For the uninitiated, football season can be a confusing time. Every week, Americans from all walks of life gather before TV sets across the country to watch this game, sporadically erupting in guttural Rambo-like cries, sending Cheetos flying everywhere. To those who don't know the rules of the game — or the etiquette of watching it — this can be confusing. Nobody wants to be the guy at the bar who doesn't have the "hive scent" — who's either baffled by the rules, without a team loyalty, or shocked by the simmering homoeroticism. If you need help trying to bluff your way through a football game, we offer this guide to you.
The rules of the game | The game of football has too many rules to explain them all in one article. Trying to learn them may be too daunting for the total newbie. Suffice it to say that two teams dress up in synthetic exoskeletons and try to move an oblong ball — by running with it and throwing it from man to man — down a field toward the opposing team's "end zone." The game, as played, consists of long periods of calm where strategies are hashed out and then quick periods of action where the teams try to clobber each other into submission.
Bluffing strategies | Find out who most of the spectators are rooting for. This makes cheering easier, because you can simply try to match the energy level in the room when most people are shouting or groaning. Try to remember exactly what color that team's uniforms are. (Remember: They're called "uniforms" not "costumes.") Learn the name of the team's quarterback, repeat it a few times carefully to yourself so nobody else can hear. Practice by saying (to yourself, of course) that he's "not just fast, he's quick." No matter how comfortable your seat is, remember to sit right up on the edge of it in a slightly hunched posture. Don't give yourself away by offering to get more beer or snacks while the game is in play; wait for the commercials.
Football phraseology | The phraseology of football is the most confusing thing about the game, rendering the whole ritual of observing the game one of speaking in tongues. They are divisible into categories. There are the things the team has to do, such as "stop the big play" or "establish their running game" or "pound it out on the ground." Then there are things and what they look like, such as "That looked like a missed assignment" or "That looked like blown coverage" or "That looked like a simple miscommunication." The terms can even contradict each other and still make sense. When your team does poorly in the first half, you can say, "They need to stick to their game plan." When your team does poorly in the second half, you can say, "They need to throw their game plan out the window," and it's equally valid.
Mixed metaphors that would be inadmissible elsewhere, such as "milking the clock," are allowed and encouraged.
But handy phrases really abound in describing the activities of the quarterback, that player most often referred to by name. (Example: "Peyton Manning has all day back there.") There are things the quarterback does, such as "audibilizing" or "spreading the wealth" or "directing traffic." Quarterbacks "have" things, whether it's "a great pocket presence" or "a man wide open downfield" or "happy feet." Confusing matters further, the same word often means different things: Quarterbacks can "call their own number" and "hit him right on the numbers."
Using the proper phrases to describe the action poses a terrifying obstacle to the bluffer, and one not dealt with lightly. Luckily, even the most highly paid color commentators are simply stating the obvious. Here are a few observations nobody will take issue with:
• "It all comes down to which team wants to win it more."
• "If this game goes into overtime, either team could win."
• "It's a pretty simple game. All you got to do is score more points than the other guys."
Getting blitzed | The beverage of choice when people gather to watch football is the six-pack. The official rules for drinking are as follows: Shotgun the first down, the second down, and the third down. By the time you're getting ready to shotgun the fourth down, you may just be going for it. Remember, if you start to fumble, cut back or you'll end up with a blackout, followed by an agonizing recovery.
Illegal procedures | These common illegal procedures are used to spice up the viewing of a football game. So you can easily remember how they're done, they're presented here in official terminology.
One procedure starts with the coin toss to an eligible receiver, who goes long and brings a nickel back or, better yet, a dime back. It's a foul if he only brings a half back, although he may try to use the nickel defense. After his return, if he's holding a dime package, the party is an illegal formation, guilty of possession. You decide whether you're going to have a bowl game or simply roll. Then, get into a huddle, decide on your pass pattern, and engage in the passing game, with everybody pulling a draw at least once. Personal fouls include the incomplete pass, interference, and interception. Upon completion, everybody should be tripping in the red zone, ready for some fantasy football.
Another procedure also starts with a coin toss to an eligible receiver, but he will return with a sack, the contents of which go on the chop block where it is cut. Your team may decide to do a bump and run. But if you want to be linemen, the contents are spread into a gridiron on a flat surface. The line judge decides on the proper division into a formation that alternates each balanced line with a gap. Then each lineman does a nose tackle. Somebody may try for a hurry-up offense, so you should assign a nose guard. Proceed until the end line is done.
Sexual metaphor | Football is a game permeated with subliminal homoeroticism. From images of locker room beefcake and muscular men patting one another's butts to such phrases as "opening up holes" and "tight ends," it's sure to leave the newcomer thinking twice about just what a "grease board" is. Chances are the Super Bowl bluffer will often be surprised to see a group of red-state homophobes acting like cranked-up gay bikers watching a nude wrestling match.
You can blend in seamlessly by contributing double-entendres of your own. A good way to ease into it is to replace one four-letter-word with another. For example, "Did you see him sack that guy?" Or, "Oh, that guy got totally sacked!" Or, "He's just getting sacked again and again!"
Advanced lewdness might involve such phrases as "this is their deepest penetration" or "he nails the open receiver in the end zone" or "they're double teaming the tight end" or "that split end is suffering through a painful elimination."
Keep it subliminal, but, once you're comfortable, feel free to get creative; chances are that any commentary with a lewd subtext will make you sound like a pro. Example: "Man, all that dogging is putting their defense in positions they don't usually find themselves in."
John Madden would be proud. — mt