There are two ways to explain footballby Casey Corebit, 14 January 2002
"An aging actor on stage." Photo of Willie Hurst, courtesy of dawgman.com
Have you ever tried to explain football to
someone who doesn't understand the game? In the past, I’ve used a
soap-opera analogy to explain it to my wife. However, a coaching friend of
mine, who views the game much differently, had much better success.
Let me set the stage. First of all, I’ve never played
football, other than the sandlot variety when we used to draw up plays in the
dirt. But thanks to guys like Howard Cosell, Frank Gifford and a whole litany
of experts thereafter, I thought I knew a lot about football, until
after the game with Texas.
I'll cut to the chase.
My wife and I watched the Holiday Bowl on TV with a
friend of mine who used to coach high school football. In an attempt to ward
off questions during the game, I reviewed the basic terminology with my wife
before he arrived. Like: first down, fair catch, extra point, fumble, huddle,
incompletion, interception, kickoff, punt, line of scrimmage, offside, place
kicker, snap, sack, defense, offense and so on.
“I understand, honey. You’ve explained it all
before,” she smiled.
Well, the three of us watched the game, a game that the
Huskies lost, 47-43. It was a disappointing loss; however, considering the
Dawgs’ previous game, the one against Miami—a 65-7 debacle—it was a kind
of moral victory, considering the Dawgs had come within 1:49 of winning.
My pre-game explanations notwithstanding, my wife still
seemed confused after the game.
“You’ve said that
football was like a soap opera, Casey. What’s the purpose of the game? Why do
they play it?”
“Er ah, Casey, why
not let me try to explain it,” my coaching friend said.
“I’ll give it a
shot and then you can have a try, Coach”
“Case, this is really
he said, the brow of his forehead as furrowed as the winter farmland in the
Las Posas valley.
Somewhat perplexed, I
responded, “Look, I can handle it. You’ll get your turn.”
“Yes, each game or episode is like a soap opera,” I went on. “It is
divided into four acts, packed with drama. Over the last two runs--the last
two seasons--each Husky episode has had a cliffhanger. There are sets of actors,
the players. There’s an orchestra, the band, and so on. Directors are called
coaches and drama critics are called referees. The best troupe wins the
Daytime Soap Awards, which, in most years, are held in Pasadena. That's the purpose of it.”
“Who was the star of the Huskies’ soap with Texas?” she asked.
“Willie Hurst, an aging actor on the stage, who apparently had seen his
I digressed to the previous season, recounting Hurst’s demotion to slot
back. “During the 2000 spring tryouts, Hurst was
cast off ‘like an old chewed-up piece of gum,’ as one of his fellow actors
“Casey, please let me
give it a try.”
finished, Coach. Actually, the directors cast Hurst in a “lesser” role,
trying him out at slot receiver. It was a misguided role, much like casting
Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing) in the role of a preacher. As a fan, I was appalled
by the move, Hurst being one of my favorite tough-guy actors. I can understand
the directors’ reasoning though. With two understudies emerging, apparently
they needed a way to keep Hurst in the script. But he rose to the occasion
again, became the star of the show, and closed out his career with a run that
fans are sure to remember.”
“Who was the heroine, Casey?”
”Barbara Hedges, the producer/director who helped put this show together. She's
our athletic director.”
“Who played the role of the villain?”
"Major Applewhite, the
“That’s a great
name for an actor, Case. Did he change his name?”
enough,” the coach said, interrupting us. I guess I’d had gone too far, as
he looked embarrassed for me. “Let me explain the game in terms of one play.
This is for both of you. A picture is worth a thousand words. During the game,
the Huskies had a lot of second and 8’s and many 3rd and 5’s,
with even more to go.”
“Yes, I remember,”
“Well, here’s what I
would have done in those situations. If I had been Coach Neuheisel I would have
gone with a ‘Split Rip Z Snug 60 China’ or a ‘Split Rip 93 Y Seam.’”
“Huh? You’d better
draw that on paper.”
"Is this a
soap-opera or sewing explanation?" my wife asked. "You know, split
"A little of both," he smiled, thinking she was
being facetious. I knew better, however. He'd have had a better chance with a
I handed him a piece of
paper, and he drew a schematic for the play. The “O’s” for the
offense, while his nomenclature for the defense consisted a number of arrows
Then he described the Texas defense and what
Washington should have done on offense.
I can’t remember all of what he said, other than, “The strong defensive tackle was lined up
in a 2 technique and attacked the 'A' gap. MIKE was lined up in a 2i
technique and stunted through the strong side 'B' gap; whereas, WILL
was lined up in a 1 technique and first of all protected the weak side 'A' gap, then the short middle zone.
Meanwhile, SAM, in an 8 technique, was responsible for the tight end, making sure that nothing got
outside of him. REB, aligned in a ghost 8 technique, drops back, taking away
the quick slant from the weak side, instead of attacking the weak tackle one on
“That's a good explanation," my zany wife said, “better
than Case's. WILL used to
be on 'All My Children,' and there is a MIKE on 'Days of Our Lives.' As for MIKE's stunting, you're right, I believe he did his own
stunts. And I believe there was a SAM who was a REB in 'Gone with the Wind.'
My high school drama coach always told me that improvisation was a great
acting technique, but I've never heard of a 2-technique."
"It's how a defensive player, I mean an actor, lines up."
"Sure, like the fall lineup. I understand," she smiled.
Coach's mouth dropped open, somewhat flummoxed, wondering
if she was being coy or not. Finally, he went on.
“Meanwhile the strong cornerback was aligned in a 6-yard deep
with inside slight leverage on ‘Z.’ He then locked up man-to-man on the
‘Z.’ I would have used a five-step pass with solid protection to get the
ball away quickly. The 79-post swing 70 is the five-step drop 9 side of the
field to attack. The split takes three hard strides up the field and cuts to
the skinny post."
"Yes," she said. "Sam was played by a
skinny actor named 'Post.'"
He cleared his throat, lowering his voice by an octave.
"The left halfback runs a swing route, the tight end a seam,
and the flanker a ten-yard curl.
"Like in sewing," she added. "You must
keep your seams tight, lest they curl."
"The offensive line will gap protect to the
Red faced, interrupting her before she used another
sewing analogy, he added, "If the outside linebacker drops back into coverage, then the
quarterback dumps the ball to the swing and he runs to daylight. If the
linebacker sits or attacks the swing, the quarterback throws to the skinny
post for big yardage.”
After the coach left, my wife turned to me and said,
"That sure was good explanation. I love this game."
I’m back to sandlot football. I’ll never explain
football to another soul.
Casey Corebit is a computer geek who writes for this
site. Most of his submissions should be taken with a grain of salt.
The idea for this story was inspired by a defensive scheme
and schematic devised by Coach Mark A. Johnson, the Head Coach at Nolan Catholic High School
in Fort Worth, Texas. Some of the football terminology is a hodgepodge of
terms gleaned from the various coaches’ responses submitted for the situation.
Others Casey made up. See www.sportscombine.com/thezone/