Football games can be daunting for a non-pigskin fan. Because they are held outdoors, the weather is always a lurking problem. Not to mention the fact that people are yelling when it seems like they shouldn't be, and not yelling when it seems like they should. What gives?
Football games are not rocket science - just take a look at some of the fans! (Just kidding, I'm a fan) Here are a few tips to help you survive if you find yourself being dragged to a game....
(I'm going to assume that you know the very basics of football. If you don't, it's going to take a lot more than this to give you even a semblance of enjoyment.)
Watch the weather. This means pay attention to your local tv weathercast beginning a couple days before the big game. Weatherpeople are pretty accurate, and they will usually give the "football forecast".
Prepare ahead of time. If the game in is November or December, or even October in some states, you may be in for a blustery, cold, rainy or snowy day. If this is the case, find yourself a hoodie and a very warm coat. Several pairs of socks. Layers. Boots. Prepare like you always do when you have to spend four hours or more outside in terrible weather.
Forget about the umbrella. Lots of stadiums ban them, and the ones that don't, should. They block the people behind you from seeing the game and will get you some rude comments at the very least, and possibly an umbrella broken into more pieces than you can imagine. If you have a rainsuit, roll it up and store it in your bag.
Don't have much in your bag, though. At many games, you will have your bag searched at the gate for safety. Don't bring food or drinks, most stadiums ban them from being brought in from the outside. This is so you will buy their $8.00 sodas and $10.00 hot dogs.
Go early. I would recommend getting to the gate at least 45 minutes before opening kickoff. If the team is a big college or pro, you will not zip through the gates and to your seat quickly. You will be able to pass the time until kickoff enjoying the team's marching band, if college or high school, or other entertainment if pro. Don't expect to get to know your neighbor really well. Football fans tend toward the fanatical side, and aren't usually there to be chatty.
Finally, the kick-off. Now, particularly at large college games, there may be some rather unusual traditions that you aren't aware of. Some have fans that stand (yes, they don't sit down) until their team scores. Some have fans that stand the entire game. You read this correctly. It's the fanatical thing again. I hope for your sake that you don't get stuck behind fans carrying out this tradition. If you do, you have a choice: Either keep sitting, wonder what's going on in the game, and stare for four hours at a bunch of behinds in your face, or join the fun and stand up, too.
If everyone sits down and everything is calm, all you have to worry about is when to cheer. When your team has the ball, always cheer after your team makes a good play, such as when your offense makes a first down or gains long yardage or a touchdown. But quiet down afterward when your team huddles up, and keep quiet until the next play is in action. This is because you want the team to be able to hear the signals that the quarterback is calling.
When your team is on defense, the time to yell is when the opposing offense goes to the line to get set for their next play. This is when you cheer on your defense. Loudly. Keep yelling until the play is in action, then quiet down and only cheer if your defense makes a good play.
If you follow these instructions, people will actually think that you know what you're doing and that you're enjoying the game. But seriously, football is a great spectator sport with some of the grandest traditions in the world (The dotting of the i at Ohio State, for example). If you are lucky enough to be able to take in a professional game or a large college game, you will be overwhelmed at the excitement, enthusiasm and joy of game day, and you'll be caught up in it before you know it!
A couple of tips & warnings:
Limiting your alcohol intake at games is a good thing. Tempers can be short as it is, and the addition of too much alcohol can land you somewhere you'd rather not be. Coca-Cola is good, even at 8 bucks....
If you are at a pro or large college game, don't expect to buzz out of there immediately after the game ends. Take in some of the local scene around the stadium, stop by a local restaurant for a meal, take your time. 80,000 people in cars don't leave an area quickly.
Take in the experience and make some memories!