Silent Football

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Silent football
Players 3+ (preferably 6+)
Age range 8+
Setup time minimal
Playing time About 20 minutes per round, but the game can last for hours.
Random chance None
Skill(s) required Basic motor skills (control of hands, arms)

Silent Football is a group game composed of three major elements: Football, the Quiet Game, and Parliamentary procedure, consisting mainly of the passing of an imaginary football. Silent Football requires little set up: only a quiet space with room enough for three or more players to form a circle, allowing each player to see all other players. Silent Football is commonly played at Unitarian Universalist rallies and cons.

In the variations of Silent Football that result in a "loser," one loses by the accumulation of a set number of penance points, set by the Dictator at the beginning of the game (usually 3, 5 or 10).

All players are arranged in a circle, and one player is selected, if not already appointed by a higher spiritual power, to be "Brother Dictator", or "Mister Dictator" (or the more capitalist variant: "Mr Commissioner, Sir", or another variant may be "Grand Master". Also used is the Game Master. The Dictator is responsible for running the game, does the majority of the talking, and interprets the rules given his or her certain dictatorial style. While this may include creating, altering, or removing rules, straying too far from the generally accepted rules can result in a quorum of dictatorial challenge.

The game begins with each player introducing themselves for the evening (Picking pseudonyms); i.e. Brother "High School Honors Student" or Sister Cockroach. In some variations players are referred to as simply "Player" rather than brother or sister. (In the capitalist version The players are often called "Misters," because in this variation, all of the players are addressed as "Mr., Miss, or Mrs.(insert full first name)", in another variation players create nicknames that they must keep every game they ever play.) Pseudonyms may consist of words, motions, or both. Should a pseudonym include both, both the words and the motions must be used.

Once everyone is arranged, the Dictator must clear any misunderstandings about the rules with either his own interpretation or arbitrary legislation. In some silent football communities, teaching the basic rules of the game is forbidden. New/prospective players must play/watch a round to learn the rules in those communities, however there is also a fifteen-minute rule, which forbids outsiders to watch for more than fifteen minutes, after which time the offending outsider must either join or leave. Also, to keep things less complicated, some players simply say "Silent football is neither silent, nor is it football" when talking about it, unless it is before actually playing in which case rules will be taught.

Gestures in game play[edit]

Offensive moves[edit]


The first offensive move is called the Fwap, also known as a Thwack, Flack, or Thwap. One performs a fwap by hitting one's knees in a combination of right knee and left knee (some variations turn their hand over, after the hit, in the given direction). One must hit their right knee with their right hand and their left knee with their left hand. Doing otherwise is called a cross fwap, for which a player may receive Penance Points.

Every hit of the right knee moves the Silent Football a space to the right. Every hit of the left knee moves the Silent Football one space to the left. One may hit their knees in any combination of rights and lefts with a few restrictions.(Many variants require that the movement of the ball must never be reversed by a fwap. IE: If a player fwaps to the right to you, you may not fwap to the left.)

  • At no time may the Silent Football move exceed 3 spaces to the right or left of a player.
  • At no time may one pass the Silent Football to or through oneself. This is called a Cold Rush of Air (Which is painful) or playing with oneself.
  • A player may fwap a fwap, but no player may fwap a fwapped fwap (you can't fwap 3 times in a row - if someone fwaps to a player that fwaps to you, you must use a different move).
  • Obnoxious (Hard to follow) fwaps are generally frowned upon in the universe.


The second offensive move is called the Zoom. The Zoom is performed by extending your right hand in a fist and making eye contact with the player to whom you wish to zoom. The player with whom you make eye contact is passed the silent football. Whether or not the direction of the fist must also point to the same person varies among different rules. A variation on this move is performed by putting your right hand by your left ear, and putting your nose in the crook of that elbow (Classic Zoom). The elbow must point towards the person to whom one wishes to zoom, and eye contact must also be made. According to some, you cannot zoom the ball to the person right next to you.

  • A player may zoom a zoom, but a player may not zoom a zoomed zoom.


