Sports for Dummies: ‘What just happened?’

Well, sports dummies, I finally did it. I finally went to a football game, and it was actually kind of fun.

Don’t get me wrong, I had no clue what was going on, but I found myself getting sucked into the spirit, and I’m happy to report that nobody high-fived my face.

I went with my father, which was very helpful because he’s quite the football fan, and he was able to explain things to me. When the game started, he was describing the end zone as ‘the red stuff.’ When the game was over, I could recognize when an interception happened.

Stop laughing at me, sports fans.

Luckily, because he’s my dad, he couldn’t get annoyed with me asking, “What just happened?”

The sports game experience generated more questions for me than it answered, but I did learn quite a bit. I finally understand the concept of a ‘down,’ though the word itself still baffles me – why don’t they just say ‘attempt?’

But I still don’t understand why people shake their keys. And what in the world is the deal with the arm-shark motion?

My theory was that the key-shaking was for the noise value. I anticipated the clanging to be deafening and distracting to the other team. But it wasn’t, not at all. It was more of a light tinkling than anything else, and I can’t see how trained athletes would find that in any way distracting. So why do we do it? It’s still a mystery to me.

Similarly mysterious is the arm-shark movement. I even asked former sports editors at this newspaper for insight on that, and their response? “Nobody knows.”

If this were Florida and our mascot was a Gator, that motion would make sense. But we are as far from Florida as it is possible to be, and our mascot is not an alligator. So why do we do it?

I’m really curious about this. I tried to look it up and found documents about using body language to communicate with large ocean dwellers, and news stories about shark attacks.

Aside from all the things I didn’t understand (read: pretty much everything), the game was quite fun. I was starting to recognize what was happening, and by the end, I knew when the opposition was running with the football, and when we couldn’t bring him down, that was a bad thing.

I knew when the opposition threw the ball, and we caught it, that was an interception, and it was a good thing. I even learned what the arm motions the refs made meant, and why everyone repeated them with the words “And that’s another Cougar first down.”

When the players charged each other, it still looked like mindless wrestling to me. I don’t think I’m going to become a regular sportser anytime soon, but attending the game was definitely a good learning experience, if nothing else. I now know much more about football than I did last week. That’s not saying a lot, but at least it’s something.

Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll figure out what makes this sport so popular. But until then, all I can say is: Sports on.