On Sept. 29, the Steelers and the Minnesota Vikings face off at London's Wembley Stadium — part of an NFL effort to promote American football in the U.K. There's bound to be some confusion on the part of fans who have their own idea of what "football" means. So we've collected a few pointers to help assuage any misunderstandings our friends across the pond might have about the sport we call football.
Big Ben: Yours is a 150-year-old clock tower. Ours is a 31-year-old quarterback with a questionable legal history and a tendency to play best outside of the pocket.
The field: You tend to like to call a soccer field, or any other field, a "pitch." We call our football field a "gridiron." When we're feeling poetic, at least. Honestly, we usually just call it a field. We really are pretty lazy.
The ball: Yours is round, like a ... ball. Ours is kind of a weird pointy oval, and we call it a "pigskin," because we like to memorialize the four-legged heroes who sacrificed in order to make our game possible. The shape makes it a little easier for our Big Ben to throw, but also makes it more prone to wobbling, especially when you kick it. Speaking of which ...
The feet: Here's the thing about our football, guys: We don't really kick the ball that much. Every now and again, yes. At the beginning of a half? Always. But in between, we mostly throw and carry it a lot.
The linemen: You're used to slim, fit men playing your football. Your football players come to America and sell us underwear. Our football players? Some of them are well over 300 pounds. That's because there is an entire line of players on either side of the ball who exist almost exclusively to run into each other immediately after play begins. Could we get rid of some of them, since they cancel each other out? Probably, but what would Marcus Gilbert do if he got laid off? Probably not sell underwear.
The scoring: In your kind of football, when you score, you get one point. In our football, you get six points. Then you get a chance for another point on top of that. Unless you do the kind of scoring where you get three points. Or the other kind where you get two. Hey, where are you going? Don't you want to learn about football?
Tackling: To you, tackling is a physical method of wresting the ball away from your opponent. It's important, but also incidental to the game. To us, tackling is about Lawrence Timmons obliterating the guy with the ball. One could argue that it's the entire point of the sport, at least to some of us. The ball, the yard-lines, the passes — all part of an elaborate set-up to help make the tackling happen.
The goal posts: Those are for when Shaun Suisham kicks a field goal. It's kind of like getting a goal in soccer, only up a little higher and there's not a goalie blocking his shot. OK, it's a lot easier than getting a goal in soccer.
The stops and starts: Soccer games go on and on and never stop, even after the clock hits 60 minutes. Know who that's really rough on? TV advertisers, who can't get a word in edgewise. That's why we have lots of built-in stops and starts in our football. A play starts, the 300-pound guys run into each other, Big Ben throws the ball and suddenly, tweeeeeet! The play is over, time to talk to your doctor about erectile dysfunction again.
The violent, unruly hooligans: We have them in American football too; we just call them "Raiders fans."