10 September 2006

shovel pass II

Every now and then I get a surge of visitors looking for information on a particular topic, usually driven by something in the media. So it is with shovel pass, a kind of play in North American football. A lot of visitors the past few weeks or so have come here presumably trying to figure out what a shovel pass is. No doubt the onset of the NFL season has something to do with this.

Searching Google for shovel pass brings users to a piloklok post from last year, where I riffed on the phrase only because of its potential confusion with shuttle pass. At the time I was only interested in the usage of the phrase, and not its specific meaning. Looking back, I realize nobody would be able to figure out what a shovel pass is from that post. Hey, I didn't know either; I thought it referred to the way the quarterback tosses the ball -- I envisioned a two-handed underhand pass.

Turning to Wikipedia, though, seems to show otherwise: evidently a shovel pass is a kind of screen pass. Next obvious question is, what's a screen pass? Again, Wikipedia offers more knowledge, but it's a little cryptic. It seems to be a trick play that draws the defensive line toward the passer while the receivers draw the defensive backs downfield. This leaves the intended receiver fairly open, protected by a screen of offensive linemen.

The upshot is that the "screen" in screen play has nothing to do with obstructing the vision of any member of the opposing team, which it does in ice hockey, where screens are clusters of players stationed in front of a goaltender, intending to block his vision and thus hamper his ability to stop the puck.