A third offensive move is called the Shwah. Many communities do not include this move in their rules for Silent Football. The Shwah is viewed as obnoxious. The Shwah is performed by extending your right hand with your fingers pointed as if holding a small ball in your fingertips and saying very loudly and shrilly "SHWAH!" and making eye contact. The silent football is then passed to the player with whom eye contact was made. An unorthodox move considering the breaking of silence. The Shwah is also unblockable, meaning:

  • "A Player cannot Shrug or Shrodem a Shwah."
  • "A Player may Shwah a Shwah, but cannot Shwah a Shwahed Shwah."


A fourth offensive maneuver is called the "Continental". This pass is between the ball carrier and a player that is more than 2 seats away from the carrier on either side. The player in possession of the ball must make direct eye contact with the other player, immediately both players perform a thwack. The first thwack from the ball carrier is to pass the ball to the other player, and the thwack performed by the recipient of the pass is done to pass the ball to a player on either side.


A fifth and very commonly used move is the "Shmeed." It is performed by cupping ones right hand on the back of ones neck. And then pointing the elbow of the bent arm at the person who is to receive the ball. You may Shmeed a Shmeed, but you may not Shmeed a Shmeeded Shmeed. For new players the Commissioner commonly uses the three basic moves. The Shrug, the Shmodus, and the Shmeed. The rest of the moves are considered extra and obnoxious in most circles.

Defensive moves[edit]


The first defensive move is the Shrug. The shrug is performed just as the name implies: one raises one's shoulders. The shrug passes the Silent Football back to the player who passed it.

  • One may shrug a shrug, but one may never shrug a shrugged shrug.
  • In some cases the Commissioner may request that the shrug is accompanied with a kiss to the air, directed toward the person being shrugged or to nothing in particular.
  • The Shrug is not always used in a game of Silent Football.


The second defensive move is the Shmotus, Shrotem, Shrodem, Shrodum, Shmotus, Shmota, Smodem, or Shamotus. The move is executed in varying ways among different groups, but its effect is consistent everywhere: the Shmotus returns the silent football to the previous passer.

  • One may Shmotus a Shmotus, but one may never Shmotus a Shmotused Shmotus. In some circles, a player is not allowed to Shmotus a Shmotus, and if done the player will automatically lose the game.

Depending on the group, the Shmotus is performed in one of the following the ways:

  • Extend the right hand, palm up, as far as it will go. Next, place the fingers of the left hand in the crotch of the right elbow. Finally, raise the right hand bringing its fingers to the forehead in a fist (or open hand).
Golden Rule[edit]

This is the most important rule. Breaking this rule will cause you to automatically lose the game:

A player may shrug a shrug or Shmotus a Shmotus, but may never shrug a Shmotus or Shmotus a shrug.

This divides the universe by 0, which (in some groups) must be recognized by all players by loud yelling and potentially rolling on the ground. While some do not recognize it as an instant loss, many find it to be the worst of the rules to break and a large amount of penance is usually awarded.

In some circles, however, the rule is deemed no more important than any other, and a player may shrug a Shmotus, but never Shmotus a shrug. The shrug is the more polite way to refuse possession of the ball, while the Shmotus is more abrasive. It's just rude to face someone's politeness with an abrasive move. Whereas meeting someone's abrasiveness with politeness is accepted. This is commonly remembered as "One can hug a Shmotus, but one cannot Shmotus a hug."

Call of nature[edit]

If a player must visit the restroom, that player may use the restroom signal: waving their raised hand. The Dictator will simply nod and that person can get up. At the Dictator's discretion, the player may or may not have to wait until the next round of Silent Football motion to rejoin the circle.

A player may also request to leave for a few moments. This may or may not be granted by the dictator.


Myriad variations and newer moves to the game exist within different communities, sometimes causing the game to become incredibly complicated. One such example is the phenomenon of Wormholes/Parallel Universes[1] (SWUUSI[clarification needed]). Another is the "split ball" effect at Ferry Beach—caused by baps and shwees, and used only by the Dictator.

