh…
The Big Game you’ve been waiting for all season is finally on, and your favorite team is playing against the team you hope rots in hell. But your guys are behind by 4 in the fourth quarter, and in the Red Zone, and it’s first down. Only there’s 11 seconds on the clock, and your guys are out of timeouts. You’re biting your nails and you’re thinking about the hundred bucks you bet and you’re mumbling prayers and crossing your fingers. In that situation, all of the neurons in your brain are also crossed because you don’t have a clue what’s about to happen. You’re not watching the game: you’re bingeing on pure emotion.
What You Don’t Know
Consider another game, for this season, anyone in the NFC East playing someone else in the NFC East, like maybe Dallas and Washington as they slug it out for last place in the division. If you turn your nose up and go mow the lawn, you are missing a terrific opportunity to REALLY learn something about football. There’s no emotion because even if you’re a fan of one of the teams, you know that the only way they’ll get to the playoffs is if they buy tickets.
In this case, you can actually watch the game: watch how the offense lines up and watch how the defense reacts. With a little study, you not only will understand a heck of a lot more about the game and be able to enjoy it more, but you can impress the hell out of your friends by saying things like, “Look, they’re lining up in a Joe Gibbs old H-Back set,” “Hey, that’s a pistol formation,” “That’s Dungy’s Tampa 2 defense,” “Nickel,” “Dime,” “Blitz coming up,” or even, “I’ll bet that call was a FB West Right 372 Y Slick.”
If you’ve got a son or grandson in high school, you might be watching football on Friday night. Otherwise, even if you’re a serious fanatic, you’ve only got Thursday, Sunday, and Monday for the pros and college on Saturday to feed your football addiction. That leaves three football-less nights. So do what I’ve done is record one of those meaningless games and watch it on the off days. Keep your remote in hand and hit pause just before the ball is snapped. This will give you time to figure out who is where and what’s about to happen on each side of the line. Once you’ve got a picture of the play in mind, hit the resume button and see how the play develops. Who missed a block? Which player was caught sleeping? Who blew their pass route?
Since we’re guys and have a certain amount of “guy pride,” and since we’re supposed to have genetically endowed football expertise, we’d never be caught dead at a bookstore buying a “Football for Dummies” book. So how do we discretely learn all the good stuff?
Become A Football Expert
Hello Wikipedia! There’s a huge amount of info all over the web, but to get your football analysis feet wet, here are a few places to start.
When you find embedded links in the pages, follow those, too. There’s a lot of history and trivia that’s also fun to know.
I ran off a half ream of printouts of offensive and defensive formations. While I’m watching the recorded meaningless game, once I hit pause, I look up the pertinent offensive and defensive formations. Every offensive play is designed to be a touchdown, regardless of what the defense does. Every defensive formation should result in no gain or better yet, a loss of yards, regardless of what the offense does. Since those results are mutually exclusive, something went wrong on one side or the other. When you know ahead of time what’s supposed to happen, you’ll learn to pick out what went wrong.
By the way, one other advantage of a taped game is that you can fast forward through the commercials, timeouts, halftime, etc., and pause the game at will for a pit stop, or for more beer, or to make nachos. Or even come back the next night to finish it up. Even stopping to figure out the plays, you’ll find it goes about as fast as a real game.
You might even start a Tuesday or Wednesday football night with friends so that you can all learn together. And, the best way I’ve found to maintain domestic tranquility during football season is to help your Darling become football knowledgeable by teaching her about the game. Be warned, however, that can sometimes backfire. I’ve lived with both female extremes: one that couldn’t tell a quarterback from a pitcher and another that would have done better as a head coach than half the ones in the league.
Give it a try and you’ll find that your increased knowledge will really make a difference in your appreciation for the game. Just like anything else you do, the more you know, the more fun you’ll have. After a few study games, you’ll find that you won’t need your notes anymore, and you’ll even be able to understand what the commentators are talking about.
Hey, maybe some of them need to spend some time with the notes, too!