American Football Idioms
Like many of our games, American football derived from English games. The colonists brought a form of soccer with them, which was later played at east coast universities. These universities then tried another English game, rugby, which became more popular than soccer. The ball in rugby could be moved with the hands as well as the feet. In the second part of the nineteenth century Walter Camp attended Yale University and played rugby, which he liked but thought could be improved. He changed many of the rules of rugby to make a new game, the early version of American football. Further changes have been made to the game in the 20th century.
Players are lined up in formations or lines, with an offensive and defensive line. The team receiving the ball is the offensive team. It tries to move the ball down the field towards the opponent’s goal for a touchdown. The offensive team has four chances (plays or “downs”) in which to do this. If the ball is moved 10 yards within the four downs, a first down is made and the ball may be kept for another four downs. The ball is moved by throwing (“passing”) or running with it (“carrying it”). The offensive “line” helps “block” or stop the opposing team so its players can run or throw the ball. If the ball is not moved ten yards in four tries, the offensive team must give the ball to the opposing team. Often, the offensive team kicks (punts) the ball to the opposing team on the “fourth down,” in order to move it further down field. The offensive team can also kick the ball through the goal posts for a field goal and for an extra point after a touchdown. The defensive team tries to stop the offense by tackling players and blocking passes.