You will notice that Americans love the game of football. Not soccer, but American football. In September both professional (National Football League, NFL) and school teams begin playing. Almost all public high schools have a team. It is part of the shared American experience to have spent Friday nights in the stands cheering along with the cheerleaders, eating concession stand foods, and watching the bands play half-time shows. The best high school players can capitalize on their talent for college scholarships. College football generates an average of $30 million for schools with a good football program, far more than any other sport. You will definitely want to take note of the University of Tennessee football team, the Volunteers. Their colors are orange and white. They have especially celebrated rivalries with Virginia Tech Hokies, Georgia Bulldogs, and the Florida Gator teams. College football playoffs generally wrap up around Christmas as players take a break before heading into the spring semester. Football fans will continue to follow their favorite professional teams through January until the Super Bowl, the final game played on the first Sunday in February. It has become traditional to have parties with special foods designed to be eaten while watching the game with friends. The nation intensely watches for news of the half-time entertainment. There is a lot of interest in watching the commercials as well. Many are specially made for debut during the Super Bowl and could cost $5 million or more this year for a 30 second slot. You can see how football plays into American culture in these films: Remember the Titans (2000), Radio (2003), We Are Marshall (2006), The Blind Side (2009), and Undefeated (2011).
Even if you do not know much about the game you can still take pleasure in sharing the fun with your American friends. Here are a few football words to help you talk about the game:
Gridiron: A football field is 100 yards long. The center line is the 50-yard-line and the yards decrease by 10 as they near the end zones. Early fields were checkered with lines making the surface look like a cooking grid. The name stuck even though the pattern of lines has changed.
Pigskin: the football, itself. When the game began in 1869, balls were often made out of animal bladders. Fortunately, this practice quickly became obsolete.
Touchdown: The object of the game is to either pass or run with the ball into the team’s end zone while the other team attempts to gain control of the ball. If a team member is able to run into the end zone or to catch the ball there, that team earns 6 points.
Field goal: If a team is unable to reach their end zone, they may kick the ball through the goal post for 3 points.
Sack: The quarterback is the player on the field who is calling the shots. This player possesses the ball until he can throw it to a receiver. However, if the other team can tackle or sack the quarterback first they keep that team from earning points.
Fantasy football: Friends and coworkers sometimes form competitions based on imaginary teams. To play, competitors choose from current football players to form their own teams and earn points according to how their chosen players actually perform that season.