Help me fit in with football fans?
January 27, 2011 6:38 PM   Subscribe

I'm a guy, I don't follow football at all, but a friend has invited me to his Super Bowl party. How do I attend without it being awkward?

I'd like to seem knowledgeable enough about the topic to fit in with everyone so I can focus on relaxing, meeting new people and having a good time. I've tried looking through the usual sports publications online but they all assume that the reader is already familiar with the context surrounding any topic.
posted by indubitable to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (41 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Read Wikipedia's stuff.

Whatever you do, just don't be the guy who asks rules questions during the game.

Nod and smile and drink your beer.
posted by meadowlark lime at 6:40 PM on January 27, 2011

If you're focused on making yourself seem knowledgeable, it's going to be hard to have fun and relax. I know absolutely nothing about football, but I hoot and holler when everyone else does. Then I make disappointed sounds when everyone else does. Then I high five people when a score is made. And if people ask me a question or try to make conversation about the game, I tell them that I don't really know anything about football, but I love being around the excitement and having an excuse to drink beer. Then I clink beer cans and just look like I'm having fun and I'm relaxed and enjoying the party.
posted by HotPatatta at 6:43 PM on January 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

This is the Super Bowl. All you need to do is root for a team, eat snacks, and laugh at the commercials. No worries.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:46 PM on January 27, 2011 [11 favorites]

this might be useful
posted by nadawi at 6:47 PM on January 27, 2011

I saw this this morning. It's kind of informative but also kind of ... condescending.

wiki article on this years Super Bowl. Some good background information on what led up to it and other tidbits.

For football in general, you can read this lonnng wiki article about the NFL.
or check out NFL Beginner's Guide to Football which is basically about the rules of the game.

I recently became obsessed with basketball again (used to love watching it when I was a kid/teenager) and I read all kinds of similar stuff like the above. I guess it can be a little overwhelming.

My problem with following NFL is that they have so many players... so it's hard to become familiar with the players.

There also seems to be quite a few youtube videos with people explaining the basics.
posted by KogeLiz at 6:50 PM on January 27, 2011

I hang out in a sports bar, there are usually 3 sporting events on at once. I don't care about sports at all, whenever anyone mentions a player's name I say "that guys a fuckin bum" if they mention a team I just say "bunch of fuckin bums", everyone loves me.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:52 PM on January 27, 2011 [19 favorites]

The Super Bowl is kind of like the Christmas of professional American football: sure, there are people who are deeply serious/religious about it, but there are also plenty of folks who simply like a good get-together.

Pick a team to root for, let those people who are deeply into football carry on with each other, and just enjoy the festivities.
posted by DingoMutt at 6:54 PM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Yeah, seconding what HotPatatta and St. Alia said. For most people, Superbowl parties are just a fun social thing that just happens to involve having the TV on. You probably won't be the only one there with low knowledge of football.

The other thing is, while football is a complex game with a lot of daunting-sounding terminology and rules and such, the crux of it is simple. Each team tries to get the ball down to the other end of the field. They accomplish this by running and throwing the ball to one another. The defending team tries to stop them by tackling them and catching (intercepting) the throws, and the spectators get treated to some pretty amazing feats of athleticism in the process. You'd be surprised how little you have to know about football to follow (and enjoy!) a game.
posted by kagredon at 6:57 PM on January 27, 2011

You don't need to know anything about football (or even to talk about the sport) to go to a Super Bowl party and have a good time. If anyone asks, just say, "I don't follow football." Nobody will care.
posted by jdroth at 7:09 PM on January 27, 2011

Over compensate by brining too much beer.
posted by cestmoi15 at 7:17 PM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

I have been to many Super Bowl parties where I end up watching the commercials and the half-time show, but little else... and nobody cares. SB parties are just like every other party, at least the ones I have been to. Don't go thinking you have to pretend to know anything (or even like) football. Just go to have fun!
posted by brownrd at 7:18 PM on January 27, 2011

You are overthinking it. I've watched plenty of sporting events where I only know the basics of the rules and I get excited when everyone else does and I can recognize when something cool has happened. No, I don't understand the details of the Offsides Rule as it pertains to off-break bowls during the third half, but only a few people do.

