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Football is certainly not for dummies

By Cindy DeVane • Updated Jan 31, 2018 at 3:36 PM

With Super Bowl LII just days away, availability of the better TV and comfy sofa at my house are just around the corner. I admit that since becoming a fan, I hate to see football disappearing until fall. If you are tired of all the hours spent by your family members watching football, I have a great idea for you. Join the fun by learning enough about the game to enjoy it.

Admitting that I am excited about “my” sport now is like admitting that I know where to find refill sandpaper sheets for the palm sander at Lowes. I’m not proud of it, but then again I am proud of it. I find myself ready to move on from HGTV binges and Netflix series that formerly kept me occupied in another room during football season. This is primarily because I read “Football for Dummies.” Written for folks like me who are trying to have a better football-watching experience, it helps provide some understanding of the rules.

At our house, we live college football on Saturdays from late August until the national championship in January. After that, the timing is just right to slip in the NFL playoffs before the Super Bowl.

The book details a little more than I really need or want to know. However, at the end of each section, there is a “what to remember” recap. This, along with the fact that many former players now earn a good living by explaining each and every move in the game as it happens, means that I can stay with it for the most part.

There are many fairly simple concepts to understand. For example, the definition of a safety is not all that difficult. I used to struggle with it, but now I do understand that it simply happens when an offensive player is tackled in his own end zone with the football. Turns out, there are five additional ways that a safety can be awarded. I won’t go into detail here, but reference page 39 of the guide mentioned above.

By the way, in addition to a safety being a type of score, it is also an important defensive player and can be either a strong safety or a free safety. Keep your reference book handy.

When more knowledge is gained, you may be ready to calculate a stat such as a quarterback rating. I was not surprised that Tennessee’s Peyton Manning is included as one of the Top 10 quarterbacks of all time. Peyton retired with a quarterback rating of 115.1, which is quite good. Actually, a rating over 100 is considered very good.

I am willing to accept this on faith after learning the formula for calculating such a statistic. However, if you don’t, simply divide completed passes by pass attempts, subtract 0.3 and then divide by 0.2. Next divide passing yards by pass attempts, subtract 3, and then divide by 4. Continuing on, divide touchdown passes by pass attempts and then divide by 0.05. Divide interceptions by pass attempts, subtract that number from 0.095 and divide the remainder by 0.04.

Finally, add the sum of each of these steps, multiply by 100 and divide by 6. An abiding faith is a great thing to have.

As more is known about concussions, new rules have emerged to try and protect players from head trauma. This has led to a type of foul called targeting. You may actually see someone ejected from the game for this infraction. It involves forcible contact to the head or neck area and is usually made with the crown of the helmet. It is somewhat a judgment call, much like pass interference, although it is far more serious.

Learning the role of all the officials is unnecessary. The guy standing on the 20-yard line controls the TV time outs. The referee (in the white hat) used to be the real boss and control the game. He was the final authority for all matters regarding the score, disagreements with other officials (in the black hats), and rules interpretation.

He’s still the boss, but since the advent of TV review challenges, a call can be reviewed and overturned with something called “irrefutable evidence.”

You may want to know that football has changed over the years. For some, it will never change. If you doubt this, find a replay of this year’s Army-Navy game. Or learn about the quarterback sneak, one of the oldest plays in football.

As a casual observer, do you really need to know that old offenses were called the flying wedge, the single wing or the wishbone — versus newer formations called the wildcat, the spread and the pistol? Better to become familiar with the well-loved mascots of football and the rich SEC traditions. And, no TV soap opera can match the drama that occurred with this year’s end-of-season coach firings and hirings.

While I still have so much to learn, it turns out that you can teach an old dog new tricks. So, get your book and get started. Seven months until the new season kicks off.

Cindy DeVane of Johnson City is retired from professional sales and sales management.

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