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American Football: How it All Began

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Every year, millions of people around the world anticipate watching Super Bowl Sunday but don’t know anything about its origins. Most Americans consider it a “holy day” where families and friends unite to support their favorite teams. While the teams huddle up and the fans booed and cheered, food merchants, especially the pizza parlor owners, are enjoying a boost in sales all because a tackle game with an inflated cow bladder evolved into one of the most-loved American games of all time.


If you travel back to 11th century England, you will find hundreds of men clashing over this primitive ball just to deliver it into their goal post – the middle of their opponent’s town. The physical aggression of the game was much worse back then that injuries and even deaths were common. Today, even with clear rules and the wearing of improved protective clothing, lasting injuries from this smash-mouth game are still common. In fact, there is a very rare chance for a quarterback or a running back to make it through the entire season without injuries. Sadly, helmets which are supposed to protect the players from getting a concussion have now become deadly weapons. Moreover, players are also in danger of dehydration since the season starts early September when it is still too hot and humid.

Despite the dangers, lockouts and the changes in the sport itself, American football remains a people’s favorite. Walter Camp, the Father of American Football was the first man to make modifications in this rugby-like sport. From the original 15 players, he lowered it down to the 11 players known today. He was also the reason why there is quarterback and a center player as well as the existence of the line of scrimmage. In the past, the possession of the ball is just like in a soccer game. Now with the line of scrimmage, the offensive team will maintain possession as long as they don’t commit any violations. In addition he also created the safety, penalties, interference and the neutral zone. Other relevant names in football include Knute Rockne, Gleen Warner, Eddie Cochems and Amos Alonzo Stagg. The latter created the popular football huddle, the T and punt formations and the end round. With Stagg’s number ranges, you can now easily tell which one of the players are quarterbacks, linebackers and whatnot.

American Football has changed over the years. In the past, you can never run the ball with your hands as it is strictly played with the feet just like soccer. Tackling the opponent as low as the knee was not even permitted until 1888. There was even a time when you can only hit, dribble or kick, but never throw or run the ball to make a touchdown. But with the addition of forward pass and the modifications with the rules and regulations, you can now enjoy a sometimes bloody but worthwhile sport.  So the next time you watch Super Bowl Sunday and a child next to you ask how it all began; do you have the right answers?


American Football: The Defense and Special Teams

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In a rough game where the only goal is to get the ball to the other side, knowing how to play your role in the defense team is a must. Here are the key defense positions:

  1. Defensive End - They position themselves at each end of the defensive line to prevent offensive runs. Their main goal is to tackle the quarterback before he can pass it to any of his team members and prevent the halfback from passing through. Mess with these men and you’ll get broken bones.
  1. Defensive Tackle- These men together with the two defensive ends complete the lineup of the four man defense lineup. They are more popularly known as the nose tacklers as they are can almost touch noses with the offensive team’s center. Their primary role is to stop running plays at the middle of the line of scrimmage.
  1. Linebacker- The number of men that comprise this second line of defense varies according to the team’s defense strategy. The most common is a 4-3 defense which means the defense has one middle linebacker and two outside linebackers. These men are to stop offensive team from advancing. They should tackle the speedy Running and Full Back and the Tight End during short-yardage situations.
  1. Cornerback- These two players must prevent the wide receivers from getting passes from the quarterback. In order to do so, they must swat or catch the airborne ball.
  1. Safety- Considered as the hard hitters, they make up the last line of defense. There are two of them who aid the cornerbacks in pass coverage. The strong safety is generally much stronger and gives added defense against running plays. The free safety on the other hand is smaller and thus faster player who gives the team extra pass coverage.

Finally, although few points can be accomplished with the special teams, it is a great impact on how the offensive team can score. Here are the members of this specially drilled team:

Kick Returner- As their name suggests, they must kick the ball to return to their side of the field. Return kicks can be performed by cornerbacks and wide receivers.

Kicker- He is to kick the ball through the end zone and make a three-point field goal. If the team manages to get a touchdown, getting the ball through the end zone earns his team an extra point.

Holder- He is the backup quarterback who picks up the snap and places the ball at a good kicking position for an easy field goal.

Punter- He catches long snaps and kicks the ball as far back as the defense team’s field as possible.

Long Snapper- He is a specialized center who is an expert at making long snaps so that the holder and the punter can have a clear aim at field goals.

Punt Returner- He catches long snaps and brings it back to the other team’s end zone.

Gunner- This player is often double teamed by blockers as he interferes with the punt returner or kicker.

Upback- He helps defend the punter for a successful team punt. He often makes a great diversion in fake punt situations.

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The Top American Football Terms You Should Know About

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Getting crazy about football but can’t grasp what those 4-4-4’s coffin corners, jumbos and Hail Mary’s mean? Then research no longer and comment like a pro when the next season starts. Here are the top American football terms you should know by heart:

Gridiron- If you’ve watched Gridiron Gang, gridiron is not just a cool name for Kilpatrick Detention Center’s Football team. Gridiron is in fact the game of American football itself. It came from the crisscrossed lines or griddle which you see in a regular American football field. This term separates the game from other football games like soccer, rugby league, and rugby union.

Hail Mary- Yes, religion is also involved in football. In fact, some services are totally cancelled on Super Bowl Sunday while others are praying fervently for their teams. However, this term has nothing to do with religion. Hail Mary in football means a last resort to get a touchdown when there is not much time. Roger Staubach pioneered the throw in his comeback victory in 1975.

Coffin corner- This area is where punters kick the ball out of bounds so that it can be pinned back near their end zones.

Face Mask- While injuries are common in this rough sport, there are certainly no medical operations going on in the field that requires the wearing of face masks. Instead, this term is to mean a foul when a player grabs his opponent’s helmet while making a tackle. Its 5-yard penalty was abolished early in 2008.

Birdcage- Even if nasty and rough players have inflicted serious injuries over the years, none of them were imprisoned in a birdcage so far. Rather, this term describes the extra vertical and horizontal bars in linemen’s facemask.

Fumble- This occurs when a player accidentally loses the possession of a ball. Offensive tackles who rarely hold the ball can legitimately run with them in case of a fumble. Of course, if you saw the NFL preview promos featuring Shaun T from the fitness company Beachbody performing some killer throws then you would appreciate how difficult this could be! To see Shaun making an ass of himself, check out this insanity workout review site which has a video of Shaun fumbling.

Icing the Kicker- Of course you can whack the face of the kicker with an icing during celebrations, but not in the field. This term is to mean calling for a timeout when the kicker is about to get the ball snapped. This is an ancient tactic that can get most kickers nervous.

Jumbo- Love eating hotdogs to a football game? However, you will most likely drop what you are eating when faced with this offensive package. Would you want to run over a full back, two tight-ends and a half back? I thought so.

4-4-4-The numbers represent the number of players. However, you cannot do this on NFL since the players on each team are only 11. But if you are in Canada, go ahead because you can have as much as 12 players.

Now, does it make sense? So, if you hear someone saying about Hail Mary’s you won’t think of him praying to the Virgin Mary for his team to win. There are so many football terms out there but you can start memorizing these by heart. Who knows one day, you will be lucky to be in the podium and start commenting like John Madden on NBC Sunday Night Football?