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    What is a Fumble in Football? – Dear Sports Fan

    Dear Sports Fan,

    what is a fumble? when my friends watch soccer and there is a loose ball, they look at each other and solemnly say “the soccer”. what are they talking about and why do they enjoy this so much?

    Reading: What is a fumble in football

    thanks, franco

    ———

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    dear Frank,

    In football, a fumble is what happens when an offensive player accidentally drops the ball or loses control of it because of what a defensive player just did to him. As with so many elements of soccer, there are some technicalities to learn about the rules governing fumbles. If a quarterback is in the act of throwing the ball and his arm moves forward when he fumbles the ball or is recovering from a false pass, it is not a fumble. if a wide receiver caught the ball but didn’t make a “football move” (note that this phrase can mean just about anything. It’s up to the umpires to decide what it means, but it usually refers to some clear and intentional act, such as turning , dodge or dive), losing the ball will not be a fumble. if there is a loose ball, any player on the field can take the ball as long as it stays in bounds.

    The word fumble is so closely associated with soccer today that it’s almost a technical term. I would have guessed that its use in common parlance was a result of the central importance of sport in our culture. I would have been wrong the word fumble is old. it has its roots in the Norwegian and Swedish word “fumla” or Middle Low German “fummeln” since at least the 1500s, when its meaning was close to the modern usage of the verb “to grope”. its meaning hasn’t changed much in the last 500 years.

    Although it’s hard to watch if you’re not used to watching soccer, soccer is a game of precision, exact timing and physical feats that are practiced so many times that they become routine. a quarterback will step back three, five or seven steps at the start of the play and then throw the ball to a receiver whose route has been dictated by exactly how long it takes the quarterback to step back and throw. if the quarterback takes five steps instead of seven, the play will fail. on a running play, the movements of the five offensive linemen are tightly timed so that one member of the line can push a defensive player back and to the left while his partner hits another to the right to open a small crack in the line. the time and space for the runner to run.

    A fumble is one of the rare moments in football when all that precision goes out the window and is replaced by utter chaos and results governed more by chance than skill. the shape of a soccer ball evolved to be more pointed at its ends so it would fly faster and more accurately. He flies great but when he hits the ground he behaves with the predictability of a drunken, giddy North Korean dictator. when it falls or is taken from a player’s hands, the ball does not bounce, it spurts out. this is probably why your friends attribute the craziness of a fumble to the ball. when a fumble occurs, the ball is free; whoever picks it up captures possession for his team. everyone wants it, but football often seems deliberately elusive, unwilling to be recaptured now that it has experienced freedom. Players are told from a young age not to try to pick up a stray ball, but time and time again they try, only to have it slip from shaky hands.

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    Many times it is not clear if someone has won the ball before there is a stack of five to ten players on top of each other with the ball underneath. these accumulations are pretty crazy. as described in this nfl.com article:

    When a soccer ball hits the ground, players are known to do whatever it takes to get it. nothing is off limits. eye gouging. grab the crotch. biting. kicking punches suffocates all that’s missing are brass knuckles, steel chairs, and other items made famous by wrestlers in the world of wrestling entertainment.

    According to soccer statistics experts, all the determination in the world isn’t worth much when it comes to recovering fumbles. what happens once the ball has been fumbled is completely random, as evidenced by “there is no correlation between the percentage of fumbles recovered by a team in one year and the percentage they recover in the following year”. on the other hand, provoking a fumble is a highly prized skill among defensive players. so much so that you will often see defensive players giving up an easy opportunity to tackle the player with the ball, instead of trying to hit the ball. this is spectacular when it works, but looks silly when it doesn’t. Offensive players, particularly heavy ball handlers such as quarterbacks and running backs, are judged harshly for turning the ball over. a habit of clumsiness is the quickest way to get benched.

    Football fans love the game for its precision, but we can’t help but love the chaotic moment when the ball is lost and the best plans of giants and jets…

    thanks for reading, ezra fischer

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