Football. There are two teams. One guy (the quarterback) either throws the ball or hands off the ball to another guy. They run. They have four downs (attempts) to get 10 yards. If they make it they get another four attempts. If they don't they lose the ball. Usually if they know they aren't going to make it they will kick the ball away (punt). "First and 10" means first down (attempt) and 10 yards to go. "Second and three" is second down with three yards to go. "Third and 15" means that something went wrong and they went backwards. If they get to fourth down they will almost certainly punt. Feel free to mock the team for being insufficiently brave when they do this.

A touchdown is when someone gets into the "end zone". It's six points and they get to kick for another point (they almost always make it). A field goal is when the team kicks the ball through the goal posts. It's three points.

A one hour game takes over three hours to play. This is a feature, not a bug.

You now know all you need to know.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 7:18 PM on January 27, 2011 [23 favorites]

That was the single greatest summary of American football I've ever read in my entire life.

(Don't pretend you know anything. "Wait - football? I thought we were watching porn. There's still beer, right?")
posted by obiwanwasabi at 7:25 PM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Here's a fun and handy guide from a weekly paper here in Detroit: An idiotic guide to football.
posted by palindromic at 7:28 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is the Super Bowl. All you need to do is root for a team, eat snacks, and laugh at the commercials. No worries.

Exactly, I don't wantch or follow football but I like to get together with people for the Super Bowl because it's a fun social event where people are generally happy and you can sit around with a thing to focus on and eat snacks and beer. Unless your friends are super rabid fans, they're probably rooting for a team but not assholes about it and they'll half watch the game and half talk about other stuff. Maybe they will watch the ads intently, maybe not. If you're nerdy and you have a smartphone you can follow along with Twitter which is often how I figure out what has happened at sporting events I didn't go to, enough so I can mention it at work to people who are really into that sort of thing.

If you didn't see a crucial play, do not worry, they will show it a zillion more times.

If I were you I'd just learn a little about the teams, not even that much [Green Bay Packer is a publicly owned team which is sort of interesting and explains their rabid fan base somewhat. Rules have ben changed so that there are no other publicly owned football teams. I'm oversimplifying, you can read more] and just go to enjoy the game. Don't ask a ton of questions about rules while the game is playing, but feel free to ask people about the players, many people know a lot of player trivia they like the share.

Also, learn about the machine that makes the fancy lines, it's pretty interesting. There will be a MeFi thread about the game, I am sure of it.
posted by jessamyn at 7:31 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Go to the party and don't fake anything. If you don't care about who wins, don't root for anyone. Don't read up on football to try and be someone you aren't. Those people are more annoying than the question askers. Just watch the television program, or retire to the other room with the other people who don't care about football.
posted by gjc at 7:33 PM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

The phrase "Can you believe that? Come on, refs!" is often appropriate. Refs throw weighted handkerchiefs (i.e., flags) when they see a rules violation on the field. A call against your team is always wrong, and the refs always blatantly ignore violations that the other team commits.

If there are fans of both teams at the party, you can get pretty far on a single-plank anti-referee platform.
posted by catlet at 7:38 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Offer to organize the pool betting -- the one where you make a 10 x 10 grid, people buy squares, etc. Hold the money, keep score. You don't need any knowledge beyond simple math. And you'll instantly be popular.

And yeah, it's the Super Bowl. This is more an event than a game, per se.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:39 PM on January 27, 2011

When and if the losing team has scored a touchdown and is setting up to kick the extra point, just say "they should totally go for 2". Instant expertise, just add beer.

also, what gjc said.
posted by palacewalls at 7:49 PM on January 27, 2011

You may want to check out this previous askme
posted by chndrcks at 7:51 PM on January 27, 2011

Don't worry about it. Football is a seriously dense, complex game -- most casual fans barely understand how it works. Read this article in Vanity Fair, though. I can't guarantee it will be the most informative article on football you'll find, but I'm confident it will be the most entertaining.
posted by patnasty at 7:54 PM on January 27, 2011

"I'm just here for the beer and the commercials."
posted by Bonzai at 8:07 PM on January 27, 2011

