Tomorrow is Super Bowl – when the final two football teams play a championship game, a match which will be watched by 100 million people including 10 Eritreans, 17 Ethiopians, 3 Somalis and 12 Sudanese (the rest will be watching European soccer.)
You can eat all the hot dogs and apple pies you like but if you don’t watch football, you are not American*. So if you want to be a little more open minded and stop ridiculing it by saying ክላ! ጸወታ ኣብዑር (“game of ox” you call it: since when do oxen ram against each other?), here’s a little tutorial and a highlight of some of the best plays.
Each team has 11 players (like soccer.) Depending on whether the team is on offense or in defense, specialists are deployed to the field. These are some of the positions and their roles (according to Football for Dummies):
1. Quarterback: receives the ball and throws it to a receiver or runs with it. Why is he throwing it? Ah, we forgot to explain the whole point of the game. Never mind the players; will get back to it, but first:
The Whole Point of The Game:
It is to move the ball–either by carrying it or throwing it to a team-member–closer to, or into, the opposing team’s territory. The “territory” is this:
It is, end-to-end, 120 yards (wait, that would be, um, 110 meters: again, close to a soccer field), of which there are 20 yards (10 yards in each side), that are called the “end zone.” A team scores by having a team member cross into the end zone with a ball firmly gripped and the position of the legs, knees and other parts of the anatomy ruled valid. (How? look, this is an intro to the rules.) When he does, it is not called a goal (or gooooooooooooooal!) but “touch down.” When players score a touch down, they don’t take off their shirts, or run around, or skate on their knees, (that’s soccer): instead, they perform a touch down dance. The intricacy of the touch down dance is in inverse relationship to how far ahead the team is: the more behind they are, the more the losers celebrate. This is not a rule, but an observation.
But to get there, the quarterback must throw the ball, or carry the ball in increments that are acceptable. The ball must advance 10 yards, and the team has 4 chances (called “downs”: thus, the touchdown) to do it. So, the sign on your TV that says 1st and 10, 2nd and 8, 3rd and 4 translates to: this is the team’s first try to make ten yards. It only moved the ball two yards? Then it will be a second try to move eight (10 minus 2) yards. Etc. If the team can’t advance ten yards in four attempts or downs, then it has to kick (“punt”) the funny ball, as far as it can into enemy territory. If it is close enough to score it into the funny looking goal post, then it gets some points. By the way, every touch down is worth six points (we laugh at soccer’s puny one point) with an opportunity for a two-point conversion, making it not 8 but 7. (don’t ask: hush.)
Now back to the players…
2. Center: This is the player who “snaps” (bent over, reverse throws) the ball to the quarterback. The whole point is: give it to the quarterback and he will know what to do with it. In theory.
3. Running back: This is the player running with the ball. Just to confuse matters, he is also called a tailback, halfback, rusher or whatever name they will come up for him tomorrow.
4. Fullback: As the running back is carrying the ball and trying to cross into enemy territory, there will be scary defenders who will try to block him, tackle him, knock him down, disable him, take him out on a stretcher and it is the job of the fullback to defend and create a path for the running back.
5. Wide receiver: Speedy Gonzales here, a super fast and agile athlete capable of eluding defenders and catching a ball thrown at impossible speed and angle by the quarterback.
6. Tight end: A receiver, who is also a blocker and back up guard.
7. Guards: The job of these guys–their only job–is to protect the quarterback (left and right flank) from an incoming rush of scary monsters whose only goal is to tackle, pressure, fumble the ball, and deny a single second of planning for the quarterback.
That’s it. Not really, I didn’t mention what makes the games exciting is mistakes: fumble (ball dispossessed), interception (ball thrown for teammate picked up by the opponent.) And, well, yeah, there are a lot of timeouts, and half-time shows, but how else are we supposed to enjoy the commercials if they don’t do that? The game will start at 3:30 pm PST; if you add the pre-game and post game shows, it is an 8 hour show.
What else? Oh, Super Bowls are, for reasons I don’t want to know, sequenced using roman numerals. The one which is on tomorrow is LII which translates to 52. *Oh, I am also told that Canadians play the game but I have seen no evidence of that. And now, some highlights: