Don’t Be Left Out! 10 Things Non-Football Fans Need to Know Before NFL Kickoff 2015

You'll never fumble small talk again.

By Brenden Gallagher

There’s nothing worse than being the person left out of the conversation. Sometimes it happens when there’s a book you haven’t read or a movie you haven’t seen that becomes the topic of discussion. Sometimes people from the same state, college, or corporation will bond over a shared experience you don’t have. Starting tonight until Feb. 7, the conversation you’re most likely to be left out of will be about football.

Regardless of what old, shitty songs and sappy movies with establishing shots of wheat fields may claim, football is America’s pastime. Two-thirds of Americans watch football on Sunday. Even if you would much rather go shopping, brunch, or do pretty much anything else than watch football, odds are you’ll end up watching a game or two this season.

For those of you out there who have a significant other who spends their Sundays glued to the television, for those of you whose friends gather round the television in oversize jerseys as a way to remember their hometown, and for those of you with families who spent the twilight of their weekend eating assorted smoked meats, here are 10 things non-football fans need to know before NFL Kickoff 2015.

We’ll also give you a bonus party talking point that you can use at parties in hopes of sounding like you know what you’re talking about. Let’s do it.


Let’s kick things off with a very basic glossary of football terms. This is for people who know absolutely nothing about football. So, if you have even the most vague grasp on the sport, feel free to move along to number 2.

For those of you who don’t know a fumble from Favre, here are the basics:

Down – The offense get four downs (plays) to move the ball 10 yards. If it does, it gets to start again at first down, and so on, until it either scores or fails to move 10 yards and the other team gets the ball.

Defense – The defense tries to stop the offense from getting a first down. If the defense tackles the player with the ball, the down is over.

Touchdown – If the offense moves the ball all the way down the field and crosses the goal line, it is a touchdown. Touchdowns are worth 7 points.

Field Goal – If you run out of downs, your team’s kicker can attempt a field goal on fourth down. A field goal is kicking the ball through the goal posts at the back of the end zone, and it is worth three points.

Turnover – The defense can get the ball back from the offense, either by getting an interception (catching the ball) or recovering a fumble (knocking the ball out of their hands and picking it up).

Penalties – Teams that break the rules get penalties. Penalties include things like pass interference (manhandling a receiver before the ball has reached them), holding, and roughing the passer, which are all exactly what they sound like.

Bonus Football Party Talking Point: “That wasn’t a penalty.” – Fans of a team will always insist that a penalty wasn’t actually a penalty and that the referees are biased towards the other team. If you loudly complain that every penalty against the team wasn’t a penalty, that will probably be enough to pass for a fan.


Every field has its stars, those figures who transcend their sport, and become a part of the cultural conversation. Everyone knows Taylor Swift even if they stopped listening to new music in 1975. Everyone knows Jennifer Lawrence, even if they can’t stand to spend $15 on a movie ticket. Everyone knows Donald Trump, even if they can’t stand Donald Trump. Here are five football players that even the most casual fan should be able to talk about in depth.

If anyone asks you who your favorite player is, these are totally valid answers.

Aaron Rodgers (Quarterback, Green Bay Packers): Rodgers is arguably the league’s best player. He has never had any off-the-field arrests or public embarrassments, and he is dating actress Olivia Munn. He is probably the least controversial choice for your favorite player.

J.J. Watt (Defensive End, Houston Texans): Watt is the consensus best defensive player alive. Even if you don’t know the game, you probably know he is unbelievably good. He goes out of his way to let people know about his dedication to the game, including refusing to go to the club and bragging about his “no frills” log cabin where he spends the offseason. So, either you think he is Mr. Grit, or you think he’s overdoing it a little.

Peyton Manning (Quarterback, Denver Broncos) and Tom Brady (Quarterback, New England Patriots): These two wily veterans are past their prime, but their teams are still Super Bowl contenders as long as these guys are playing quarterback. You’ve probably seen Manning in Papa John’s commercials. He is revered as a guy who “does things the right way.” You’ve probably seen Tom Brady in Uggs commercials. He is married to supermodel Gisele Bundchen and every American man is secretly jealous of him.

Marshawn Lynch (Running Back, Seattle Seahawks): Adrian Peterson is the best running back in the NFL, but also beat his children with a switch and was suspended last season, so it isn’t exactly fashionable to call him your favorite player. Enter Lynch, who is a top-three ball carrier, loves Skittles, and hates talking to reporters.

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