And root for the Packers. It's more fun when "your" team wins.
posted by Bonzai at 8:09 PM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

I find if you make and bring really good guacamole, everyone will think you're awesome. (This goes for more than just Super Bowl parties.)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 8:11 PM on January 27, 2011

Uhh, are some of your friends Steelers fans? If so, you should at least learn vaguely who the main characters are. Are some of your friends Packers fans? Do the same. Jessamyn above seems to imply that Packers fans can be kind of very into the game. I know the same is true of Steelers fans--I worked in a Pittsburgh city office and got somewhat berated (in a friendly way) for not having appropriate black and gold for Friday/game day wear. I suggest at least knowing the name of the quarterbacks. If you're going to a Steelers party, try to make at least one disparaging remark about a guy named Maddox.

If your friends aren't supporters of one team or the other and are just watching the Super Bowl because it is the Super Bowl, don't worry about it at all. I actually think watching the Super Bowl/any football is more fun when you don't have a particular emotional investment in one team or another. I root for the underdogs/whichever team is losing when I tune in, look for really exciting plays (you can actually tell which these are without even knowing much of anything about football: Did the guy on the team on defense jump out of nowhere to catch the pass and then run it halfway down the field the other direction? AWESOME!), watch the dudes run into each other, and have fun.
posted by that girl at 8:12 PM on January 27, 2011

I just accepted an invite to a Superbowl party even though I had to ask when the Superbowl was. You'll be fine.
posted by Sara C. at 8:13 PM on January 27, 2011

One more helpful hint, if you actually watch the game: the network broadcasting the game knows that you, and millions of other people like you, are watching the game, and they will explain things to you. Serious football fans have a deep dislike for SB announcing, because they feel like they're being talked down to. It's not really that, it's that the network wants to reach the widest part of the audience. At some point, one of the announcers will likely say 'Remember, a touchdown is worth six points.' Penalties will be explained in simple terms. And yes, lots of replays. Don't worry, and have fun. Remember to root, of course, for the right team, which this year is a giant chasm opening under the playing field, swallowing both teams.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:44 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cheer when other people do. Drink beer.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 9:54 PM on January 27, 2011

I don't follow football either, but Superbowl parties are usually pretty welcoming even to the non-fan. Here's a quick survey of some things I know about the two teams involved this year (in other words, these are general-knowledge kinds of things rather than football-knower things):

Green Bay (Wisconsin) Packers - (Packers 2010 season recap)
Publically owned, as jessamyn mentioned. Packers fans are called "cheese heads" (because Wisconsin is a big cheese producing state) and sometimes wear funny cheese-shaped hats. Team colors, green and gold.

They were very good during the 1990s, then had more ups and downs in the 00s. They haven't been to the Superbowl since the one that decided the 1997 season.

Their beloved quarterback from the early '90s through 2007, Brett Favre ("FARve"), in recent years has retired, come back, jumped around to a series of other teams, retired again, come back again, and generally become more of a joke. This past fall he was accused of sending unwanted sexy text messages with naked pictures to a female sports journalist. He has now retired again.

Their current quarterback is Aaron Rodgers.

They are favored to win.

Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) Steelers - (Steelers' 2010 season recap)
They have been very good in the '00s. They have won two Superbowls in the last five years.
Their head coach Mike Tomlin is under 40 and black, both of which are uncommon attributes in head coaches.

Steelers' fan object is the terrible towel. Team colors, black and gold.

Their quarterback is Ben Roethlisberger ("Rellisburger"), who has been accused of rape (though not prosecuted) and suspended for several games as a response. (details in the wiki article)

Another famous Steelers player is Troy Polamalu, who is easy to see on the field because of his distinctive long hair. You may have seen him in tv ads.

The game is played at a stadium chosen well in advance, so usually it is not in the home city of either team playing. This year it will be played at the stadium of the Dallas Cowboys.

Wikipedia overview of this Superbowl matchup.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:00 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I hang out in a sports bar, there are usually 3 sporting events on at once. I don't care about sports at all, whenever anyone mentions a player's name I say "that guys a fuckin bum" if they mention a team I just say "bunch of fuckin bums", everyone loves me.

