Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Football. For my Big Sister. Who's 5'4''

Becasue my Big Sister (who's 5'4'') wanted me to ... and because I'm the perfect little brother ... here's a little bit about football. Football isn't football Now, when I say "football," I mean American football. Not soccer. Or association football. Which the rest of the world calls "football." Well, not all the rest of the world. The U.S. and Canada call American football by the name "football." And Canadian football is a little different than American football. But, essentially, it's the same game. Field a little different, teams line up different, minor rules differences, but still, pretty much the same game. And, in the U.S., there are three big types of football. High school, college, and professional. War First, football is war. A contained war, but a war nonetheless. And that's part of the attraction of football. There are two types of football fans. One who likes the old, traditional, "three yards and a cloud of dust" kind of football. Then, there's the football fan who wants to see a bunch of passing and a lot of scoring. Like baseball. There are the fans that love a 1-0 pitcher's duel. Others wants a 12-11 slugfest. In football, some like the 6-3 game. Others wants a 49-48 game. I'm the former. In both baseball and football. I want my football games to be old fashioned, hard-hitting, blood on your face, dirt on your uniform, football. I think that if you want to see a 49-48 game, you need to go find you an arena football team and leave the gridiron to my kind of football. Now, having said all that ... and pissing off half the folks who watch what passes for football today ... here's a little bit about football. So my Big Sister ... who's 5'4'' ... can enjoy the game. Or at least understand what she hates. Starting the game Football is played by two teams. Each time can put 11 players on the field at one time. One team has possession of the ball and tries to move downfield and score. They are the offense. The other team doesn't have possession of the ball. Instead, they are trying to stop the other team from driving downfield and scoring. That's the defense. The two teams take turns being offense and defense. And they decide who goes first by a coin flip. The team that wins the coin flip gets to choose. Used to be, they had two options. Nowdays, they've added a third option. At least in the pro and college game. The winner of the coin flip can:
  • Choose to kick-off or receive the kick-off
  • Choose which goal to defend
  • Let the other team decide one of the above
Often, the winner of the flip defers. That's because whoever chooses to start the game, has to let the other team choose when the second half starts. Most teams, when having to choose, usually choose to receive the kickoff. Not always, but usually. The team that doesn't choose between kicking or receiving chooses which goal to defend. That's important when wind and weather can be a factor. But not often. "We'll kick to the clock" Back in the early days of the AFL (an old professional league that operated from 1960-1969 before being absorbed into the NFL), the AFL championship game in 1962 was tied after the end of regulation. Used to be, tie games were allowed. Unless it was a playoff game. (There's an interesting instance when playoff games can end tied. More later.) Anyway, in pro football, when a playoff game is tied, they start the "third half." That is, they have a coin flip, and start playing, just like at the start of the game. So, after the Dallas Texans (later, they moved and became the Kansas City Chiefs) and the Houston Oilers (who later became the Tennessee Titans) were tied at 17 when the fourth quarter ended, they had to play overtime. In the pro game, overtime starts just like a new game, but with 1 critical difference. As soon as someone scores, the game is over. Sudden death overtime, it's called. So, tied at 17, the Texans and the Oilers were headed for overtime. The wind at the stadium in Houston was a factor in the game, and Dallas coach Hank Stram told his team captain Abner Haynes, to elect to defend the goal facing the clock if they had to kick off. That would give them the winds at their backs, and a possible edge. So, when Dallas won the toss, Haynes was briefly flustered and told the referree "We'll kick to the clock." According to one report of the game, the referee, Harold Bourne, told Haynes, "You made the choice and said you'll kick." Then Houston chose the wind. Fortunately for Dallas, they held Houston from scoring, then after the fifth quarter ended, the teams swapped ends of the field, and Dallas has the wind to their backs. That's when Tommy Brooker kicked a 25-yard field goal to give the Texans their first AFL title, and save Haynes from being goat of the game for screwing up the coin flip. Review Football stars with a coin flip. The team that wins the flip gets to make decisions about who goes first and who defends what goal. Next time, we'll cover the actual kickoff, and what happens from there. Okay, Big Sister?


  1. Okay, PLB. (perfect little brother)
    I like the high scoring games, so the football I hate is the football you love and the football I love is the football you hate.
    Not that you care...
    Oh! Maybe you do care...after all, you now have a series of posts to do without having to worry what to post about for a couple of days or so...

  2. [...] writes about football. Here. And here. And here. And, [...]


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