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I write novels for teens and adults. Visit me here & on my website http://www.jenniferarcher.net

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Football First Downs? I Call "Foul!"

Fall is in the air and once again football season is upon us. In Texas, where I live, the game is a very big deal. I spent all of middle school and my first year of high school in a small Texas town similar in many ways to the fictional town of Cedar Canyon in my novel, THROUGH HER EYES. Friday nights in autumn were all about football. After dinner, my family and most of the other families in town, headed toward the hallowed light and pulsing drumbeat of the high school football stadium. Weekends at home often revolved around football, as well. If a game was on television, my dad was on the couch watching it – especially if the Dallas Cowboys were playing.

Since football was as much a part of my childhood as books, pop music, and mystery meat in the school cafeteria, I guess I should be ashamed of myself when I make the following confession:

I don’t ‘get’ it.

It’s true! I don’t understand the game of football! And I’m not ashamed, because it’s not my fault. It’s taken me a lot of years to forgive myself for having such a mental block about my State’s most revered pastime. The revelation that I’m not the one who’s confused took place while my brother was trying – YET AGAIN – to explain to me the rules of the game. It’s the terminology that’s off. Football lingo makes no sense. I’m a writer – a lover of words. I take their meaning literally. So, I ask you: How can there be multiple “FIRST downs?”

Here’s a definition of the word ‘first’ that I found here: “preceding all others in time or space or degree . . .

The kiss following your very first one is your second kiss, and the one after that is your third, and so on. We can only have one first love, first job, first house, first glance at our first child. These firsts “precede all others” that follow. Thus is the basis for my argument that in the game of football, the “down” following the first one must be the “second down” and the next one, the “third down,” and so it goes.

My brother, my dad, my husband, and my sons have stopped trying to explain to me why multiple firsts in football make sense. Their smug silence and raised brows tell me they think I’m the one with the problem, but I disagree. They can’t make sense of it, because it makes no sense. A “first” occurs, then it’s over. Been there, done that, as the old saying goes. Obviously, the person who invented football had no grasp of language.

(P.S. If you can accomplish what no other person has been able to do -- make sense of first downs in my mind -- I'll not only admit the error of my thinking, I'll put your name in a drawing for a free autographed early copy of THROUGH HER EYES. (And the men in my family will thank you and be in awe of you and sing your praises). Post your words of wisdom in the Comments section. Deadline: October 1.)

5 comments:

Kenja Purkey said...

As you know, the ultimate goal of football is to get the ball to the endzone for a touchdown.
If you break it down, the team has to move the ball at least 10 yards down the field toward their end zone. The team gets 4 chances to move the ball at least 10 yards. The first chance is called 1st down, the second chance is 2nd down, the third chance is 3rd down, and the fourth and final chance is 4th down.
If they fail to move the ball 10 yards during their four chances, the other team gets the ball. If the team moves the ball their requierd 10 yards or more during their first chance(1st down), the other three chances are no longer needed, and the team starts over again on its first chance (1st down) to move the ball another 10 yards down the field toward their end zone.
Sometimes the team will use only one, two, or three chances before they move the ball 10 yards, and other times they get to their fourth chance (4th down). Their fourth chance is a little different because if they don't make the 10 yards on their last try, the other team gets the ball wherever it ends up on the field after their fourth chance.
Because of this, most teams choose to punt, or kick the ball on their fourth chance to get it farther away from the other team's end zone before they take possession of the ball. Then it starts all over again for the other team, which has four chances to move the ball 10 yards toward their end zone.
Either the team moves the ball 10 yards down the field using their 4 chances over and over again until they get a touch down, or they use up their four chances without moving the ball 10 yards and the other team gets the ball.
Is that clear as mud???

Travis Erwin said...

Like I'm gonna try to succeed where other good men have failed.

But to go with an analogy you might get compare it to books.

Each chapter starts with a FIRST paragraph. A series of downs are like chapters in the progress of a football game. You can't get to the next one if you don't do your job in the previous.

Jennifer said...

Travis, so far you win the award for most creative explanation! Books,chapters and paragraphs are a language I understand. However, Kenja is the first person to really ever shine a bright light through the fog in my brain when it comes to football! By the way, Kenja you are the first woman to ever try to explain this to me, as well. What does that tell you?! Both of you are going into the drawing.

Jennifer said...

Travis, so far you win the award for most creative explanation! Books,chapters and paragraphs are a language I understand. However, Kenja is the first person to really ever shine a bright light through the fog in my brain when it comes to football! By the way, Kenja you are the first woman to ever try to explain this to me, as well. What does that tell you?! Both of you are going into the drawing.

desperatewriter said...

Kenja stole my thunder! Took he words right out of my mouth. Good job!