Your bum of choice in this game will probably be Ben Roethlisberger. Read up on him, and state that "the NFL should have suspended him for the whole season." Proceed to either A) Root for Green Bay or B) Root for Pittsburgh and state that they could have made it with a second-string quarterback.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:02 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

To me, a football fan, the Super Bowl is like New Year's Eve is to an alcoholic. Too many amateurs at the party to make it real interesting. I DVR the game and go to the party to hang with my buddies, their wives and assorted other people I see once or twice a year whose name I should know, but I can never remember. I drink lots of adult beverages and keep an eye on the game while catching up with friends. When my favorite team is playing in the game, then I go to a party that is really just guys who are loyal fans of the NY Football Giants and we watch the game while screaming at the TV that Eli is a girl until he eludes the grasp of a would be tackler and throws a pass to David Tyree a third string receiver who catches the ball in the most improbable manner -- against his helmet -- that lead to Big Blue winning the whole damn thing.

Just go to the game, be yourself, eat the snacks and drink the adult beverages and you will enjoy yourself immensely. The only time you need to be aware of the game is to know when a quarter is coming to a close so you can beat the rush to the bathroom by the other guys who are drinking lots of beer debating whether playing on the frozen tundra of Lambeau field helps or hurts the pack. Also, keep repeating the phrase, "The pack is back" or mumble about how the original 'Steel Curtain' defense is better than the prima donnas that play today for the Steelers. If you are feeling especially frisky toward the end of the game and the Packers score a touchdown, run toward the couch that is full and dive onto it ass first and scream about doing the Lambeau leap. Then pop back up and walk away as if nothing happened.

Do not scream, "I love Fergie!" when the half time show comes on. The avid football fans will give you the withering look of a man who had his dog crap on his favorite slippers.
posted by AugustWest at 10:07 PM on January 27, 2011

Correction: I'm informed by my household sports staff that Roethlisberger is not pronounced "Rellisburger" by anyone but me. Other people say it ROTH-liss-burger.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:23 PM on January 27, 2011

Seconding everyone that tells you not to worry too much.. If it was a playoff game, and your local team was involved you might need to actually do a bit of research. The Super Bowl is just a fun time, and you're probably not gonna get called out by anyone on your lack of football knowledge. Just don't try to fake it and you'll be fine :P
posted by Glendale at 10:32 PM on January 27, 2011

Just hang out and chat with the other people who don't give a shit about football but were dragged to the party by their significant others. I would have been thrilled to meet someone like you at one of the football parties my husband has made me attend with him.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:43 PM on January 27, 2011

You need only 2 words to succeed at this party. I promise you, its really that simple. You can say these words over and over, people will understand you, some may disagree, but all will come to see your wisdom and foresight and understanding of the situation at large by the end of the game.

posted by allkindsoftime at 11:15 PM on January 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

Key concepts: 4 downs, 1st and 10, touchdown, field goal, quarterback. It's Never Lurgi summarizes what they're all about admirably. That's the stuff you should try to learn before you go, if you actually feel it necessary to study, which you shouldn't.

You should get excited when one team makes it all the way down the field and scores. You should get excited when there is an unexpected change of possession--i.e., when the defense "intercepts" the offense's pass or picks up a dropped ball (a "fumble"). Tension will arise if the losing team needs three points or less to pull ahead and it's 4th down and they are just outside their field goal kicker's range. In general, be on the lookout for stunning feats of athleticism. These will be easy to pick out because they'll be replayed at least 5 times in the subsequent minutes. Watch for when a receiver reaches outside the endzone to catch a pass while somehow keeping both his feet in bounds, and thus scores a touchdown.

The hardcore fans will spend a lot of time yelling about the fine details of the game. Most of these you shouldn't expect to pick up in the next week. You can expect the judgment of the referees to be questioned when they rule, for example, that the pass interference should not be called because the ball was not catchable, or that the receiver did not have possession of the ball before he went out of bounds.

