A Football Widow’s Glossary


as brought to you by Rat’s Widow

As the Rat’s Widow helps put the National Football League into context for football widows everywhere, we will keep a running glossary here for your quick reference. Please share with the football widow(s) in your life. To see all of the Widow’s posts, click here.


Game Play

Field Goal: (I thought I knew this one until Sunday night). When the team with the ball doesn’t get quite as far as they would have liked on their turn, and they are pretty close to the big, yellow tuning fork that is stuck in the ground at the ends of the field, they call in a player to kick the ball between the upright tines of the fork. This is only half as good as getting a touchdown, and they only get half as many points for this process. In order to be awarded the points, the ball has to go between the yellow poles. Or sort of over. Or at least half of the ball has to be over one of the poles and only if the official can see it from his angle although it may be nearly impossible to tell if it is, in fact, over the pole, unless it’s obviously between the poles…

Incomplete pass: unlike intentional grounding, in this case, the quarterback has very good intentions of throwing the ball to another player, but it ends up on the ground by mistake. This results in the need for a do-over. Depending on who a fan is cheering for, it may also resort in loud use of profanity and questioning of why it is that people who are paid that much money can’t seem to do their job, whether it be the inept quarterback or the butter fingered intended receiver.

Line of scrimmage: this is the imaginary line that the players who have the ball have to line up behind. Basically, they have to be behind the ball, and they have to use their imaginations, as well as their depth perception to make sure that they are lined up correctly. I have previously defined false starts and offsides in our glossary of terms. Both of these penalties relate to failing to follow the rules about staying in line.

Pocket: the imaginary area created to try to protect a quarterback in order for him to have enough time to pass the football. The people who provide this protection are typically enormous individuals. In playground language, these are the guys to whom you gladly give your lunch money to protect you from the guys who want to beat you up to steal it.

Sack: this is what they call tackling the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage. I had a terrible time trying to find out why they call it a “sack”. It may be because officials used to throw down a bean bag (sack) when this occurred, according to Wikipedia. (Sack is also a manufacturer of purses, offering a variety of stylish, yet practical, over priced handbags that can be found in any major department store near you! I have one and guess what?? It has a pocket. Coincidence?? I think not!)

Shared possession: This is an extremely rare term, seldom uttered on the field of play. It is, in its simplest of definitions, two players catching the ball at the exact same time, with equal control over the ball. In this case, the ball possession is awarded to the offense (the guys who started with the ball in the first place). Shared possession apparently also occurs when the defensive player (the guys who didn’t have the ball in the first place) makes the catch and the offensive player just throws his arm in after the fact and pretends that he caught the ball too. It works best if the officials reside in the land of make believe and are willing to pretend that touching the ball is the same as controlling it. When this occurs at the end of the game, it results in the defensive team taking their toys and going home.


“Flag on the Play”: This occurs when the playground monitor, dressed in an unfortunate striped shirt, sees a player fail to follow the rules. He then throws a yellow flag onto the ground to let EVERYONE know that a player has been naughty and that everyone has to stop playing until he is officially punished.

“Encroachment”: This is the equivalent of moving before “Simon Says”. When one takes giant steps without permission, one has to go back and start over, in this case, 5 yards. Similarly…“Offside”: This is a problem with staying in line while waiting to start playing. It is likely that players that line up offsides also struggle to color within the lines. A “false start”is when the guys that have the ball at the time fail Simon Says. Alternate definition: failing to properly wait one’s turn.

“Facemask”: This is the equivalent of pulling someone to the ground by the hair. This would no doubt catch the attention of even the most inattentive playground monitor…or replacement official.

“Holding”: Failing to keep one’s hands to oneself. This is “mom speak” for “Let go of Jared Allen’s nice, purple shirt!! You’re going to rip it!”

