How Not to Sound like an Idiot: Watching Sports

Sports and sports fandoms have existed since ancient times. We, as a society, love to gather with like-minded people and talk about what we love and, for a lot of us that includes “The Game.”

So what do you do if you know someone who loves to watch and talk about sports, but you have no clue what they are talking about? Well, fear not: here are the basics of three popular sports to help you navigate your way through the top major U.S. sporting events of the year: the Super Bowl, the World Series, and March Madness.

Football: the Super Bowl

American football spawned from the game rugby (if you ever watch the two, they look pretty similar). The basic idea of football is to get the ball down the field to the end zone to score a touchdown. Play is divided into four quarters, each 15 minutes long. There is an offensive side (the one who has the ball) and a defensive side (the one who is trying to get the ball).

The offensive side has four attempts (called downs) to move the ball ten yards down the field (the field is 120 yards), or else they have to give the ball to the defensive side. The offensive side can do this a number of ways by running or throwing the ball to another player further down the field. The plays are counted by calling them the 1st down, 2nd down, 3rd down, and 4th down. Often, if the offensive team has not been able to reach a new “1st down” (by moving the ball ten yards in their four attempts) they will punt the ball (by kicking it down field) to the other team on their 4th down. This avoids a turnover (where the other team gets the ball). Turnovers can also happen if an offensive player fumbles (drops the ball and it is retrieved by a defensive player) or if a defensive player intercepts (catches the ball during a pass intended for an offensive player).

A touchdown (when the ball crosses into the end zone during a down) is worth six points. The scoring team then has an opportunity to score an extra point via a field goal (a kick in between the U-shaped posts) or a two-point conversion (another touchdown, but starting really close to the end zone). The offensive team can also choose to kick a field goal during the 4th down, instead of punting back to the defense or running a touchdown. If successful, this play will earn them three points.

Professional teams usually score around 15 to 20 points per game, but it can range anywhere from zero to 50 points each.

Basketball: March Madness

The basic idea of basketball is to get the ball down the court to score a basket in the net. Basketball is a fairly fast-moving game and the rules are different between an NBA (National Basketball Association) game or an NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) game. Since March Madness is, in my opinion, a bigger deal than the NBA Finals, let’s focus on NCAA regulation rules.

An NCAA game is divided into two halves, each 20 minutes long. Much like football, the offense has the ball and the defense is trying to get the ball. The offense is given 35 seconds to shoot a basket or 10 seconds to move the ball past the half-court line—or else the ball is returned to the defense. This countdown begins at the beginning of each half and is restarted automatically after each basket is scored, (you can see this countdown timer on the scoreboard, usually above the score count). Each basket is worth two points unless the shooter gets a basket at or behind the three-point line, which earns them three points.

Professional teams usually score between 80 to 100 points a game.

Baseball: the World Series

Baseball is a slower-paced sport, and can sometimes seem boring if there isn’t a lot of action. The field is called a baseball diamond and has four bases: home plate, first base, second base, and third base. (Hello, middle school make out rules!) The point of baseball is to score as many runs as possible. A run is when the batter runs around all four bases and back to home plate without getting tagged by an opposing player who has the ball. One batter reaching home plate counts as one run or one point.

A game of baseball is divided into nine innings. An inning is when both the home team and the visiting team have played offense and defense (meaning, both have gotten a chance to bat). When an inning starts, the team on defense sends nine players out to the field: three in the outfield, four in the infield, a pitcher, and a catcher. The pitcher throws the ball to the batter, who tries to hit it out into the field using a baseball bat. Then, it’s basically a race: the batter runs to get to the base before the defense can throw the ball to the base. As long as the batter gets to the bases before the ball, he is safe; but, if he doesn’t, then he is out. Also, if the batter hits the ball in the air and a defensive player catches it before it hits the ground, that player is out—this is called a fly ball.

Usually, professional teams score around 2 to 5 runs per game; it is possible, though rare, for the score to get into double-digits.

I hope this helps you to understand the basics of these sports! If all else fails, just sit back, relax with a cold beverage of your choosing, and yell when everyone else yells. But don’t be afraid to ask questions! These games sometimes have rules so obscure that even pros can get confused, so as long as you’ve got the basics, you’ll be fine. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!

Photo by Meaghan Morrison

Share on:Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponShare on RedditEmail this to someone

1 Comment

Leave a Reply