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The Shakerite

The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

What is Football?

If you’ve just started watching, you probably have questions; here are answers to a few
Regis Frey/Wikimedia Commons

Hey . . .  Can you help me understand football?

Sure! What do you need to know?

What’s this whole Super Bowl thing?

The Super Bowl is basically the championship game at the end of every NFL season. This year is Super Bowl LVIII, or 58.

How many people typically watch the game? Will more or fewer watch this year?

The NFL projects that 200 million people will watch the game worldwide this year. This figure anticipates more viewers due to what is being called the Taylor Swift effect. In case you haven’t heard, Swift and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce are dating, and she has been attending Chiefs games in support of his efforts.

When was the first Super Bowl?

The first Super Bowl took place in 1967. This is the 58th Super Bowl. The Super Bowl occurs every year and is the culmination of the NFL football season, which begins in August. Each team’s goal is to reach this game and become NFL champions. Today, the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs will play in the Super Bowl. 

Why are Super Bowls numbered with Roman numerals?

The idea came from the founder of the American Football League, Lamar Hunt, who also came up with the name Super Bowl. (Hunt also brought the team that became the Chiefs to Kansas City from Dallas.) Roman numerals were used to avoid any confusion that could happen because the championship is recognized for the year the season began and during which most games were played, and not the year in which it ended. Most games of the NFL season occur from August to December, but the Super Bowl always happens after the new year. So, this year’s Super Bowl is number 58, but it’s called Super Bowl LVIII. Here’s a quick explanation of the Roman numerals that mean 58:

L = 50

V = 5

I = 1

What is the NFL?

The NFL, or National Football League, is the most popular and longest-running football league in the United States. It was founded Aug. 20, 1920, in Canton, Ohio, when 10 football teams gathered to create the American Professional Football Association. The association was renamed the NFL two years later. 

What is the goal of football?

The goal of football is simple. Score points by advancing the ball down the 100-yard field by running with it, or by throwing it to a receiver, until you run it into your opponent’s end zone or catch it there (a touchdown worth six points). Kicking the ball through the end-zone structure called the goal posts earns three points (a field goal), or one point (a point after touchdown). You have to do this while the other team tries to stop you by knocking you down and, if they can, taking the ball away from you. Tackling an opponent who has the ball while in their own end zone earns two points (a safety, which is rare). 

When was the sport created?

The first ever American football game was played between players from Princeton and Rutgers universities in a intercollegiate contest using modified London Football Association rules on Nov. 6, 1869.

Where is it played and why does it move every year?

Super Bowl LVIII will be held at the Allegiant Stadium in Paradise, Nevada, home to the Las Vegas Raiders of the NFL and the UNLV Rebels of the NCAA.

The Stadium seats 65,000 people. The Super Bowl location is decided when the NFL reaches out to a city that fulfills the requirements and asks them to host. The selected city has to negotiate the terms of hosting the Super Bowl.

How do teams get to play in the Super Bowl (how do playoffs work)?

Understanding how the playoffs work means understanding how divisions work in the NFL. First, not every team gets to play in the playoffs. The NFL comprises two conferences: the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC). Each conference sends its champion to the Super Bowl. Each conference comprises four groups of teams called divisions. There are four teams in each division. The team with the best record in its division at the end of the season wins the division and automatically makes the playoffs. The three next-best teams based on record in the conference also make the playoffs, making seven teams in each conference in the playoffs and 14 teams total. These teams play a series of playoff games until all are eliminated except the conference champion. 

Which teams are playing, and how can you watch the game?

The Kansas City Chiefs are playing the San Francisco 49ers. It’s San Francisco’s eighth Super Bowl appearance; they have won five so far. It’s Kansas City’s sixth appearance; they have won three so far. The game will be broadcast on CBS and also available on streaming services such as  Paramount+ and Youtube TV. Pre-game coverage has been going on all week. The game starts at 6:30 p.m.

Who are players to watch this Sunday?

The Kansas City Chiefs are led by their quarterback, Patrick Mahomes. He is looking to win his third Super Bowl in just his seventh year in the NFL. His favorite target is his tight end, Travis Kelce, a Cleveland Heights native, who has led all tight ends in receiving yards and touchdowns since 2018, when Mahomes became the starting quarterback. The third big star on the Chiefs is defensive lineman Chris Jones. He has recorded at least 10 sacks in each of the last two seasons, which only five  other players have done. A sack occurs when a defender tackles the other team’s quarterback before he can pass the ball downfield to a receiver.

