PUNT

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I know that many fans, probably a majority (probably a large majority, or as Kevin Standlee would say, a “plurality”) are generally not big sports fans, unless we’re talking sports like Qidditch or MurderBall or some such.  There seems to be a contingent of EuroFans conversant with Futbol, and another handful of authors and artists (they’ve got time for such things) who have a favorite team and sport, but, in general, Fans tend more towards the intellectual pursuits as opposed to displays of fisticuffs.

(I like to think of the character Charley Bowdre from Young Guns as the perfect exemplar of “fannish fisticuffs”;  combining a grammar lesson with the scientific application of force.)

That’s a round-about way of explaining why I’m now going to explain what a Punt is.

American Football (which includes the Canadian variant) is an inaptly named sport;  BASEball involves bases and balls;  BASKETball involves baskets and balls.  DODGEball involves dodging and balls.  PAINTball involves paint-filled balls.  Rarely does FOOTball involve feet and balls.  (I’m pretty sure the Mayanss called their game HoopHead….)

However, the Punt is one of the few game activities taking place on the Football field that does involve a ball and a foot.

There are, in fact, three primary (and one trick) “plays” that often take place during a football contest involving feet and balls.  These are  the Kickoff, the Field Goal, the aforementioned Punt and the On-Side Kick.

During the course of a football game, the team in possession of the ball (it’s not really a “ball”) has four opportunities (“downs”) to advance the not-really-a-ball ten or more yards in the direction of their opponents goal (which is not really a goal).  If they accomplish this feat (not a ‘feet’), the markers are re-set and they get to start all over again in their attempts to move the not-a-ball towards the not-a-goal.

However, if they fail to do so, the opposing team then takes possession of the not-a-ball at its current location on the field.  (It really is a field, usually inside a stadium.  Although in days gone by it was often just a field somewhere out behind the meat packing plants.  And usually muddy.)

Owing to their failure to advance far enough down the field, the currently possessing team finds that the present location of the not-a-ball may be too close to their own not-a-goal for comfort (making it relatively easier for their opponents to score) and, because the inventors of the game wanted it to be more about pushing and shoving and knocking each other down in spectacularly athletic ways than it was about scoring, they introduced the Punt.

The possessing team, finding that it is now their fourth and final attempt to advance those ten yards, now demoralized by their previous three failures, gather together in a “huddle” (that’s the official Football terminology for a “huddle”) and castigate themselves for their failures while simultaneously berating and insulting the heritage of their opponents. Apparently, their opponents doing exactly what their opponents were supposed to be doing, is unacceptable. (Attempts are called “Down”s, and ‘down’ is what you get after three successive failures)

Being ritualized, this activity is performed quickly and efficiently.  Following instructions from their coach (who knew what the team was going to be doing before that huddle even got started) the team then prepares to Punt.

Rather than advancing the not-a-ball the remaining distance by means of carrying or throwing (or dropping and scrambling), they elect to kick the not-a-ball down the field, as far as they can, in the hopes that their opponents will then fail at their own attempts to advance it a mere thirty feet.

There is also the possibility that their opponents will fumble the not-a-ball during its recovery (this is why the ball is not-a-ball as its shape contributes to the chances that it will be dropped) and that the kicking team will be able to reposess the not-a-ball in a much more advantageous field location.

That seldom happens, however (which is why such things are frequently seen on highlight reels, giving viewers the mistaken impression that this exciting and unpredictable event is a common occurrence – much like the best-scenes trailers of Hollywood blockbusters).  Usually the not-a-ball is successfully recovered and the whole thing starts all over again, this time moving in the opposite direction.

That’s a “Punt” – a deliberate give-away to the other team, predicated on the concept that the other team will screw up just as badly as your team just did.

Why all of this in an editorial on Amazing Stories?

Punters, the players who kick the Punt, are members of a Football team’s “special teams” squad.  They’re chosen for their ability to kick the not-a-ball not only a long distance, but also with a great amount of altitude.  The longer the ball remains in the air (Hang Time), the farther down the field the Punter’s teammates can run and hopefully stop the other team’s recovery far, far, far away from their own not-a-goal.

Today, I’m punting, hoping that this kick of the not-a-ball has enough hang time to last until next week.

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