Marc Bordui: The Basics of American Football

The American counterpart to football (or as we call it rightly, soccer) has long puzzled fellow Anglophones. Between its frustrating stops and starts, the donning of bizarre plastic armor and the almost complete lack of actual kicking despite its name suggesting otherwise, American Football may seem unnecessarily complex, confusing and downright idiotic to unaccustomed viewers. However, if willing to acquire a basic understanding of the rules, one may discover what is in fact a fast-paced game rich in awe-inspiring passes and last-second comebacks.

As is practically ubiquitous in team sports, the objective of the game is to score more points than your opponent.  The sport is played in four fifteen-minute quarters on a field 100 yards long and 53 yards wide, approximately as long and slightly narrower than a soccer pitch. Teams are composed of 46 players, with 11 participants from each team taking to the field at any one time.

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The game begins with a kickoff. Taking turns, each team’s 11 offensive players face their adversary’s 11 defensive players. The offense is given 4 opportunities, or downs, to move the football 10 yards down the field. If this is accomplished, they are granted another 4 downs. The quarterback leads the offense and can gain necessary yardage by handing the ball off to a running back, who will then attempt to (yes, this is going to be obvious) run it down the field, or by passing it forward through the air to a wide receiver (who, again obviously, receives or catches it). The defense attempts to tackle players carrying the ball and stop them moving any further down the field (this is when all the players pile on top of each other).

Should the offense manage to reach the far end of the field known as the (aaaand again this is going to be obvious) “end zone”, the offense shall receive 6 points, with the opportunity to either kick the ball through the goalposts for an additional point or attempt to re-enter the goal line for 2 points. So, yes, there is kicking, actual contact between the ‘foot’ and the ‘ball’.

However, if the defense prevail and succeed in containing the offense, the team in possession of the ball may elect to punt down the field to the opposition, thus increasing the distance required to score.

Finally, the defense can become the offense by intercepting passes and recovering fumbles, the latter of which occur when the ball is forcefully removed from the running back’s possession.

GIF: The Clem Report WordPress

Barring a great number of minor rules and regulations, American football is, in conclusion, just that simple: push through the enemy team and get the ball to the end of the field. Coincidentally, the territorial nature of the game relates quite agreeably to the cherished American tradition of invading land owned by unwilling populations.

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