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6 American Football Expressions

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5:05 min read
  Teri Lapping  —  Grammar Tips
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Many expressions from American football have made their way into our everyday speech and we use football expressions without even realizing that we are echoing the language of the football stadium.

This article defines 6 American Football Expressions, describing:

1. The origin and meaning within the game of American football.
2. The everyday meaning in common English.
3. Synonyms for these expressions. 


The word “blindside” can be used as both a noun (the “blindside” or “blind side”) or as a verb (“to be blindsided.”)

In American football, the noun “blindside” describes the quarterback's inability to see the rush from that side when in passing mode.

For example: “The job of the left tackle is to protect the blindside of the quarterback.”

In its everyday meaning, the noun “blindsiderefers to the back or side part of a person’s field of vision where approaching objects are not seen. In other words, it is the side of the body or awareness that is opposite from where a person is looking.

For example: “Her best friend always protected her blindside.”

As a verb, the word “to be blindsidedmeans to be attacked in an unexpected way or to surprised someone else with negative results.

For example: “We were blindsided by his decision to sell his house and leave the country.”

Synonyms include catching someone unaware or being caught unaware, being surprised.

2. To Run Interference

In American football, the expressionto run interferencefirst came into use in the 1890s. It describes a strategy where a player protects his teammate who is in possession of the football by blocking or tackling the opposing player.

For example: “The player ran interference and tackled all approaching players.”

In everyday English, the expressionto run interference” has been used outside of football since the mid-20th century. It means to act on someone’s behalf to avoid or prevent problematic situations. 

For example: “We will need to run interference at the party to prevent a big family blowup.” 

A synonym includes intervening on someone’s behalf.

3. Game plan

In American football, the “game plan” is used as a noun and can be both a written plan and a verbalized tactic that is communicated to the team. It is a strategy for achieving a win.

For example: “The coach described his game plan using Xs and Os.”

Outside of the football stadium, “a game planrefers to a well-thought-out course of action that involves achieving an aim or goal. A “game plan” can be created in the social, political, business, or personal realms.

For example: “Her game plan included a picnic, followed by a romantic walk in the woods and perhaps, a swim.”

Synonyms include road map, tactic, and scheme.

4. Sideline

In American football, the “sideline” is a noun.  It is the name for the centralized location where all team employees gather, except those actively playing in the game: the coaches, the trainers, the inactive players, and the injured players, to name a few. 

For example: “He sat useless on the sideline while his team lost the game.”

The word “sidelined” is also a verb and refers to a player who is not able to play in a game.

For example: “The quarterback has been sidelined for the next week due to a sprained ankle.”

In everyday English, the word “sideline” as a noun refers to a position where a person is not directly involved in an activity; they are merely observing what is happening. 

For example: “The woman was exhausted and watched the party from the sidelines.”

Synonyms include edges, outskirts.

Sideline” is also an adjective and modifies an activity which is performed in addition to a main job, usually to gain an extra salary. 

For example: “Although he was a plumber, he had a sideline gig as a bass player in the local band.”

Synonyms include secondary job, extra, additional.

As a verb, the word “sidelining” or “sidelinedmeans placing someone or something in a position of less influence or importance or removing them from the center of activity. 

For example: “The respected doctor was sidelined by his abuse of pain medications.”

Synonyms include to putting aside, suspending, deferring.

5.Moving the Goalposts

In American football, “to move the goalpostsrefers to changing the rules of a game after it is already in progress, thus giving an unfair advantage to one side or another. 

Example: “The manager moved the goalposts by insisting that the play was illegal.”

In everyday English, “moving the goalposts” is an expression that refers to an attempt to change the requirements or rules in a way that gives an advantage to one side or makes success harder for one side. 

For example: “She wanted to change the game, itself; not only breaking the record for speed and distance but moving the goalposts to require higher prerequisite scores.”

Synonyms for “moving the goalpostsinclude altering the parameters, changing the rules.

6. Monday-morning quarterback

In American football, a “Monday-morning quarterbackrefers to someone who will criticize a team’s performance and strategy on Monday morning; that is, in hindsight, after the weekend game has been played.

For example: “It’s easy to be a Monday-morning quarterback and pick apart the game plan.”
In everyday English, a “Monday-morning quarterback” will criticize in hindsight the decisions of another person or even of themselves. 

For example: “I hadn’t studied properly for my exam; my sister was a Monday-morning quarterback, pointing out all of the ways that I should have prepared.”

Synonyms include armchair critic, backseat driver, second guesser.

Final Thoughts

The world of American football is imbedded in the American culture.  Words from the football arena have unconsciously become commonplace in our speech, emphasizing the influence that the game has had, not only on die-hard football fans, but on our entire American culture.

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1 Comment
  • JokerGem
    Teri, this was informative and on-point except, l think your wording for the football reference of 'blindside' was confusing and perhaps could use an edit. "Cannot see the football being thrown from that side?" Did you mean the linemen on that side are also blind to the quarterback? --Because l think the phrase solely describes the quarterback's inability to see the rush from that side when in passing mode. 
    LikeReply1 year ago
    • Teril
      Hi! Thank you for your careful reading of the football article. My knowledge of football is somewhat limited, and I really appreciate your input and clarification.

      May I have your permission to use your words to construct a more accurate sentence? Take a look at the edited section of the article and let me know.

      Again, thanks for your active participation in our community.
      LikeReply 11 year ago
    • JokerGem
      Absolutely, you have my permission! It reads correctly now...thanks for being receptive my correction! Keep up your informative content--
      LikeReply 11 year ago


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