The Real Werewives of Alaska is a reality show that pairs human women up with members of the Continental Football Association’s newest team, The Alaska Bloodhounds. The Bloodhounds are the CFA’s first all shifter team, and when these guys find their mate, it’s forever.
I know most of you are on board with the reality show and the shifter aspect of the series. But I see you out there, hiding in the back, wrinkling your nose. It’s okay, poker face isn’t my strong point, either. You’re saying, sportsball, Kristen? Really?
I LOVE football, especially my New England Patriots. I grew up watching the games when they were so bad they used to make me cry. No joke. I was also in the stands for Tom Brady’s first game, which did not make me cry.
The rules of the game can be confusing to a newcomer. I want to help! I’ve recruited friend and fellow author, Jennifer Hallock, to talk football 101 with me. Jen actually coaches high school football. Hashtag baller. Enjoy!
Kristen: The biggest resistance I come up against when I tell people that either I love football in general or that I wrote a football book is “I don’t understand the rules!” I consider football to be a game of human chess. How would you describe the object to someone who wasn’t familiar with the game?
Jen: You are right that football is chess. Another analogy is war. There is a role for generals mapping out grand strategy when they get the game film on the team they will play that weekend. New plays are added every week, each one designed specifically for the coming opponent. That’s the strategy.
On the field, in the heat of battle, the generals chose their tactical moves—their plays—based on many factors:
- What down it is, and how many yards are needed for a first (called “down and distance”).
- The location of the ball on the field both vertically (what yard are you on, and on whose half of the field?) and horizontally (is the ball on the center mark, the left hash mark, or the right hash mark?).
- How you can fool the defense into thinking you’re running the same play from the same formation, but it’s really a totally different ball carrier or a different attack position.
- Whether you want to run out the clock (run the ball) or save your play time (pass the ball, because an incomplete pass stops the clock).
- What kind of players you have to work with, whether big or small, fast or slow, with “good hands” to catch the ball or not.
- What kind of players you’re working against…and so much more.
Kristen: What is your favorite part of football? Mine is the camaraderie, the food, and sense of community.
Jen: The strategy and tactics are fun for the coaches and the spectators. But even more exciting are acts of individual valor, like on a real battlefield. If you asked any Medal of Honor winner, though, he would say that he did what he did for his squad. And that is true for all the best football players out there: they play for each other.
I asked one of my boys what he liked best about football, and he answered right away: “Brotherhood. I’ve played lots of team sports, but nothing else comes close.” Now, given that he gave this answer to his female coach, and being aware that we have had many girls on the team, I do not think he is being a chauvinist. He means that football is family. There is no sport that requires this kind of teamwork, where each and every player has a different job, and they have to do their jobs at the same time and in sync. If one of the eleven does the wrong thing, it is a “busted play” and you are likely to lose yards and maybe even the ball. And the players don’t learn just one play, either: they learn twenty (at the youth level) or forty (at the junior varsity level) or eighty (at the varsity level) or hundreds (in the NCAA and NFL). And they have to know them all by code. They also have to know how each play shifts based upon the defense they see across the line of scrimmage, which is especially true for the linemen. In the end, when a football team moves as one on the field—despite these many, many complications—they are like a hive mind. That is brotherhood. And that is discipline.
Kristen: If someone’s interested in football, I usually suggest that they watch a game with a team that they don’t have an investment in to get an objective view of what’s going on. How do you suggest people familiarize themselves with the game?What should a total football newbie do to learn the sport?
Jen: The most important thing to understand is the down system. Each “down” is an attempt. You have four tries to move the ball ten yards. You can run the ball, pass it forward (but only once a down), or kick it. If you do not run or pass the ball ten yards in four downs, the other team gets the ball where you were stopped. That’s the most important thing to know. The rest is gravy. Sit with a loved one from your own family, and enjoy watching the football family on the field. That’s how I learned to love football, with my father in our season ticket seats at the Horseshoe in Columbus, Ohio. Go Buckeyes!
Thanks, Jen! Want more of her football talk, where she talks about the history of fooball? Jen wrote a companion blog. If you’re not familiar with Jen’s work, she writes a gorgeous historical romance series called Sugar Sun that’s set during the Philippine-American War. Check it out!