Socially Single: Frightened by football

Kelsey Foster

This week, I answer a question from the audience. If you have a dating or relationship question you’d like me to weigh in on, send me an email at

“Help! It’s football season and the guy I’m dating LOVES all things Seahawks and Huskies. We went to a sports bar to watch a game recently and I felt so out of my element! All of the yelling and cheering was fun but I had NO IDEA why people were happy then mad then happy then mad. What is your advice for dating someone who is into a sport you know nothing about?”

I am so glad you asked! The good news, your guy is at least rooting for the right teams (Go Hawks! Go Dawgs!). And the other good news, you’ll be able to enjoy the game a heckuvalot more by just learning some basics.

So let me give you the Coach KFos Guide to Football. This isn’t the technical nitty-gritty, this is how to watch and make sense of a game when you have no clue about the actual rules.

How Long Does This Last?
Football is made up of four 15-minute quarters with half-time happening in the middle. Regular games don’t have a big performance at half-time. The Super Bowl and college bowl games are the exceptions. So don’t ask who is performing at the half-time show during a regular season game.

Now, just because the amount of playing time is one hour, the game will last a lot longer than that. The game clock gets stopped throughout plus there are time outs, etc. All in all, most games last between 2.5-3 hours. Prepare for that.

Which Team is Which?
There are two teams of 11 men each on the field. The best thing to do is immediately make note of who is wearing what color uniform. The colors of the uniforms can be different week to week (home game or away game). Pay attention to what uniform you will be cheering for right away.

Offense and Scoring
The team in possession of the ball is on offense. You can tell which team is on offense because the quarterback will be on the field. Who is the quarterback? He’s probably the one guy whose name you know (Russell Wilson!) and the TV cameras will be focused a lot on the quarterback. The team who isn’t in possession of the ball is on defense.

The field measures 100 yards and each team has an endzone where they are aiming to score at (opposite end of the field). The point of each play is to get close to the endzone and be in scoring position. When a team is on offense, they are trying to score. Ultimately a touchdown (worth six points) or a field goal (worth three points).

The team has four chances (called downs) to move the ball toward their endzone by 10 yards. You will hear a lot about “first down” which means the team on offense earned another four chances to either score or get another first down. First down is GREAT when it’s your team who gets it (lots of cheering) but a first down is NOT great when it’s the team you don’t like.

A team gets a touchdown when a player either catches the ball in the endzone or runs the ball into the endzone. LOTS and LOTS of cheering when your team scores a TD!

If a team runs out of chances (downs) to score a touchdown, and they are close enough (in field goal range), they will attempt a field goal on fourth down (last chance to score). This is where the ball gets kicked in between the big U-shaped thing at the end of the field (goal post). Field goals don’t get as big of cheers as touchdowns but many games come down to a matter of a few points so a field goal is still a GOOD thing!

Now, after a touchdown is scored, the team kicks for the extra point. This looks just like a field goal but they kick from much closer and it’s only worth one point. There is also a way to score two points after a touchdown, called a two-point conversion. The one-point kick is much more common though. You can always ask a guy “why didn’t they go for the two-point conversion?” and he’ll be happy to explain, plus you’ll sound like you are into the game.

The defense tries to stop the other team from scoring. They can intercept (catch) the ball being thrown to a player on the other team, they can “sack” the quarterback (tackling him before he has a chance to pass to another player), they tackle a guy who is running with the ball, and they do all sorts of things to encourage a fumble (dropping the ball) to then grab the ball into their possession.

When your team is on defense and successfully stops a play, lots of cheering. When your team is on offense and the other team’s defense stops us, lots of yelling.

The defensive players can get a little rough and sometimes the refs call fouls on them, sometimes those illegal tactics get overlooked. If the other team commits a foul and gets caught, your team can gain yardage closer to scoring position (lots of cheering). If your team commits a foul and gets caught, the other team is in better position (usually lots of yelling about “bad calls”).

After the Game
Watching the post-game show is a great way to learn more specifics about the game and get clarification on some of the things that happened during the game that didn’t make sense to you at the time.

For a more definitive guide to the game of football, you can check out the NFL’s Beginners Guide here. Or you can always ask your guy to explain!

— By Kelsey Foster

Kelsey Foster is a dating and relationship coach in Edmonds. She is released a new book titled Improve Your Love-itude available on Amazon. Find out more information about Kelsey on her website at

  1. I married into a football fantasy family! Buy the book “Football for dummies” You will realize you know more than you think.

    Julene Gradwohl

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