I, Samantha Jean Strong Murphey, do not care about football. There. I said it. I just don’t care.
I’m as loyal a Cougar as they come. I’ve been to at least one game each season, even since I moved away from Utah, and I’ve watched the rest on TV. I like the fanfare. I like the tradition. I like the childlike giddiness that falls over my husband when college football is in the air. I know the fight song. I do my rah-rah-rahs. I even do that lame rolling gesture we stole from “Patty Cake,” and I do it with a smile. I was as pumped as anyone about running into Bronco at an ice cream parlor in Hawaii. (His kids cut in front of me in line.) I get choked up when LaVell hobbles onto the field at halftime now and then to accept this award or that. I’m no Scrooge. I just don’t care about football.
Now that I’ve put that out there, I feel liberated. I feel I can finally show up on game day in my adorable vintage BYU jersey and be, as we Cougars say it, “true blue.” But leading a double life all these years has had its perks. Over time, I’ve mastered an impressive vocabulary, impressive because I can now use these terms in the right way at the right time without really having a clue about what’s going on. To all the football frauds out there, I hope my confession inspires you to come clean, to be yourself. But for those not ready to emerge from the closet, maybe this glossary can help get you by.
- Blitz: A blitz is when extra guys are sent to mess with the quarterback right when the play starts. I think the term comes from the German Blitzkrieg of World War II. If it helps, picture a bunch of Nazis running at the QB. That’s what I do. Feel free to yell this one out randomly. Lots of experienced football-lovers misidentify blitzes and still consider themselves legit.
- Pocket: The pocket is the little area where the QB hangs out, surrounded by teammates guarding him so he can throw the ball. If you want to get fancy, say something about the QB “rolling out of the pocket,” which just means he moves outside of his body guards’ protection to throw. It’s kind of a bold move, for him and for you.
- Move the chains: If someone says your team got a first down, that’s your cue to say, “Move the chains!” Don’t worry about what it means — something about measuring something out there on the field — just worry about selecting the right celebratory gesture for the moment. High five? Invisible lasso? Just do what feels natural.
- Go for it: You’d think this is just a generic motivational phrase, but a shrewd football fraud knows its proper usage is highly specific. To “go for it” means to carry on as normal during a fourth down, trying to make up extra yardage even though it could totally screw you if you don’t. If it’s a fourth down and someone says, “They’re going for it!” you know that means the moment is extra exciting and risky. Act accordingly.
- Red zone: This refers to the space between the 20 yard line and the goal line of the defensive team. When the offensive team is in the red zone, it’s likely they could score. I’m not sure about this term’s origin, but if I were to use it in a sentence, it would sound something like, “The Utes just couldn’t finish in the red zone.” Impressed? Bonus point: BYU calls their red zone the “blue zone.”
- Hurry-up offense: This one is a high-priority term, especially pertinent this season. It’s not a command for the team to pick up the pace, it’s the name of the type of offense they’re running. Whatever you do, DON’T mess that up. You’ll look like a total fool and your cover will be blown.
- Safety: There are two uses of this term. A safety is both a person and a thing. It’s the position of two players on the field, the last line of defense. They come in two varieties: strong and free. It’s also when someone downs the ball in their own end zone, an automatic two points for the other team. Lots of twos in there. You following?
- Shotgun: You know when the QB says “HUT!” and the other guy throws him the ball between his legs? A shotgun is a formation where the QB stands back a ways to catch it. If the QB’s just a couple yards back, it’s called a “pistol.” If he’s all nestled up against everyone’s haunches … well, I’m not sure what to call it, but nobody seems to worry about that. Stick to shouting about firearms.
- Fair catch: If you see a player looking up at the sky and waving his arms like he’s stranded on an island trying to attract the attention of a plane flying overhead, yell “Fair catch!” and give yourself a mental pat on the back.
- Wrap up: This one’s more of a directive for the players, something you’d say when the other team keeps slipping out of your defenders’ grasp. You’d yell it in an encouraging tone, but make sure there’s a hint of frustration in your voice so the people around you know how much you care.