An Idiot's Guide to American Football

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Thanks to the miracles of satellite and cable television, we beyond the shores of the New World are being treated to a choice of programs of global proportions, many of which are unwatchable, but a few catch the eye, and one such is American Football. This is a very macho game for boys only, unlike baseball and basketball, which are girlies’ games, better known in the Old World as rounders and netball respectively.

So for those of you who know little or nothing about the game, herewith an idiot’s guide for your edification:

There are two teams, which helps to heighten the excitement, and usually called by exotic names associated with their home town.  So you have the Tampa Bay Rowdies, the San Francisco High Fives, the Minnesota Maulers and so on.

Each member of the team is dressed like the Incredible Hulk, padded out like an overpriced sofa, and topped off with a helmet and mouth guard, making it difficult if not impossible to follow the action.

There are as many as fifteen hulks from each team on the field of play at any one time, with another fifteen or so on the touchline waiting to come on.  This depends on whether the team is in offensive or defensive mode [more later].

There are as many as three referees, dressed like convicts and treated accordingly, who have little red handkerchiefs which they throw to the ground when they blow the whistle to stop the play.  All very colourful.

The purpose of the game is to reach the opponents’ end zone, known somewhat curiously as the touchdown zone, as no ‘touching down’ is required.  But no matter.  When they do, they are awarded points.

The teams take turns with the ball, and they try and advance up the pitch using a variety of tactics, including ‘first and ten’, ‘second and ten’ and so forth and so on.  They have four attempts at advancing up the pitch, and then they must give the ball to the opposing team to try their luck. 

This is the cue for a wholesale change of team members, as the offensive pack with the ball is replaced by the defensive pack without the ball, and the other team’s defensive pack without the ball is replaced by their offensive pack, who will get the ball when it is booted to them by the other team’s specialist kicker.  His is the really cushy job, as he only comes onto the field to kick, and then scampers off before he’s flattened by the opposing team, who are now on the offensive.

The most important player on any team is called the quarterback, so called because he always seems to be backing off.  He also controls the plays, hatched as they are in a huddle, where tactics are agreed.  He is then given the ball, and must do something with it or get flattened  in the process.  He can either throw it to a team mate, a good idea, who then runs like the wind, or if totally devoid of ideas, he can run with the ball himself, a tactic not generally recommended on health and safety grounds.

Finally, for the red blooded males amongst you, each team has their own platoon of cheer leaders, leggy, luscious and lithesome girls and a veritable feast to the eye, who prance and dance to encourage their team, and who provide a welcome distraction from the antics on the field.

So there you have it, so tune in, and with the help of this guide, you’ll be an expert in no time at all.

David Osborne is a successful barrister, voice actor, author, media personality and public performer. In 1991 he hit the headlines nationwide and made legal history when he delivered his final speech to the jury entirely in verse. For this tour de force he was dubbed the Barrister Bard. For more information please visit www.david-osborne.com

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