At the thirty-one (American football)

Garin

Senior Member
Czech - Czechia
Hello, everyone!
In a movie I am translating, two guys are watching a football game on TV. The reporter says: "...he’s got a first down for California. At the thirty-one."
I am no sports expert myself and since American football is just a niche sport in our country, there are not many American football experts here, either. I was able to google what "first down" means but what does the "thirty-one" refer to? Is it 31st minute of the game?
Please, help me out.
 
  • GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    It is the 31 yard line (which is said that way: thirty-one yard line, and not thirty-first.) A football field is 100 yards long, and there are markings on each side that indicate how many yards the play is from each goal (which, unlike in soccer, is the whole line that runs the width of the field.) Here is a diagram:



    Note that the reporter did not say which "31 yard line" is meant, because there are two of them -- but that answer would be clear to the viewers.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    ...he’s got a first down for California. At the thirty-one."
    The place he was tackled is the place where the ball is positioned for the new "first down". That place is 31 yards (meters) from the goal line: the goal line his team is headed for. If they get 31 more yards they have achieved a "touchdown" and get 6 points.

    If they were at the other end of the field, 31 yards from "their own goal line" (and needing to move 69 yards to score a touchdown) the announcer would make that clear by saying "at their own thirty-one".
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    For even broader background, in American Football, the exact position (which line in nthe diagram above) of the ball and where plays start and are completed is critical for the mechanics of the game. (A concept unfamiliar to players/spectators of football - US=soccer)
     

    Garin

    Senior Member
    Czech - Czechia
    Thank you all for your explanation, American football and baseball are all Greek to me :). And quite frankly, the same goes for our popular sports, be it "soccer", ice hockey, or tennis.
     
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