The Sorta Quick Guide To American Football for Swedes

Today is the Super Bowl. That final game of the season where we football lovers drink bad beer, eat lots of nachos, and scream at a television.

It is epic, it is fun, and it is slow. Yes, slow. A 60 minute game takes three hours to complete. You can thank the advertisements and all the breaks between every drive.

But since most of us will be up at an ungodly hour to watch this masterpiece classic, it’s time to have a quick overview of how game is played. You Swedes are probably wondering why we are so obsessed with the game and really, there is no answer.

Here’s a sorta short guide to watching football for dummies. If you want more to read, check out the dummies series.

Rules of American football:

  • The goal is to score a touchdown, field goal, or safety. Touchdown (six points)
  • Touchdown – Six points – scored when a team crosses the opposition’s goal line with the ball, or catches or collects the ball in the end zone.
  • Field goal – three points – These are usually attempted on fourth down if the kicker is close enough to the end zone to kick the ball through the posts, or uprights.
  • Extra point – One or two points) – A point is earned by kicking the ball through the uprights after a touchdown (similar to a rugby conversion). Two points are earned by taking the ball into the end zone again.
  • Safety – Two points – Awarded to the defensive team when a member of the offensive team is tackled with the ball in his own end zone.
  • The length of the football field is 100 yards. Each end zone is 10 yards wide.
  • There are four quarters to the game. Each quarter is 15 minutes of game time. After the second quarter, there is halftime. This gives the teams a chance to reground and for the audience to watch a splendid half time show during the Super Bowl.
  • There are 30 NFL teams in the league. The league divides into two conferences: the AFC (American Football Conference) and NFC (National Football Conference). During the regular season the teams play each other within the league and outside.
  • The Super Bowl is the final game of the top team from the AFC and the top team from the NFC.
  • The regular season comprises of 16 games.
  • After regular season, the playoff breakdown into three rounds played in each league respectively: Wildcard, Division, and Conference Championship games.

This bracket summarizes the playoffs:


Playing the game:

  • When the team is on the offense, it must move the ball 10 yards to get a ‘first down’ to continue holding the ball.
  • A team has four downs to move the ball the 10 yards. Most of the time, a team will use the first three downs to move the ball. Upon failing on the third down, the kicker will punt the ball to the opposing team and the receiving team will become the offensive.
  • If a team chooses to take a fourth down and does not earn the new first down, the defensive team will get the ball at that yard line.
  • Interception – when a defensive players catches or takes the ball from the offensive team. The defensive team will now be the offense.

There are many strategies to playing a football along with many types of penalties. I won’t bore you folks with the nitty gritty. Here’s a great video instead:

The Super Bowl:
Probably the most important aspect of watching the Super Bowl is the TV commercials and the halftime show. If the rules confuse or bore you, then watch the game for the commercials.

The five commercials you should look out for are: Blackberry, Volkswagon, Go Daddy, Mercedes Benz, and Lincoln. You will have plenty time to bet and argue over which ones are the most outrageous, offensive, and crazy.

Oh and if you haven’t figured out who is playing, it is the San Francisco 49ers versus the Baltimore Ravens. An epic game in pro sports history since the coaches of the teams are brothers. A real family feud!

For now, it’s time for bed and then to see the 49ers kick butt!

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