Not understanding football frequently makes casual conversation difficult, especially on Sundays during the football season. Hanging out in the LSW Meebo room yesterday and watching people talk about the various games they were watching, I thought I should do something to rectify this obvious gap in my cultural literacy. I had no idea there were so many games on TV on a Sunday. Mostly at random, I settled on a match between Indianapolis and Minnesota (though why it’s a city against a state I don’t quite understand) and settled in to watch my first football game…
…And I think I learned an awful lot about what it might be like to navigate an academic library for the first time.
It’s been a while since I was faced with a thing of great complexity and too little context to see patterns in the details. Most of the time, I couldn’t even figure out if what I’d just seen was a Good Thing or a Bad Thing in football. But, undaunted, I used my librarianish skills to find the NFL page on Wikipedia and follow the links from there to a glossary and set of rules. Yay, right?
Not right. Here’s the definition of that mysterious thing called a “down”: The period of action that starts when the ball is put in play and ends when it is dead. If you don’t quite know if you understand “put in play” and “dead,” this isn’t all that helpful. And besides, downs get counted up… why? and how far? and what’s the significance of that anyway? But there was no way I’d answer those questions by poking around on the NFL site.
Thankfully, the people in the LSW room very patiently explained these basics to me, and they didn’t laugh at me quite as hard as they had when I first thought that the football team here was the Twins… or maybe that was the basketball team… (I kid you not. And I am ashamed.) But you know what? It took me 20 minutes to figure out enough to even know if I was asking them answerable questions.
I wonder now if my library’s physical and online presence is as impenetrable to the uninitiated as this game and reference source were to me.
(By the way, by luck I watched a game that got pretty exciting near the end.)