Initiating play[edit]

When the Commissioner is ready to begin the game the Commissioner simply says, "Customary Tip of the Hat," after which everyone repeats "Customary Tip of the Hat" and tips their (imaginary) hats. Another variation is "Hats off," after which all players remove imaginary hats and place them in the center of the circle.

Then, the Commissioner may take the "Customary Shroop," [or Schwoop, Shroom, or Sloop] after which everyone repeats "Customary Shroop" [or "Customary Schwoop", "Customary Shroom", or "Customary Sloop"] and takes an imaginary drink from an imaginary, or real if circumstance permits, drinking vessel. Beverages and snacks can exist within the circle; this helps keep games going for hours.

The Commissioner can then add any more customary phrases she/he desires, and the group should repeat them as appropriate. When the Commissioner feels enough customary phrases have been spoken, the Commissioner Fwaps or Zooms the ball to someone, beginning the Sacred Silent Football motion.

Additionally, the words "The rules are in effect, the ball is now in play" or "Let's play ball" or "The universe is now a closed entity, free speech is now revoked" may be said before the ball is moved.


In many forms of Silent Football, the commissioner cannot accuse anyone of an infraction; therefore it is left to the players to inform the commissioner when an error has been made. If a player notices any other player (including the commissioner) break one of the rules of Silent Football, that player may raise his hand to inform The Commissioner of the rule breaking. The commonly accepted procedure for tattling follows:

  1. The first player raises his/her hand
  2. Before tattling may begin, the hand must be obviously recognized by The Dictator. The Dictator may ignore a hand indefinitely.
  3. The tattling must begin by formally addressing the Dictator.
  4. The player then may tattle, minding the restrictions on speech.

In some circles a player who wishes to tattle, but is ignored by the Dictator, may break the rule of silence and exclaim "abuh" to attract the Dictator's attention. If the Dictator continues to ignore the player they may progress to "abuh awuh" followed by "abuh awuh aduh". While the Dictator is still not required to call on the player, abuse of this system is punishable and each step up the chain should indicate a more severe infraction has taken place.


The fundamental rule of Silent Football is *One may never use any pronouns. (In some variations, pronouns referring to oneself are legal, but not in other variations During tattling (the only socially acceptable time to speak),

  • The first words out of a player's mouth must be "Brother Dictator" (or Mr. Dictator, Mr. Commissioner etc. etc.)
  • While tattling, the tattling player must surround any quotation or wording or gesture using the words "quote," and "unquote."
    • Bunny ear quotes are often an entirely illegal gesture, which does not indicate quotation, but may instead result in penance points. In some variations they have no official meaning other than an indicted love for bunny rabbits. In these variations it is common for a player to raise that player's hand and ask Mr. Dictator's permission to ask the player if they love bunny rabbits. In this situation, bunny rabbits are treated as non-hallucinations.
  • One may never refer to another player(s) using any wording or gesture other than that player's name within the game, which is often required to be formal (Brother Capitalist versus Brian) OR a description of the player's position within the circle (i.e. "The Player three spaces to this player's right"). Pointing is strictly forbidden. Names are chosen at the beginning of the game, and include all gestures and intonations made by a player while the player is stating his or her name. Brother Dictator may change the name of any player at any time.
    • In some variations, The Dictator is often an exception in that he or she may be referred to either as "Brother Dictator" or any name chosen by the Dictator.
  • In some variations, when a players name is unknown or forgotten, other players may refer to them as Mr. Stick.
    • In some variations people may not speak unless spoken to by The Dictator (Mr. Game Master Sir). They may not show their ivories (teeth) unless they are called on. Showing teeth results in a point.
    • In some variations pointing at any object or player is rude. And therefore players may be rewarded a point.
  • The Dictator may choose to restrict speech to players by strictly enforcing a "no teeth showing" policy, where all conversations must take place without a player showing his or her teeth. Teeth spotting is a crime worthy of consideration for punishment.


The game is limited to the people playing in the circle. If a player reacts to a person or thing outside of the circle, he or she is said to be reacting to hallucinations which are the result of hallucinogens and will be awarded penance points. An exception to this rule is that if a hallucination enters the circle they may materialize, and players may ask Mr. Dictator to have something done about the intruders (commonly lick and or tackle said hallucination).

