The Layperson’s Guide to Talking About Football
Football isn’t for everyone. Talking about football … now that’s a different story.
A lot of football fans like me can be difficult to communicate with. We speak a certain language and often shut out attempts from other people to get on our level. That’s not always easy to get around.
Worry no more, football layperson, I have come to your rescue with a couple of quick tips to go from Tim Couch to Joe Montana. Below is a list of can’t-miss conversation topics to use with football junkies at the watercooler, in the hallways or in front of an actual televised sporting event.
11 Rules for Speaking Football-ese
1. Do not talk about Tim Tebow — He’s out. Not out of the spotlight or out of New England. Out of a job. Out of the NFL. Even if you don’t follow football, you still saw him everywhere last season, but don’t be tricked into thinking he’s important. That was just a scam that sports media did to itself. Remarkably, Tim Tebow is still in this post, but really it’s just to help with SEO.
Suggested conversation piece: None, alternately a joke about Canadian football
2. The NFL is going soft — This is the most important thing to discuss regarding today’s game. When watching football, sooner or later someone will be flagged for something, likely non-life-threatening. The instant a flag is thrown for anything, the window is open for commentary about how you are personally offended by how much the game has changed under the faulty pretense of player safety. The ridiculous new rules are the only reason any offensive play results in positive yardage.
Suggested conversation piece: “I remember when Mike Ditka won an entire game by himself with no pads, a lump of chest hair and a fistful of rusty nails; that was the best football I’ve ever seen. In fact, maybe the only true football that’s ever been played.”
3. If a coach takes a timeout with more than a minute left in the half, it’s a “bad timeout” — The purpose of a timeout isn’t to draw up a play or to regroup before a big play. They are strictly to be used to stop the clock and create advertising space during important end-of-game drama. Instead of “bad timeout,” you are allowed to substitute “wasted timeout,” “stupid timeout” or “that coach is an idiot.”
Suggested conversation piece: “The third quarter just started, what kind of jackass wastes a timeout now?”
4. A real football enthusiast only cares about what the linemen are doing — Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers are going to be the guys making the headlines, but the real game is played at the line of scrimmage with the beef. An amateur fan might see passes, receptions, rushes and touchdowns, but a real expert only sees blocking, holes and “protection.” Just remember, those other positions are useless without an offensive line, but vice versa isn’t true.
Suggested conversation piece: “[Running back] owes a solid handshake and a steak dinner to all of those linemen, that hole was big enough for one of the Ryan brothers to fit through.”
5. Talk about “the box” — On defense, “the box” is a nonspecific centralized area of the field where almost all of the action takes place. At any given time, when your team is on defense, the box should be “stacked” or “loaded” or “packed” or any other adjective describing fullness. If your team is on offense, the defense should know that the only way to stop you is to “crowd the box.” If they can’t see that, you’re just going to run the ball down their throat until they understand.
Suggested conversation piece: “Come on coach, if you’re not going to load the box, you deserve what’s coming to you.”
6. Only talk about how much time is left in the game, not how long that time will take — This is a point of contention between sports fans and the rest of society. For sports fans, a football game is 60 minutes. For the rest of the world, it’s about 180 minutes. The difference is that fans are talking about “game time” and everyone else is talking about “time time.” You’ll fit right in if you stop talking about time in Hours:Minutes:Seconds and start talking about it in Quarters:Minutes:Seconds. The only acceptable situation for a sports fan to acknowledge traditional time is in an instance of 30-minutes-or-less pizza delivery.
Suggested Conversation Piece: “We’re thirty seconds away from the two-minute warning, so get those wings ordered.”
7. Take the Points — No matter what two teams are playing, you should never take either of them. Taking the points is easy, all you have to do is say something like “you have to take the points here” or “don’t leave points on the board.” This is basically applicable to all plays where some sort of scoring is necessary and is universally appropriate. You win games with points, so it’s always good to have more of them, even if you’re not sure specifically how they will be gotten. In a conversation about gambling, taking the points means a different thing entirely, but no one really knows what it is, so if you can say it with enough confidence, you’ll come off like a double pro.
Suggested Conversation Piece: “I don’t know if I’d make that call on fourth down, there are a lot of points left to take.”
8. Everything announcers say is useless, bordering on offensive — In any social setting, there’s one surefire way to force a collection of people to bond: create a common enemy. Announcers are an easy target since they’re constantly visible and can’t defend themselves. They might know more about the game than you, but you have the last word, so use that to take some unblocked personal shots.
Suggested Conversation piece: “Joe Buck is a moron, I bet he’s never even played 13 straight games of Madden without leaving the basement.”
9. You’d challenge that play — In the real game, coaches can only challenge a handful of plays per game. In your opinion, everything should be challengeable. Television viewers respect the challenge as a symbol of the broadcast audience’s superiority to the referees and an intelligent viewer maximizes the opportunity to display his/her intelligence by constantly calling the “officialness” of the officials into question.
Suggested conversation piece: “From this angle, he clearly had one/both feet in-/out-of-bounds with/without possession. You’d have to be borderline cataractal to miss that.”
10. Whatever player you don’t like, he probably or definitely killed someone, depending on how poorly he is playing — It’s pretty common knowledge that a lot of football players regularly get into trouble with the law. Again and again. In any game, the average NFL player has a back-of-the-napkin-calculated 30% chance of getting arrested. Socially, this is perfectly acceptable conversation fodder.
Suggested conversation piece: “National Football League? More like National Felony League. Amiright?”
11. Predict trick plays — Every special teams play (punt/field goal/kickoff) is an opportunity for trickery. It might only happen 1% of the time, but the person in the room who correctly predicts the fake punt looks like some kind of Nostradamus. If you’re wrong, who cares? It was a ballsy call to begin with. The fake play works 100% of the time, so maybe that coach should have taken your advice.
Suggested conversation piece: “That punter was a quarterback in high school and the defense is loaded up on the inside to try to block this kick, just fake it make that short toss outside. It’s sooooooo open.”