Wednesday 1 September 2010

Things Made Easy: American Football

Another NFL season starts next week, and its popularity on these shores is very much on the increase. American Football is a mix of subtle strategy, bluffing, and all-out brute force like no other (except, let’s be honest, rugby). However, it seems that the actual rules and how the game is played remain a mystery to a good number of people in the UK. It’s actually very simple, however, so in this new “How to/Beginner’s Guide” series from Emotionally Fourteen, we’re going to show you how. Sit back and relax, and learn how everything in life is simple when you compare it to:

So, first of all, let’s cover the basics. American Football is played out between two teams, both of whom may have up to eleven players on the pitch at any one time. We’re going to refer to our two teams as the Acheron Aliens, and Ripley’s Raiders.

The game is scheduled for four quarters of fifteen minutes each – but the high number of stoppages and breaks compared to other sports usually means that two to three hours is the average running time of a match. The game (movie) ends when the time limit expires (the processing station explodes) and the team that has scored the most points (caused the most casualties) wins. With us so far?

Let’s run through the positions.

This little fellow here is the “coach” his job is to communicate the plays (battle plans) via radio to all of his players. We’ll call him Gorman.

The quarterback is the highest ranking player on the team. He starts each play, and is generally considered to be the “leader” or “captain” of the team. His name is Apone.

Don’t worry yourself too much about what a “tight end”, “wide receiver”, “running back” or any of that other crap is for the time being. Suffice to be said for now that these guys are more skilled than others in certain areas, or in particular plays (they may, for example, be trusted with a smart gun), but that’s the sort of thing you’ll pick up on as you watch it.

Anyway, the purpose of the game is to 'gain territory' across the 100-yard long playing field, and to score points - mainly by moving the ball into the opponents' endzone (battling your way across Hadley’s Hope, until you have destroyed the aliens) at the end of the pitch, called a touchdown, or by kicking the ball through two elevated goal posts, which is a fieldgoal (blowing it out of the goddamn airlock).

So let’s start.

Ripley’s Raiders are on the offense. They have possession of the ball and have allowed four attempts, called “downs”, to get the ball ten yards closer to the opponents' endzone (alien’s nest), either by carrying or throwing - called “passing” - the ball without losing it. If they manage to move it those initial ten yards or further, then they’ll get another four downs to push it another ten. If they fail, the other team is given the ball (they cut the power) and goes onto the offense (what do you mean they cut the power, they’re goddamn animals).

Say that things are going bad for the Raiders. They’ve failed to reach ten yards after the first three downs, and they’ve now only got one chance to get it past them. This calls for a desperation manoeuvre. Think about when the marines were really in trouble and Ripley hijacked the APC to go careering through the colony to rescue them at the cost of writing off the axle. Here, the team can attempt a similar thing by “punting” the ball, and kicking it as far up the opposing team’s field as possible. They figure it’s better to make sure the opposing team (aliens) have to carry on (launch their attack) from as far away as possible, rather than fumbling the final down and having them carry on from close to their own endzone (that’s inside the goddamn room).

Best. Superbowl. Ever.

With us so far?

A touchdown, worth six points, is awarded when a team manages to move the ball into the opponent’s endzone and still has it under its control. The offense then can score an extra point by kicking a conversion, which is essentially a short-range fieldgoal (blowing it out the goddamned airlock), or two extra points by running or passing the ball into the endzone from the two-yard line.

So what do you do whilst your on defence?

The team on defence must try to prevent the other team from 'conquering territory' and scoring. The defence can score when one of its players manages to get the ball and get it into their opponents' endzone or by downing an opposing ballcarrier in their own endzone (having a chest-burster pop out of a marine at an inappropriate moment) for a safety, worth two points.

That’s pretty much the basics of American Football. Now, when your mate invites you to watch the Superbowl, you can say "I'll be there", only to be disappointed that Lance Henriksen is nowhere to be found.

Unless you support Green Bay. Huge Packers fan, Henriksen.


1786, Jerusalem College, Cambridge

The ghost of murdered Sylvia Whichcote is rumoured to be haunting Jerusalem after disturbed fellow commoner Frank Oldershaw claims to have seen the dead woman prowling the grounds.

Desperate to salvage her son's reputation, Lady Anne Oldershaw employs John Holdsworth, author of The Anatomy of Ghosts - a stinging account of why ghosts are mere delusion - to investigate. But his arrival in Cambridge disrupts an uneasy status quo as he glimpses a world of privilege and abuse, where the sinister Holy Ghost Club governs life at Jerusalem more effectively than the Master, Dr Carbury, ever could.

And when Holdsworth finds himself haunted - not only by the ghost of his dead wife, Maria, but also Elinor, the very-much-alive Master's wife - his fate is sealed. He must find Sylvia's murderer or the hauntings will continue. And not one of them will leave the claustrophobic confines of Jerusalem unchanged.

Thanks to our friends at Penguin, we've got five copies of The Anatomy of Ghosts to give away! For your chance of winning send in your name and postal address to before midday on Wednesday 8th September (UK time). The first five names drawn out of the electronic hat will all win a free copy!

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