A Super Bowl of Terminology

There probably isn’t a better representation of American culture than its most popular sport: football. And every year, millions of people gather to watch its culmination: the Super Bowl. This is probably the biggest sporting event in the U.S., not only due to the game itself, but also for what it represents in terms of advertising and musical entertainment with the Half-time Show, which might even be bigger than a presentation at the Grammys or the American Music Awards. With the recent win by the now legend, Tom Brady, and his New England Patriots, it seems to be a good time to talk about the game. Football (or American football to the rest of the world), has become more than just an American sport. There’s even an International Federation of American Football (IFAF) with 64 member nations spanning North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania, all of which have their own federations dedicated solely to American-style football. So, “American” football is no longer just an American sport, and as such, its rules, regulations and terminology will have to be adapted to the country where it is played.

In Latin America, it would be surprising for most to know that Mexico has a long history with American football dating back as far as 1896. The Latin American nation is one of two countries besides the U.S.; alongside Canada, with a true professional league which pays players enough money to make it a full-time job during the season. Even though there’s only one nation in the Latino neck of the woods playing the sport professionally, its popularity is gradually growing throughout the continent with a massive number of viewers every season and even more during the Super Bowl. Considering that some 16 of the IFAF members are Spanish-speaking countries (from Spain to most Latin-American countries), we can see how this is a growing market both in terms of entertainment and as an area of specialization in the translation industry. So, if you’re just learning about this sport or you need to work with this type of terminology in the future, here’s an introduction to its most common terminology in Spanish.

Let’s start with the most popular player or position in the game, the Quarterback, known as Mariscal de campo or Pasador. And moving on through the field we find: Center: centro; Cornerback: esquinero; Down: oportunidad; End zone: zona de anotación, zona final or, according to the context: detrás de las diagonales; Fullback: corredor de poder; Fumble: balón suelto, balón perdido (by a player that hasn’t been tackled); Halfback: corredor rápido; Interception: intercepción; Kickoff: saque inicial , patada de salida, or inicio de partido; Scrimmage: línea de golpeo; Tackle: derribo, derribar; and finally Touchdown: anotación. This is just a teaser of the large amount of terminology in the game, not including its rules, which might come in handy whenever you feel like getting back in the game.