Full disclosure time. There was a time in my life when I had to essentially fake football knowledge, not only as a clueless freshman on a football-obsessed college campus, but as a football recruiting assistant for that college, and that one girl who wrote sports for the newspaper. I genuinely do love sports, but I just never spent the time on football (going to an all-girls high school holds some responsibility there). That said, there are few people on this planet more qualified to advise on this particular subject.
1. If you’re a true football noob, let’s talk basic terminology.
- Quarterback – the stereotypically hot one that throws (or runs, like San Fran quarterback Colin Kaepernick) the ball
- Running back – they run. See how easy football is?
- O (offensive) line – the guys that protect the quarterback from getting sacked
- Sacked – when the quarterback gets tackled
- Wide receivers – the dudes that catch the ball
- D (defensive) line – the guys trying to get to the quarterback
- Linebackers – back up for the D line
- Defensive backs – they make up what’s called the secondary, which is the last line of defense that can stop a touchdown from happening
- Touchdown – the goal of football. Get into the end zone, score six points
- Extra point – after a touchdown, when a kicker has to get it through those posts
- Field goal – a kick again, but not after a touchdown. This is when the team on offense runs out of chances to advance the ball, and the kicker tries for three points, from wherever the offense is on the field.
- Safety – 1. a type of defensive back that generally protects against long passes AND 2. when a player on offense gets tackled in his own end zone, the defensive team gets two points. That should not happen.
There are certainly others, but as I’ll explain, actually knowing the terms is much less important than you may think.
2. Do a little bit of background reading to get the basic plot of the game down. For example, you should probably know that the teams playing on Sunday are the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers. You can go with something simple like “10 Super Bowl storylines,” which will generally get the job done. If you want a super abbreviated version:
- Sibling rivalry: The two coaches, Jim and John Harbaugh, are brothers.
- Ray Lewis (Ravens), one of the best linebackers ever, announced his retirement, so this will be his last game in the NFL, and possibly the last time we’ll get to see him do this dance
- Randy Moss of the 49ers is one of the most accomplished receivers ever, and yet has never won a Super Bowl.
- Joe Flacco, Baltimore’s quarterback, is the only quarterback to ever take his team to the playoff in each of his first five seasons in the league. He’s not one of the best, but the dude clearly knows how to win.
- The other QB, the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick, is a rookie who has only started seven NFL games in his life. He wasn’t expected to be quite as good as he turned out, so he took the original starting QB’s spot. The kind of guy you want to root for, na mean? Also, he sent a bunch of pizzas to the media last night, just because he’s a nice guy like that. (Log that under fun facts to casually drop during the game. Which brings me to rule number 3…)
3. Find a couple of amusing side notes that do not require technical knowledge, and use them to your advantage. For example, sarcastically bring up one of the great questions of our time: Is Kaepernicking the new Tebowing? Which would you rather do in front of a great monument, or in your wedding photos?
4. Ask questions, but only once in awhile. If you genuinely have no idea what is going on and you hear a specific term that doesn’t sound too obvious, feel free to – on the side, not aloud to everyone – ask your best guy friend or dude you’re interested in. Boys like girls who know about sports sure, but even more than that, they like explaining things to girls who show an interest. Trust me.
5. The golden rule of faking it: DO LESS. The second you start trying too hard is the second you blow your cover. Don’t ramble about things you know nothing about. Don’t clap or squeal unless everyone else does, and even then, keep it under control. More to the point, avoid squealing in general. If a guy starts going on about how someone needs more pass protection or says anything you don’t quite understand, just smile and nod. As a rule, boys like hearing themselves talk about how much they know about sports. Be adorable and interested, and that’s more than enough.