How to Watch Football and Appear Smart About It

At Kazi, we know that you’re busy – you might work, go to school, enjoy physical fitness, and take the time to spend with friends. While these are all worthy goals, there can be that time every football season when you just can’t quite get into the game. The vocabulary becomes confusing; the rules are clear as mud, and you find yourself spending four hours on a Saturday or Sunday (or both) completely lost as grown men chase each other around a 100-yd long field.

So without further ado, here is a football how-to guide for the casual viewer:


  • Uniform. This is pretty self-explanatory but can on occasion result in a faux pas if you utter the word “outfit” instead.
  • Yardage. A form of the word “yard”. We still don’t know why we use the term yardage rather than yards, though. Both are nouns that signify what the net gain on the play is.
  • Names of US sport teams. Many other countries keep it simple; the name of the team is the name of the town or city in which the team plays (think Manchester United, Real Madrid, etc.). However, for both colleges and pro teams in the US, you have to be able to go back and forth between the mascot and the city. So just make sure you’re familiar with the mascots of the teams you’re watching. You don’t want to be the person who says “Seattle Falcons” or “Alabama Ducks.”
  • The line of scrimmage. This is where the play begins. Both teams must be on or behind the line of scrimmage on their respective sides of the field.
  • Flag on the play. The referee throws a yellow flag when he sees something worthy of a penalty. This has led to the term “flag on the play”. The implications of this are too numerous to go into today but in some instances, it can lead to a “free play”.
  • Free play. If the defense gets a penalty and a flag has been thrown during the play, the game continues. Often you will see the offense take a big risk with a throw down the field because the worst case scenario is that the play doesn’t work but the defense still gets penalized nonetheless.

How to win:

  • In short, you have four chances to get 10 yards when you have the ball. If the other team prevents you from accumulating 10 yards in four plays, then they get the ball. For example, if you start on the 20-yard line, you have four plays to get to the 30-yard line.
  • Now let’s say you have only been able to get to the 25-yard line after three plays. In that case, you can kick it as far as you can down the field because the likelihood of getting those 5 yards is pretty small. The other team will (most likely) still get the ball, but at least they will be farther away from scoring themselves.
  • Play continues in this manner until some get the ball into the end zone, located at both ends of the field.
  • In some circumstances, teams that are reasonably close to the end zone but too far away to score (say 20 yards) will try a field goal. This is where the ball is kicked between the posts at either end of the field.


  • 6 points for a touchdown (but can become 7 or 8 with the option for points-after-touchdown)
  • 3 points for a field goal
  • 2 points for safety (just don’t worry about this too much right now – it doesn’t happen often)

Something to say to sound like a smart football analyst:

  • “The game is being won at the line of scrimmage right now.”

(Image Credit: Sporting Charts)

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