The Gridiron on the Web
Irene E. McDermott
Reference Librarian/Systems Manager
Crowell Public Library, City of San Marino
Here is my joke: I go on a date with a new fellah and he wants to watch the game with the guys. I’m nothing if not agreeable, so I perch on the sofa arm in the crowded room and obediently gaze at the giant TV. Suddenly, all the men on the couch roar. “Touchdown!” the announcer yells. The guys high-five each other, take a swig of beer, and then settle back down, all eyes on the game. In the silence that follows, I turn to my date and ask, “Um … how is that different from a touchup?”
|“Football is an incredible game. Sometimes it’s so incredible, it’s unbelievable.” –Tom Landry
Needless to say, my inability to tell my up from a down often pointed to the end of a new relationship. But I wasn’t really joking. Since I hunched on the sidelines of the twilight games of junior high, I have never understood the rules of football. Although some have tried, no one has yet had the patience to sit down and explain it to me slowly and thoroughly, perhaps several times, until I finally got it. Neither my son nor my boyfriend cares for the game, so they are no help.
Am I doomed to be shut out from the world of football forever? No! The internet has arrived to save the day with zillions of sites to explain and celebrate American football.
OK, take it from the top. What’s a “down,” again?
If only I had dated James Adler decades ago! I wouldn’t have spent so long being confused about American football. In his About.com site, Alder explains the whole thing, making it clear that a “down” is just a play. Each team gets four plays, or downs, to move 10 yards closer to their goal. If they can’t do it, they must turn the ball over to the other side. Oh! Say, Mr. Alder, are you single?
American Football Strategy
Here, the names of the players and their functions are explained in a way that even I can understand. The players are like chess pieces with shoulder pads. Every position has its function and its general set of movements. On the offensive side (the one with the ball trying to make it 10 yards down the field), the quarterback is the king; his guards and tackles protect him on either side like knights and rooks. The linemen in front of him are pawns. The defensive side has a completely different set of players: defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs. Their job is merely to stop the other side from moving or throwing the ball.
There is a lot of strategy involved in faking out the human wall that makes up the defense. Now that I understand that, I can see that the game is a clever dance, not just giant guys crashing into each other.
How American Football Works
Kevin Bonsor describes the football field and then goes on to describe the players, rules, scoring, game officials, and more!
Football For Dummies Cheat Sheet
Thanks, John Czarnecki Long, for working up this page describing the players and where they go. I appreciate the glossary, too. I’ll print this out for handy reference while I’m watching the game.
A Brief History of College Football
Robert M. Ours, professor emeritus at West Virginia University, has been watching and writing about college football since 1945. Here, he offers the introduction to his book, Bowl Games: College Football’s Greatest Tradition (Westholme, 2004; ISBN: 1594160015), in which he outlines the history of American college football from its origins in the late 19 th century.
OK! Now that I understand the basics, I can start enjoying the game. But where to begin? To find out, I turned to a true sports lover — my brother-in-law, John McDermott, economics professor at the University of South Carolina.
“I like sports in general, not just football,” John declares. “For me, following sports is a way to compete without getting hurt. It all happens in a controlled, self-contained environment where you can get passionate. When your team beats another team, it is as if you yourself had won a victory.”
John asked his football fanatic colleagues where they turn for the latest news.
“The guys all agree that ESPN is the best place to start. They have very good pages for both NCAA (college) and NFL (professional) football,” John reports. This leading cable sports broadcaster also maintains a robust web presence, offering commentary and analysis, fantasy sports, and media broadcasts over the web. ESPN offers the free ESPN ScoreCenter for Apple devices [http://itunes.apple.com/app/espn-scorecenter/id317469184?mt=8], live TV optimized for mobile phones via Verizon and Flo TV among others, and also a mobile website that works on any smart phone: espn.mobi.
This CBS subsidiary provides a leading sports news and information website that covers college and professional football as well as other sports. Its mobile product emphases fantasy football and baseball, although it offers $5 apps through the iTunes store for following individual college teams and a free one for the NFL.
FOX Sports offers a sassy take on pro and college sports. Follow the NFL and NCAA standings, stats, and schedules along with fantasy football and games.
Find analysis here of college and professional football teams, along with links to their individual pages.
Big Ten Network
FOX Sports Net and the Big Ten conference, the oldest college athletic division, have joined together to broadcast NCAA games and analysis, along with features about the campuses themselves. Of course, there are 11 schools in the “Big Ten,” stretching across the Midwest. Follow their rivalries on the website as well as the cable network. (And if you follow the sports news, those 11 schools may change soon.)
College and Professional Football Leagues
We who are disconnected from the world of football may be unaware how the game shapes the weeks of autumn. Fridays are for high school games. College games are played on Saturday, and occasionally on Thursday and Friday. Pro football takes place all day on Sunday with another big game on Monday night. This is your Monday Night Football. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are your day of rest.
Each week of the season is numbered: “Week Six,” for example. It all builds to the climax of the college bowl games and the Super Bowl. Follow the season as it unfolds from the perspectives of the ruling bodies of college and professional football.
