There are 3 little words in the English language that make my heart skip a beat, make my breath catch in my throat and make my body feel all warm and fuzzy...
"It's football season"
Ahhh, yes...as the sun starts to set earlier in the evening, the leaves start to change colors (or, for you Zonies...the needles start to fall off the cacti)...and we all have to figure out which direction we need to change our clocks to, that means that the start of the football season is upon us.
I absolutely adore football. For me, it started as a young girl (insert dream-sequence music here...). I am the eldest of two in my family. And although I can't swear that my father wanted a son, most men favor the idea of a son over a daughter first...so it wouldn't surprise me to stumble upon this discovery. So anyway...as a girl, when I was younger, I was into "girl things"...Barbie dolls, playing dress-up, shoes...y'know...the usual. These things, however, weren't exactly conducive to creating a bond with my father--who, most days, was quiet, reserved and shielded--not exactly the easiest barrier to break through. So as I started to get older, and wanted to develop some type of relationship with my dad, there was one thing I noticed that he liked....football. My dad would hang out on the couch on Sundays, watching whatever game happened to be on (he favored the Kansas City Chiefs). So I started to pay attention...ask questions. "What's a first down?" "What's a safety?" "Why can no one beat the Steelers?"....whoops! Sorry...slight bias....
As I got older, I developed my own football addiction. The Pittsburgh Steelers became my team. True story--I actually started rooting for the Steelers even before I found out the significance of my birth date...that I had been born on the date of the Immaculate Reception game....(ok, seriously, click on the link...watch the YouTube video...)
(and for all you conspiracy theorists and/or Raiders fans..guess what? Instant replay would've STILL worked in Pittsburgh's favor....so there!!)
So that's how I developed my love for football.
Now....for those of you who are not as avid football fans as I am...I would like to impart upon you a few things that you need to know in order to hang...
Football is played on a field...there are endzones and sidelines, the field itself is marked off in 10 yard segments. In a nutshell, the object of the game is for either team to take the football across the length of the field and into the endzone. Each team has a certain amount of attempts to move the ball downfield...called "downs". There are 4 downs in each try. If the team moving the ball advances the ball 10 yards in 4 downs, they've scored what's called a "first down"--at which point their attempt number resets itself and they have 4 more chances to move the ball another 10 yards. If the advancing team fails to move the ball 10 yards in 4 downs, then they have to "punt" to get the ball in a farther position on the field for the other team from which to start their advancement. If the advancing team is lucky enough to get into the "endzone", (at which point you start cheering wildly) they have scored what's called a "touchdown"--worth 6 points. If they they kick the ball through the goal posts for the "extra point"--that's worth 1 point. If they (sometimes stupidly) decide to go for the "2-point conversion" (IE; foregoing the kick in lieu of trying to run or pass the ball back across the goaline), then they score the aforementioned 2 points instead of one.
Now, there are all kinds of things that can keep a team from scoring. An "interception" is when a member of the defensive team catches a forward pass thrown by the offense (ie: the quarterback makes a blunderous throw, basically right into the arms of the worst member of the defensive team, who then inevitably runs it all the way back upfield for a touchdown). A "fumble" is when any member of the possessing team makes a boneheaded move and manages to lose the ball right into the arms of their opponent--thus causing you, as a fan, to throw your arms up in frustration, scream at the person next to you and almost cause an international incident. And then there are all kinds of "penalties"--y'know...those pesky rules that dictate how you play the game...which always come up at the most inconvenient time, causing you to just go ballistic at the guys in the black and white striped shirts (called "refs"). Games can hinge on the ref's call...and no, don't even start on me about the championship game between the Steelers and the Seahawks back in 2006...those calls were made fair and square!!
There are 4 quarters in football (quarters, not innings, or periods). After the first 2 quarters, there's what's called "halftime". Basically, that's when everyone gets up and makes a bee-line for the concession stand for more beer and/or hits the bathroom. If you're a woman at a football stadium, I can tell you right now...leave no less than 3 minutes before the end of the second quarter...otherwise, you're stuck in a line that won't break until the start of the 4th quarter. Trust me.
The rest of the game you can pretty much figure out by just watching it. Just keep drinking beer, shouting for whoever's wearing your jersey colors and getting angry at the refs...at that point, you're a pro fan!
One final thought for those of you who are new to the game....team selection. If, perhaps, you have not followed football up until this particular point in your life....perhaps you've lived among the monks in a remote mountain top in northern Asia...maybe you've been in a cave somewhere in West Virginia for the last 20 years, maybe you were raised by wolves in the Amazon Valley where there's no TV, but amazing cell phone reception....there are a few things to consider when choosing what team you'd like to root for.
First....MY personal preference is for you to become a Steelers fan. But that may seem slightly biased....(even though we are the oldest AFC franchise team, have won more Super Bowl games and AFC Championships than any other team out there). If, however, you somehow think there's a team better than the Steelers, that's perfectly fine (delusional, but acceptable). It will be perfectly OK for you to decide to root for any team in the AFC or NFC with the exception of the Cowboys or the Raiders. That's just cause for commitment to an asylum. Seriously. And for you Cowboy and Raider fans out there reading this, I know the name of a perfectly good psychiatrist....he can help you through your issues. Really.
So that's it. We're only half-way into pre-season...which gives you plenty of time to ease yourself into the game before the regular season starts. And in case you're wondering, pre-season is simply the time before the games start to count when teams have a chance to show themselves off for their fans, get a look at how their competition will perform, and basically give the beer companies more chances at making a crap-load more money (at 10 bucks a beer at each event, can you blame them??).
If you have any further questions, I defer you to Wikipedia, ESPN or my dad. ...Who still roots for the Chiefs.
Yeah...I might have to call my psychiatrist for him yet....