Super Bowl weekend. Why is it called football? Basic terminology.

January 30, 2014 § 4 Comments

Dear colleagues:

This weekend the United States will hold a very American event; In fact, it is the most watched TV event in our country and for all practical purposes the day when the game is played is an unofficial holiday that happens to be more popular than most holidays on the official calendar.   I am referring to the Super Bowl: The national professional football championship game in the United States of America; and by the way, it is not football… at least not THAT football played in the rest of the world.  This incredibly popular sport in the United States is known abroad as “American football,” and even this designation seems troublesome to many who have watched a little American football and do not understand it very well.  Although it is mainly played holding a ball, the sport is known in the United States as football for two reasons:  (1) Because this American-born sport comes from “rugby football” (now rugby) that in many ways came from soccer (football outside the United States) and (2) Because it is football, but it is not British organized football, which at the time of the invention of American football was called “association football” and was later known by the second syllable of the word “association”“socc” which mutated into “soccer.”  You now understand where the name came from, but is it really football? For Americans it is. Keep in mind that all other popular team sports in the United States are played with your hands or a stick (baseball, basketball and ice hockey). The only sport in the United States where points can be scored by kicking the ball is (American) football. So you see, even though most of the time the ball is carried by hand or caught with your hands, there are times when a team scores or defends field position by kicking or punting the football.   Now, why is all this relevant to us as interpreters?   Because if you interpret from American English you are likely to run into speakers who will talk about the Super Bowl, football in general, or will use examples taken from this very popular sport in the U.S.

On Sunday, most Americans will gather in front of the TV set to watch the National Football Conference champion Seattle Seahawks battle the American Football Conference champion Denver Broncos for the Vince Lombardi Trophy (official name of the trophy given to the team that wins the Super Bowl) which incidentally is a trophy in the shape of a football, not a bowl.  It is because the game was not named after a trophy, it was named after a tradition.  There are two football levels in the United States: college football played by amateur students, and professional football.  College football is older than pro-football and for many decades the different college champions were determined by playing invitational football games at the end of the college football season on New Year’s Day.  These games were called (and still are) “Bowls.”  You may have heard of the Rose Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, and many others.  When a professional football game was created to determine the over-all champion between the champions of the American and National Conferences, it was just natural (and profitable) to call it the “Super Bowl.”

The game itself will be played in New Jersey (outside New York City) where the temperature is expected to be the lowest in Super Bowl history, and the two teams come from small media markets in the United States; however, there will be millions watching the match, and there will be hundreds of millions spent on TV commercials during the game.

Below I have included a basic glossary of English<>Spanish football terms that may be useful to you, particularly those of you who do escort, diplomatic, and conference interpreting from American English to Mexican Spanish.  “American” football is very popular in Mexico (where they have college football) Eventually, many of you will face situations where two people will discuss the Super Bowl; as you are interpreting somebody will tell a football story during a presentation; or you may end up at a TV or radio studio doing the simultaneous interpretation of a football game for your own or another foreign market.

The following glossary does not cover every term in football; it includes terms that are very common, and in cases where there were several translations of a football term I selected the term used in Mexico by the Mexican media that covers the sport.

 

ENGLISH

SPANISH

Football

Fútbol Americano

National   Football League

Liga Nacional de Fútbol Americano

NFL

N-F-L (ene-efe-ele)