Track college football in all its divisions. (Division l has the big famous teams; Division lll, not so much.) John McDermott says, “Around here in the South, the fans are incredibly dedicated and passionate for their school teams. They dress for their team and buy memorabilia.” He adds that, in addition to the NCAA, individual colleges have basic sports page for their alumni. These college pages often link to a variety of football blogs. Fans then choose to follow their favorites. “In fact,” John notes, “this is the way most of the male faculty got their info and opinions about their teams.”
Other sports may have a variety of leagues, but in American football, there is only one: the National Football League. They’ve got videos, blogs, statistics, and powerful mobile apps. Any mobile browser may access the site for free: http://m.nfl.com. Users can follow the scores as they happen, follow the gossip, or manage a fantasy team. Verizon users can purchase a premium version of this service called NFL Mobile.
John F. Kennedy wrote, “We are inclined to think that if we watch a football game or a baseball game, we have taken part in it.” How much more can that sensation of participation be enhanced if one imagines oneself a professional team owner, able to assemble and follow the team of one’s dreams?
That is the premise behind fantasy football. Mike Monroney, history coach at the Aspen Historical Society, has been playing fantasy football every fall for almost 20 years.
To pick the players for the imaginary teams, his club holds a “draft night” right before the season starts. “We take turns, the order of which is determined by a random drawing, selecting individual players from the NFL with no regard to what team they actually play for (not quite true ... better teams tend to be favored, as their players are generally successful).”
As the season progresses, the individual statistics from the selected players are collated to form an overall score for the imaginary teams. “It can get amazingly complex, although obviously there is a great deal of luck involved.
“Over the course of a season, just like in the real world, injuries can play havoc with your franchise.”
The Aspen club gathers every Monday evening during the season to watch the game. “We play another ‘coach’ in our league head to head (the sum of the points my players score for that week against their players’ total) each week,” explains Mike.
Small wagers raise the stakes. “In my league, there is the possibility of winning or losing up to $200 over the course of the season,” says Mike. “Pretty cheap for all the fun and excitement.”
On a national scale, Mike notes, fantasy football has become big business. “Some online leagues offer prizes nearing six figures. Who knows what sort of wagering goes on privately?
“There are now professional fantasy football advisors, writers, pundits, etc., and most news media includes fantasy stats in their reporting. Name a popular sport, and somewhere, someone is playing a fantasy version of it ... even NASCAR.”
As fantasy football is based on the statistics of individual players and not teams, it is hard to figure out who is winning! Fortunately there are websites and apps to help. Here is a selection of both independent sites and those associated with major broadcasters.
My Fantasy League
This service lets fantasy football clubs set up their “leagues” online. The site tracks and tallies the statistics for the individual players on the fantasy roster. Subscription rates range from $70 to $180 per year.
This MSNBC site offers a product that lets you manage your own league or lets you play online with strangers. Not interested in following the entire season? Fanball lets you assemble your own team for a one-time “Challenge Game.” The entry fee is $30 for a possible $10,000 prize.
Fantasy Football: CBS Sports
Play with your friends or compete online. CBS Sports provides in-depth statistical analysis, discussion forums and advice, and a chance to win some money.
Users build and track teams for free on this AOL fantasy football site. There is even a free iTunes app [http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/fleaflicker/id361150009?mt=8].
Fantasy Football 101
In this article, George Bissell explains how to successfully build a fantasy football team. He addresses rankings, strategy, and the draft at the start of the season.
Wow! Keeping track of the players in a fantasy team seems like a devilish math puzzle, almost impossible without the help of computers. How did Mike manage to play fantasy football 20 years ago, before the web?
“Believe it or not, with pen and paper, taking stats from the sports section. Being commissioner took a lot of time!”
Parlez-Vous le Football?
After exploring these football sites and apps, I came across a description of a game in the paper. For the first time in my life, I comprehended what was written about football! It was like when I traveled to France. After a week of my struggling with the language, someone stopped to ask me for directions. For the first time since my arrival, I suddenly knew exactly what this French-speaking person was saying to me (although my reply was the unhelpful “Je ne sais pas”). In the same way, I have suddenly popped into football literacy.
Whew! That lets my boyfriend off the hook. Hey, maybe I can explain the game to him!
Bashing, crashing, betting, baiting; the sport of tackle football seems so … stereotypically male. Still, there are gals who like it, too. They and the men who love them have banded together to form semi-pro teams in several leagues. Visit their sites to find the games and the scores.
Independent Women’s Football League: IWFL
This nonprofit Texas Corporation is a full tackle women’s football league “focused on creating a positive, safe and fun environment for the women who play the game and fans that come out to watch them.” 51 teams make up the league in such diverse sites as Washington, Montreal, and Southern California. The league seeks to expand in order to offer more women the chance to play tackle football.
Women’s Football Alliance
Women’s football leagues are so nice! “We are committed to teaching the fundamentals of the game, where emphasis is not only on winning but also good sportsmanship, fair play and discipline.” Californians Lisa and Jeff King founded the league in 2008 and are determined to expand. They have 39 teams now and 12 teams set to join in 2011. Follow them on Facebook!
International Women’s Flag Football Association (IWFFA)
No tackling here, but the goals are similar to the other lady leagues: “Our mission is to provide an opportunity for all females … to enjoy healthy competition, have fun, develop teamwork skills, learn fair play, [and] good sportship …” Once a year, the league sponsors the Kelly McGillis Classic, featuring tournament flag football play for beginners, “highly competitive play,” and a division especially for women age 40 and above.