“Intentional Grounding”: much as the name implies, this penalty is called when the quarterback throws the ball at the ground on purpose. Based on personal observation, it appears that this is done to avoid being tackled/sacked. (I intellectually understand why this is something that is not allowed, although if my son was a quarterback, I guarantee that I’d be the loudest person in the stands yelling “GET RID OF IT!”)

“Pass Interference”: The NFL passing game is no more than a very expensive game of “Keep Away”. Pass interference is said to occur when the guy in the middle gets in the face of the guy who is supposed to be catching the ball. This makes him a poor sport indeed. Again, in “mom-speak”- “Stop that! Tom Brady was trying to throw that to Wes Welker!!”

“Personal Foul”: This is a general category to describe rough play that exceeds the boundaries of just simply failing to keep one’s hands to oneself. If committed in grade school, these offenses would warrant a call to parents and extended time in the principal’s office. Read on for some specific examples.

“Roughing”: Simply stated, bullying, either the kicker or the quarterback. This is akin to hitting a girl. Not acceptable. Mom-speak translation: “Leave Tim Tebow alone! He’s trying to earn a starting spot!”

“Too many men on the field”: Fairly self-explanatory, this penalty is called when players can’t count correctly to 11. FYI: A kindergartener must be able to count accurately to 100 in order to move on to 1st Grade.

General Terms

Pre-Season Games: A minimum of 4 games played by NFL teams during training camp. Although they don’t technically count for anything, it gives the NFL fan the opportunity to get a look at up and coming talent and to identify players to keep an eye on in the next few NFL seasons. (Act like you “get it” and that it makes total sense to you.)

Regular Season: Beginning on September 5th, culminating in the Super Bowl which will be played this season on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans (score extra points by knowing that this is the first Super Bowl to be played at the Super Dome since prior to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina). This is also known as Shopping Season, a time during which women throughout America convene at shopping malls to transact commerce. This ritual is followed by the ceremonial grunting and gesturing for the woman to get out of the way of the television while trying to show her husband her new black boots, or Coach purse. During the Regular Season, this series of grunts and gestures also doubles as his mating ritual! This ritual is not without risk as the woman is taking a chance that she will come into the house during a commercial, which could result in the ill-fated “receipt request cry” commonly heard in man caves everywhere. That is why the female of the species must time her return to the lair around the final 2 minutes of the game to insure the safe completion of the ritual.

Super Bowl Party: An opportunity for people to gather together on a Sunday in February in front of a large screen for a common cause: to eat, drink, and be merry as if the Monday after is a national holiday that requires none of us to have to go to work. Revelers consume large amounts of beer, eat all manner of chicken wings, and guacamole while watching award winning commercials and even the NFL championship game. An unusually large amount of crock pots are in use on this day, widows.

Thursday Night Football: Added televised games on the NFL network on Thursday evenings in order to stave off the football withdrawal, which sets in approximately 72 hours after watching a football game.

Fantasy Football

Fantasy Football: An activity invented to allow football fans to exercise the opportunity to do what they have always longed to do…to fill a team with their very most favorite players. Since most of our husbands and significant football fan others will never be afforded the opportunity to do this in real life, they create their own gridiron “dream team” in the virtual world. Our imaginary team managers have the opportunity to trade players, sit them out for games, decide who to start, etc. Oh, the power!!

Free versus Pay League: As the term would imply, a free league is just that. However, what he stands to win for putting all of the time and work into managing his team is a big ‘ol goose egg. Nothing. Notta. Zip. Conversely, in a pay league, the participant actually pays MONEY for the privilege of participation and will actually potentially win money in the end. There are web services that manage the funds on behalf of the league (investing the funds and keeping the interest. Why didn’t I think of that?) So, yes, gals, some of our men actually pay money for this! Ask him if one of his leagues is a pay league. His eyes will positively light up!

Commissioner: The title bestowed upon the person in charge of organizing the league, handling difficult issues that arise, enforcing the rules of the league, and apparently using profanity to describe those who don’t comply. It is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly.


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