  • Food and drink are part of the universe and are not hallucinations unless they are banned by the dictator.
  • Outdoors, if a player pulls up grass, he or she must eat it. Otherwise it is not food, and therefore a hallucination. (In some variations picking grass means either extreme hunger, in which case the grass must be eaten.)

Peanut Gallery[edit]

Any entities not in the game are hallucinations, and thus are referred to out of game as the Peanut Gallery, also known as Poltergeists and Savages and Outside forces. It must be remembered that the Peanut Gallery formally does not exist; it is informal to refer to the peanut gallery in game play and penance points may be issued for such hallucinations. The Peanut Gallery can (and very likely will, given the chance) interfere with the players in whatever ways they wish.

Random Flailing motions[edit]

Random flailing motions are always allowed in the universe of silent football (IE: Flailing the arms trying to get particularly annoying hallucinations to go away).

Miss Cleo[edit]

The Commissioner is allowed the ability to change names; changing one's name to "Miss Cleo" or "Translator" gives him/her the ability to perceive the hallucinations without receipt of penance.

In some circles, the Commissioner is simply immune to all attempts of the peanut gallery/poltergeists, and can interact with the outside world as s/he pleases.

Holy Jihad[edit]

At points within a game, many players may be bothered by the acts of the Peanut Gallery. In this case, a player denoted "Miss Cleo" (or the Commissioner in circles where there is no concept of a "Miss Cleo" player) has the unique ability to incite Holy Jihad (otherwise known as a "witch hunt" or an "exorcism"), an action in which the Peanut Gallery suddenly materializes within the game, and therefore can be tackled, beaten, or otherwise punished for clearly having been distracting before they existed formally. This action is particularly justified if such hallucinations have blocked players' sight of each other's knees, a necessity for fwappage. In the case of a universe playing without the rule of "Miss Cleo", any player may request to the dictator if a holy jihad may be proclaimed on a certain very annoying communal hallucination. The dictator will then grant or deny the request.


Once one has attained a set amount penance points (usually between 5 and 10) one has lost. The loser must perform an embarrassing action decided by the winners. However, this cannot involve unwilling third parties. Most penances are mildly annoying rather than harsh. (One famous penance is the losing player must eat their next meal(s) with only a spoon and no other utensils. Another example of a punishment is being forced to say Babe after every sentence.)

Win/Lose and penance point variation[edit]

  • When a player has committed his first infraction, Brother Dictator instructs the offending player to undergo the appropriate punishment.
  • Upon a player's first infraction, that player then goes into the center of the circle to apologize until he has gained approval from the majority of the other players, who to show approval simply give a thumbs-up.
  • When a player commits a second infraction, he/she then inserts "the digit of choice into the nostril of choice." Depending on the variation, fingers and toes can be used, and the digit or nostril can actually belong to a different player, so long as one part is the offending player's.
  • The third and final punishment is "Cruel and Unusual Punishment." The players then take a 2-minute break, during which time all players can make as much noise as they want while they decide on an appropriate punishment for the offending player. Many good options include but are not restricted to interpretive dance, rapping, drinking squills (disgusting food/drink mixtures), etc. If the players fail to agree on a punishment during the 2-minute period, the offending player is released from his punishment. Once the punishment is decided, all players return to game-mode, which means absolute silence- except for the noises of the offending player. All other players must keep their eyes on the offending player at all times; if a player makes a noise or looks away, he must immediately join the offending player in his punishment, though his own level of infraction remains unchanged.
  • Once any given player has reached three infractions, he is not "out." He simply starts back at infraction one. In this variation, there is no official end to the game- it just continues until the players tire, and there is no real winner or loser beyond the winning players, who are currently trying not to laugh at the loser, who is the one currently being punished.

