How to Explain Football to Your Girlfriend

How to Explain the Basics of the Game

Football can look like a bunch of bulked-up guys running around in circles to anyone who doesn't have a basic understanding of the sport. And once you start throwing in terms like chop block, zone defense and play-action pass -- or trying to explain the differences between the pro and college games -- her eyes may start rolling back into her head. So start small, using the simplest of terms and giving your girlfriend just enough of an overview so that she can watch and learn and slowly catch on to the finer points of the game. Here are some of the basics:

  • The playing field -- Begin with a brief intro to the layout of the field, covering the end zones, yard marks, sidelines (out of bounds), and goalposts.
  • The objective -- Explain that the basic idea is to rack up as many points as possible by advancing the ball past the other team's goal line.
  • The scoring -- Spell out the points given for a touchdown, kick after, field goal and, on occasion, two-point conversion. Save the safety for a future discussion.
  • The rules -- Describe that each team has an offense and a defense. The offense gets four tries, called downs, to advance the ball a minimum of 10 yards, and continues until they either score or are forced to kick the ball to the other team. Mention that a game is divided up into four quarters of 15 minutes each and that there are seven referees responsible for enforcing the rules.
  • The players -- Explain that each team can only have 11 men on the field at a time (see next section for detailed player descriptions).
  • Advancing the ball -- Tell her there are two ways to move the ball -- passing it or running it. Explain the concept of a fumble and an interception.
  • Penalties -- This area of the game can be a little tricky, so start with the most common infractions, like offsides, holding and pass interference. Make sure to explain that penalties can result in a loss of down or moving back a predetermined number of yards (or both).

Want a concise description of what each player does and how he fits into the game? We've got it on the next page.