Here at CSUSM, we have no football team. You’ve probably noticed. There’s no doubt that we have some great sports teams – dedicated soccer players, never-say-“die” track and field people, even a champion surf team. We just don’t happen to have an organized football department. But woe unto you if you think that means there’s no football on campus. The yearly CSUSM Intramural Football Championships just barely came to a conclusion. There was mud. There was glory. At least a couple people got kicked in the shins. All in all, that’s a great sporting event.
But what about football for people who are not, shall we say, football-inclined? I admit, when I watch the commentators on TV do all those “X”s and “O”s to explain strategy, it looks to me like Salvador Dali playing tic-tac-toe. How do you follow the game when all you see are people running back and forth and occasionally hitting each other? Good news. What follows is a guide to football for people who don’t understand football.
Teams are on a field. I’ll save you the in-depth description of this since I’m sure you’ve seen one in person or in the movies. The field is divided into five-yard sections by lines. Those big numbers you see indicate how close said line is to the goal post on each end. On one side, we have the offense. You can tell who they are because one of them has the ball. The guy who throws the ball is the quarterback. The football position naming folks were big fans of the word “back”: quarterbacks, halfbacks, fullbacks, etc. In fact, it would appear they’re big fans of fractions as well. Anyway, let’s not get too caught up in the names. The main point: a center throws the ball between his legs backwards to the quarterback. I’m not making this up. The quarterback then throws the ball to a halfback or a wide receiver. Maybe some other players, too. Honestly, it could be anybody. I can’t really tell, and I’m writing from personal observation and Google. Hopefully, the “somebody” is on the quarterback’s team. If he’s not, it’s called an interception, meaning someone from the other side intercepted the ball. You can tell when an interception happens, because there will usually be a lot of angry people on and off the field, and the coach of the offense team will appear to be cussing. He may appear to be cussing quite a bit.
Opposite the offense, you have the defense. You can tell when they’re playing because usually two members of the crowd will hold up a letter “D” and a cardboard fence. I’m not making this up, either. Also, the defense is easy to spot since they don’t have the ball, and they don’t look too happy about it. Everyone on this side is trying to stop the offense from moving the ball towards the defense’s goal post. One could even say they’re defending it, har har har. This can involve several types of shenanigans, including knocking over the guy who catches the ball, knocking over the guy who throws the ball, and trying to keep guys from catching the ball by entrapping them in bear hugs. Football seems to me a pretty loving sport, all in all, with the amount of hugging.
So what’s the point? With the hugging and knocking down, or “tackling” for terminology fundamentalists, and running around? Players are trying to score. Which could be said of any sleazy club on a Saturday night, but in this case, the offense is trying to run with the ball to the end of the field the defense is trying to protect. When they reach this end, they have made a touchdown. They will then throw the ball down, which seems kind of rude since some poor schmuck will have to pick it up, and then they dance around. I think the game could be spiced up by randomly dancing on other parts of the field, but so far, no team has taken my suggestion. After the touchdown, they can score another few points by either running the ball through the touchdown area again, or kicking it through the goal post (the thing that looks like a square-ish Y at the end of the field). I guess this part is so that the kicker on the team will have something to contribute to the scoring system, instead of feeling unimportant and developing low self-esteem.
I should probably include a short note about a complex concept I haven’t mentioned yet. If you ever find yourself stuck with a football fan, and you have nothing to talk about, just mention special teams. I found myself once on a date with a gentleman who loved football. Conversation died out, so I just said, “How about the Chargers’ special teams, eh?” I didn’t have to say a thing for the rest of the evening. In fact, if you ever want to please a football fan in your life, just give them a piece of paper that says “ONE FREE COUPON FOR LETTING YOU TALK ABOUT SPECIAL TEAMS.” Depending on the man or lady, this may even be better than an engagement ring.
So that’s it. Sure, there are tons of subtle nuances, and there may be a lot of people who don’t agree with me about the hugging part. But this should be enough to help you follow a game if you suddenly look up and find yourself in the middle of a football stadium.

The Cougar Chronicle The independent student news site of California