Silence and "woops"[edit]

The Quiet Game aspect prohibits any player from making any noise including laughter, talking, movement, chewing, slurping, etc. Only the commissioner may speak. The only sounds allowed and encouraged are bodily functions including the cough, sneeze, burp, and fart. However each of these sounds must be covered by a high pitched "Whoop." For instance, should a player cough twice, he must follow the noise with two whoops, three sneezes would result in three whoops, and so on. Even Silent-But-Deadly bodily functions MUST be followed by a quiet "Whoop" in order to warn the other players.

Goldberg parachute[edit]

An optional corollary measure in instances when a losing player is to perform a penance is known as the Goldberg Parachute. Should a player find that a particular penance is too harsh, they may exercise an option for an alternative penance to be conceived in place of the questionable act. The intent is to remove the possibility of personal psychological upset from a player's participation.

In certain Northern Californian circles, this is alternately known as a Beth, though this term carries a negative context as it implies that the player wishes to play the game without any risk of penance, whether harsh or agreeable. A player who leaves the game without permission to do so following the assignment of penance is certainly and irrefutably a Beth.

Rule variations[edit]


In some circles, rather than having a "Brother Dictator" there is instead:

  1. Mr. Commissioner
  2. Mr. Commissioner Commissioner
  3. Commander Commander
  4. Major Major Major Major
  5. Mr. Dictator.
  6. Grand Master. In a game where Grandmaster is used, it is customary to add "sir." (e.g. Grand Master, sir)
  7. Game Master (often when this name is used, the other players must refer to him as 'Mr. Game Master, Sir/Mrs. Game Master, Sir/Sir, Master, Game Master, Sir' at the beginning and/or end of every reference to the Game Master)
  8. King/ Queen (usually then the other players go by Lord insert name or Lady insert name, and any infraction is considered high disrespect for the court)
  9. Mister Chief
  10. The Chairman (when addressing the chairman the phrase "Mr. Chairman, sir" must be used).
  11. Brother or Sister Dictator. In a game where Brother or Sister Dictator is known as such, players will customarily have Brother or Sister before their own names.
  12. in some circles the Commissioner will chose to be addressed by a name or action meant to be ridiculous or odd. Examples include "Fatty Mic Butterpants" accompanied by pinching and shaking a piece of fat or skin on the face, arm, stomach or leg. "Pony Puff Princes" while waving arms, elbows to hands, the start of each word. "Yee-hah, Buffalo Bill West!" while waving an invisible lasso around head.
  13. Also the Commissioner may announce a custom name by which he will be known
  14. There is also a special penalty for The Commissioner called "Assassination". It is a penalty that removes him from his noble stature of The Commissioner and gives it to somebody else (Preferably someone with the least amount of penalties). This penalty can only be given by the person with the least amount of penalties, and thus choosing the next Commissioner.
  15. In YRUU (Unitarian Universalist teen sector) Southwest Conference and Northwest District circles, The Commissioner can only be addressed as Mr. Dictator or some variation thereof.
  16. In some parts of the Northeast United States, the "Brother Dictator" is instead referred to as "Mr. President", giving the indication (albeit a false one) that the game functions on some kind of democracy.
  17. In some games, if the universe becomes communist, "Mister Dictator" is changed to "Mister Comrade".


A custom that has been set in the SAYF[clarification needed] community is that whenever people outside of the game intrude with rude intent, the patrons of the game cover their head with their arms, and shout, "Dirty savages!" (variations) and/or hiss.

The custom of one of the Georgia circles is that whenever people outside of the game intrude for any purpose, the patrons of the game cover their head with their arms and remain silent until said disturbance leaves. The commissioner, in extreme circumstances, can break this custom and interact with the disturbance to solve any issues.


Some silent football communities don’t have a strict "no pronoun" rule and instead adhere to the following: When speaking, no player may use pronouns such as "he" "she" "it" "they" "we" "us" "you" "him" "her" "hers" "his" etcetera, except for first person singular pronouns, "I" "me" "my" "myself" and "mine," and words which are not always pronouns, such as the demonstrative pronouns "this" "that" and "those."

And some silent football communities have a different variation on the "no pronoun" rule as well; if one wishes to use a pronoun instead of another player's name then they must say "quote" pronoun "unquote".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Silent Football Rules

External links[edit]