The San Francisco 49ers are a star-studded team, and many people believe they have the best roster in the NFL. Their quarterback is Brock Purdy, who was the last pick (262nd overall) in the 2022 NFL Draft of college players. After injuries to other 49ers quarterbacks last year, Purdy got his chance to become the starter. He threw 33 touchdown passes this year, tied for fifth in the NFL. He has a bunch of talented offensive players around him like wide receivers Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel, tight end George Kittle, and running back Christian McCaffery — who won offensive player of the year this season. The 49ers defense is just as talented as their offense and is  led by linebacker Fred Warner and defensive lineman — and former Ohio State Buckeye — Nick Bosa.

Will Taylor Swift be there?

It seems likely. According to the Associated Press, “Swift wrapped up the last of four shows in Japan on Saturday night, then hopped on a private plane at Haneda Airport for a flight across nine time zones and the international date line. She landed in Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon before heading on to Las Vegas, where so many high-rollers had arrived that parking for private planes was entirely booked up.”

Do you have a cheat sheet I can use? 

Sure! Here’s a list of important terms and definitions.

The Field

end zone scoring areas at each end of the playing field bounded by the goal lines, end lines and sidelines

goal post what the place kicker kicks the ball through for a field goal or extra point

line of scrimmage offense and defense line up on opposite sides of this line, where the ball is placed, and cannot cross it until the ball is snapped for the next play.

midfield the 50-yard line, which marks halfway down the field

sideline area on either side of the field where coaches, players not currently playing, medical and technical staff stand. A play ends when a player carrying the ball steps “out of bounds” by contacting the sideline

The Players

defense the team trying to prevent the offense from scoring.

kick returner catches the football after punts or kick offs and tries to run it toward his opponent’s end zone

offense the team with the ball trying to score

passer offensive player who attempts to throw the ball past the line of scrimmage

quarterback offensive player who lines up behind the center, initiates plays, throws, hands off or runs the ball

running back offensive player who usually lines up behind the quarterback, receives the ball by hand off and attempts to gain yardage by running. 

special teams groups of players who take the field during all kicking situations

tight end  lines up on the end of the offensive line and acts as an extra blocker on running plays or becomes a receiver in passing situations.

wide receiver offensive players who line up at a distance from the ball and run routes downfield in order to evade defenders and catch a pass.

The Game

blitz  when the defense sends extra players after the quarterback in order to pressure or sack him.

blocking  offensive players bump, hit and otherwise interfere with defensive players to prevent them from reaching the ball carrier and tackling them. Rules govern how players may block. 

challenge if a team disagrees with an official’s call, they can challenge that call and potentially overturn the decision 

down when the ball is put in play; ends when the ball is declared dead. The offense has four downs, or attempts, to move the ball at least 10 yards down field in order to achieve a first down and begin the process again. If they don’t advance at least 10 yards, possession of the ball goes to the other team. 

extra point after scoring a touchdown, a team can earn an extra point by kicking the ball over the crossbar and through the uprights — just like a field goal. 

field goal a three-point score earned by kicking the ball from the field of play over the crossbar and between the uprights.

head coach leader of the team, responsible for managing players and their performance.

interception  when the defense catches a pass from the opposing quarterback

kickoff  opening play of the game, when the place kicker kicks the ball all the way down the field. Kickoffs also happen after every score.

penalty/flag when either the offense or defense violates a rule, they are assessed a penalty expressed in yards lost or awarded. Officials indicate the violation by throwing a yellow flag to the ground.

punt the offense, having failed to achieve a first down by advancing at least 10 yards in three plays, may kick the ball to the opponent by punting on fourth down. 

rush  to advance the ball by running with it, as opposed to passing, or kicking. 

sack when the defense tackles the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage

snap when the ball is handed from the center to the quarterback to begin play

timeout when teams stop the clock to discuss strategy and/or conserve time 

touchback when the football lands in the endzone on a kickoff, it is placed at the 25 yard line for the offense to begin its possession.

touchdown a six-point score earned by carrying the ball into or catching the ball in the other team’s end zone

two-point conversion after scoring a touchdown, the offense may attempt one play to advance the ball from the 2-yard line into the end zone to earn two points

Cole Klein, Baiden Sabino, Eliot Call, Miyana Williams, Clyde Fraser and Charles Griest contributed reporting.

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