Men wearing zebra stripes and throwing bundles of yellow cloth around the field? What does it all mean? The referees throw those markers to indicate there is a rule violation on the play.

Although it may seem like they are stopping the action, penalties are important to the game. They ensure the safety of the players and make sure there is an even playing field. They can also be called for sportsmanship violations. Players can be ejected from games for unsportsmanlike behavior and maybe fined or suspended after the game.

The severity of the violation dictates the resulting penalty. If the team on offense commits the infraction, they will usually move backwards from the goal line in increments of 5, 10 or 15 yards. If the team on defense commits it, they will advance the ball for the offense. Usually, unsportsmanlike conduct or contact that has malicious intent carries heavy penalties. Some infractions may advance the ball half the distance to the goal. This puts the offense in great position to score.

In football, referees are powerful. The fouls they call can move the ball, change the game time and even erase plays. Thankfully, all fouls are explained after they are called.