American   Football Conference

Conferencia Americana

National   Football Conference

Conferencia Nacional

Preseason

Pretemporada

Regular   season

Temporada regular

Playoffs

Postemporada

Wildcard

Equipo comodín

Standings

Tabla de posiciones

Field

Terreno de juego

End   zone

Zona de anotación/ diagonales

Locker   room

Vestidor

Super   Bowl

Súper Tazón

Pro   Bowl

Tazón Profesional/ Juego de estrellas

Uniform & Equipment

Uniforme y Equipo

Football

Balón/ Ovoide

Jersey

Jersey

Helmet

Casco

Facemask

Máscara

Chinstrap

Barbiquejo

Shoulder   pads

Hombreras

Thigh   pads

Musleras

Knee   pads

Rodilleras

Jockstrap

Suspensorio

Cleats

Tacos

Tee

Base

Fundamentals

Términos básicos

Starting   player

Titular

Backup   player

Reserva

Offense

Ofensiva

Defense

Defensiva

Special   teams

Equipos especiales

Kickoff

Patada/ saque

Punt

Despeje

Return

Devolución

Fair   catch

Recepción libre

Possession

Posesión del balón

Drive

Marcha/ avance

First   and ten

Primero y diez

First   and goal

Primero y gol

Line   of scrimmage

Línea de golpeo

Neutral   zone

Zona neutral

Snap

Centro

Long   snap

Centro largo/ centro al pateador

Huddle

Pelotón

Pocket

Bolsillo protector

Fumble

Balón libre

Turnover

Pérdida de balón

Takeaway

Robo

Giveaway

Entrega

Interception

Intercepción

Completion

Pase completo

Tackle

Tacleada/ derribada

Blitz

Carga

Pass   rush

Presión al mariscal de campo

Sack

Captura

Run/   carry

Acarreo

Pass

Pase

“I”   Formation

Formación “I”

Shotgun   Formation

Formación escopeta

“T”   Formation

Formación “T”

Wishbone   Formation

Formación wishbone

Goal   posts

Postes

Crossbar

Travesaño

Sidelines

Líneas laterales/ banca

Chain

Cadena

Out-of-bounds

Fuera del terreno

Head   Coach

Entrenador en jefe

Game   Officials

Jueces

Flag

Pañuelo

POSITIONS

POSICIONES

Center

Centro

Guard

Guardia

Offensive   Tackle

Tacleador ofensivo

Offensive   line

Línea ofensiva

End

Ala

Wide   Receiver

Receptor abierto

Tight   end

Ala cerrada

Running   Back

Corredor

Halfback

Corredor

Fullback

Corredor de poder

Quarterback

Mariscal de campo

Backfield

Cuadro defensivo

Defensive   end

Ala defensiva

Defensive   tackle

Tacleador defensivo

Nose   guard

Guardia nariz

Linebacker

Apoyador

Cornerback

Esquinero

Free   safety

Profundo libre

Strong   safety

Profundo fuerte

Place   kicker

Pateador

Punter

Pateador de despeje

Penalty

Castigo

Even if you are not a football fan, and even if you are not watching the big game on Sunday, I hope you find this glossary useful in the future.  Now I invite you to comment on football, sports interpretation in general, or maybe you would like to share a “sports interpretation anecdote” with all of us.

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§ 4 Responses to Super Bowl weekend. Why is it called football? Basic terminology.

  • legalspanish says:

    ¿Y el ritual del ¨tailgating¨?
    Sería ¨el asado previo al partido,¨ ¿no? :-)

  • marce7a says:

    Thank you!!!!! Very useful explanation and glossary. I have come across these words when translating books, because they are often used to illustrate a point or even as metaphors.

  • Tony, a superb summary, as usual. The only thing I would add is, the game is also very important at the high school level. There are only 32 NFL teams; there are a handful of regional “semi-professional” leagues that pay very little money and that get very little media coverage. And a few hundred colleges field competitive football teams.

    All are dwarfed by the sheer numbers in high school football. Each year there are over a million players in uniform, and it’s the most popular sport at almost any level. In addition to the players themselves, football also plays a central part of social life in the schools themselves, and among the surrounding community, especially in small towns, and especially in the southern and central United States. The biggest crowds for many school bands will be at half-time of football games. Other participants include cheerleaders and drill teams.

    Some of the attention paid to high school athletes is misguided, if not ridiculous. But most football players I know remember their careers fondly. I think the experience makes it easier for them to follow college and pro football teams as they grow older.

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