Oh, and clock management gets important towards the end of the game. The losing team will want to preserve time; the winning team will want to dispose of it. Other than time outs a team can "stop the clock" by throwing an incomplete pass or ending a play by moving the ball out of bounds. This can add to the late-game drama and yelling.
posted by epugachev at 11:32 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

You need no context. If compatible with your norms, drink enough to get yourself a little sauced. Then cheer blindly, recklessly, with abandon whenever anyone else cheers. YEAH FUCK [THE OPPOSING TEAM] THEY ARE SUCH LOSERS DO THEY EVEN DESERVE TO BE HERE. The opposing team is THE ENEMY and your team is filled with MIGHTY WARRIORS who will DEFEAT THEM and win a (RELATIVELY FLEETING) PRIZE for the GLORY OF [STATE/MUNICIPALITY]. There is LITERALLY NOTHING MORE GLORIOUS THAN WINNING THIS GAME. NOTHING. If anyone talks to you about the game AGREE COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY AND WITH BIZARRE AMOUNTS OF ENTHUSIASM with what they are saying about [that pass/that punt/that tackle/that hot hunk of man meat in the spandex]. Enjoy the RISE IN TESTOSTERONE (if yr a bro) and the experience of observing tribal warfare. This is your moment to be uncivilized, yo.
posted by Keter at 6:46 AM on January 28, 2011

Stephen King got a high school job/internship at a local paper and they asked him to go cover some football game and he said he didn't know anything about football. The editor who gave him the assignment said something to the effect of, "Drunken morons in bars can understand this game. You can too."

Even without knowing much of anything (It's Never Lurgi actually gives you everything you NEED to know) you can still follow the game. When exciting stuff starts to happen, people start acting excited. The announcers, the crowd noise on TV, the crowd noise in the room.

And the Superbowl is the ONE football game every year that people who don't care about football watch. No one will bug you about not being an expert.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:49 AM on January 28, 2011

Seconding organizing a 10 X 10 pool, or at least getting into one at work. You'll accomplish your goal better and more easily if you actually have a rooting interest, and you don't need to dissemble about it; perfectly acceptable for gambling to be your reason for rooting.

Past that, it might be easier not to bone up but rather to intersperse socializing with actually paying attention to the game with an open mind and your interest, however temporary, in knowing more about football. As someone else said, I wouldn't ask a lot of questions, but you might find yourself genuinely "OH!!!!"ing at the same time everyone else does. Football is good in that if you err, it'll be an error of omission; everyone will be raucous about developments you don't understand, but no one will notice you were quiet, and you won't have any raucous false starts where everyone else is just staring at you. Contrast that with baseball, where if you are new, you might find yourself getting all excited about a bunch of flyouts because you've yet to figure out they're high enough but not deep enough to be home runs, and everyone else is just staring at you.
posted by troywestfield at 7:47 AM on January 28, 2011

Five years ago, I accompanied my husband to a viewing of the Seahawks/Steelers Super Bowl. I am similarly ignorant about football. My husband told me that whenever anyone asked me anything about my opinion of the game or how it was going, I could say:

"Games are won and lost on the line of scrimmage."

If someone asks about your opinion of something specific, then you say "Something, schmomething: Games are won and lost on the line of scrimmage." "Offense, schmoffense." "Roethlisberger, schmoethlisberger." Etc. It works surprisingly well.

And if you just want to draw the fire away from something else, you can always say "Wait, Roethlisberger. Isn't he the guy who cheated to win against the Seahawks five years ago?" (He didn't. What happened was a play that was apparently crystal-clear on the field, but appeared monumentally shaky on camera. It looked like he was tackled six inches from the goal line, and then stuck his ball hand out and shoved the ball over the line after he was down. But from the field, it was obvious that he had "crossed the plane" prior to the tackle, and was just sealing the deal once he was on the ground.) This will be likely to cause a giant hoppitamoppita, during which you can run to the bathroom.
posted by KathrynT at 7:51 AM on January 28, 2011

I am deeply grateful to Its Never Lurgi. If I am with my nephews and niece, whom I see a few days per year tops, next year for Thanksgiving, I will be ready!

(In that Seattle household, he's "Worthlessberger.")
posted by jgirl at 9:34 AM on January 28, 2011

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