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The Arrow Guide to Touch Football Archetypes

Your cheat sheet to identifying all the players in your family game-day roster

Man playing football with play illustration above image
The Arrow / Dolly Faibyshev / Shutterstock (drawing)

Touch football is as American as eating enough turkey to induce tryptophan tremens: a great way to work up an appetite before any competitive eating begins, and just as much fun afterward to burn off a few calories and fight food coma. 

As you’re hitting a few half-assed hamstring stretches before kickoff, keep an eye out for the following standout members of your family game-day roster. There’s bound to be at least one of each. And the one you can’t spot? That’s probably you.

Mr. Impending Injury

Let’s admit that we give off “I spent my holiday in the emergency room” vibes. We’re in that mid-50s demographic where the resilience of ligaments and tendons is becoming questionable at best. If you groaned getting out of the La-Z-Boy when asked to play, if your joints have the integrity of Tinkertoys, don’t be surprised when one of your muscles pops and rolls up like a window shade. 

Good news is there’s probably already a pair of crutches in the garage from last year. Was that someone opening another bottle of prosecco for mimosas? Nope, it was Uncle Frank’s Achilles. Rock-paper-scissors to see who takes him to the hospital.

The High School Hotshot

We hate this guy, we wish we were this guy, but no, we hate this guy. He was a good player in his day and has no problem reminding you he was a good player in his day. He loves drawing the play in the dirt, and then making sure there’s a different snap count on each down. He plays quarterback because, OK fine, I’m the only one who has a halfway decent arm even though I was actually all-conference as a defensive back. Did I ever tell you about the conference championship game my junior year? Expect at least one trick play from him. It will be a Statue of Liberty or double reverse. You’ve been warned.

Fast-Count Rusher

Say this out loud slowly — no, slower. No. Slower: One Mississippi. Two Mississippi. Hear each syllable, clearly articulated and enunciated? That’s how you do it. It’s a four-count rush and unless we have a full offensive line, you need to give us a decent chance to let a play develop. Cripes, the phone pole at the end of that fly pattern is halfway down the block. 

But this guy doesn’t care. He thinks he’s Lawrence Taylor, pawing the ground before the snap and then yowling something like “Onemissitwomissithreemissi” before charging in (OK, lumbering in) arms up, teeth bared, ready to notch another sack.

I’m Not Drunk, Shaddap

He’s way too drunk, but is totally fine. Totally. Sets his beer down on the sideline before every play. Picks his beer back up from the sideline after every play. He’ll call timeout so he can send one of the kids to go and get him another beer. No, not back in the house. Just go to the garage fridge. The garage. The fridge. In the garage. That way. Forget it. I’ll get it myself. 

This is mercifully when he’ll leave the game, which means your side will either be light a player, or you’ll have to beg one of the great-aunts to step in and are you really gonna do that? Are you really gonna kill Auntie Hazel?

The Ultra Competitor

Oh great, your brother-in-law who does CrossFit. First, he basically ate all the turkey because he’s paleo or whatever. Second, he’s playing like he’s in the Rose Bowl. Dude, you’re lined up across from one of your preteen nieces. Kinda weird that you told them to “pick up your jock” after that down-and-out but whatever. And c’mon. Climbing on someone and trying to do a kipping pull-up is pretty much pass interference.

The Former Lineman

Good-size guy who has put on a few pounds over the years, so no, not gonna run any patterns. Not gonna drop back and play any defense. How about I play center? I’ll just stand here and sidearm the ball to your brother-in-law who does CrossFit and we’re all set. Where’d my cousin Mike go? Oh, he’s getting a beer from the garage fridge? I bet he needs help. Hell, I know he needs help. I’m gonna go help him. Yo, Auntie Hazel, you’re in!

The Jump Ball Passer

We can’t all have rifle arms, but most of us know how to put enough zip on the ball so that it travels pretty much parallel to the surface of the earth. Some of us, however, angle back like a trebuchet and lob the ball in a rainbow arc any leprechaun would envy. These types of throws herald anguish and bloodshed. They have so much hang time that everyone playing — everyone — can track the ball and sprint to it. 

This draws a scrum under the projected point of reception where elbows find teeth, knees find groins. As a dozen bodies collide, the ball ricochets concussively off Dad’s head and lands 20 yards away. Someone lost a tooth. Add a couple more to that emergency room trip. Did somebody say time for pie and coffee? Sweet mother of mercy, thank you.