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Football Tips for New Fans

Like any sport, football is confusing to watch if you have never played it yourself or you didn’t grow up watching it. Here are a few things you can do to learn more about the game.

1. Read about the basics. Here are a few sites you should visit to learn more about the game:
-1a. Online:
SportSpectator Fan's Guide to Football
Wikipedia Football Write-up: Good wiki community write-up on football.
NFL Rule Center: Digest of rules, beginner's guide, football basics, and official’s signals.
-1b. Consider buying one or several of the following books:
Football for Dummies
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Football
Football Made Simple: A Spectator's Guide
Snot Bubbles! A Football Primer for Moms, Wives, and Significant Others
Get Your Own Damn Beer
The Chicks' Guide to Football

2. Watch televised games. Commentator language and analysis makes the game much easier to follow and will help you pick up the lingo. Watching games live at the stadium is a slower learning process. In the fall, college games are on Saturday and pro games are on Sunday, as well as Monday night. John Madden, for example, is a good commentator for the beginner.

3. Pick a team and follow it throughout a season (college or pro). Games are much more fun to watch when you have “your team” and you know the players, record, etc. See options 5 and 6 below for additional ideas.

4. Watch a sports wrap-up show once a week. Shows such as Sports Center (on ESPN) and other shows on ESPN or Fox Sports are good places to find general football information, learn the lingo, and keep up with “your” team. Saturday night is best for college wrap-ups. Sunday night is a best for pro wrap-ups.

5. Know the names of the key position players. Football players are almost always referred to by their last names. Just knowing the three key position players will make you sound like a well-informed fan.
Quarterback and running back: The quarterback and running back are the two best-known players on the team. Know their names and follow their progress during the season. For a quarterback, pay particular attention to his yards-per-game (300 or more is good), touchdowns (3 or more is good), and touchdown-to-interception ratio (more interceptions than touchdowns is very bad). For a running back, pay attention to yards-per-game (100 is a very good game).
Wide receiver: While there are several receivers on each team, there is usually one primary receiver who is well-known. His important statistics will be yards-per-game (100 is good) and touchdowns (a single touchdown in a game can make for a good performance).

6. Stay current on the games you watch and teams you follow. publishes previews before college and pro games. publishes pro previews. These previews describe match-up analysis. You can also visit “your team’s” clubhouse on either of these sites to learn more about players, injuries, etc. Memorize a few statistics and work them into a conversation to impress your friends. Local newspapers will also provide good coverage of local teams (usually high school, college, and pro). The magazine Sports Illustrated is also a good place to read about players, teams, etc.