The first time I attempted to force a Carolina Panthers football game on my son, all he did was complain. It was super boring. It was too long. The first quarter was barely over, and he was already playing with his Legos. I quickly realized that the learning curve for football can be surprisingly steep for a kindergartner who’d rather be watching sword-swinging cartoon ninjas than 300-pound men running zone-blocking schemes off the line of scrimmage. But it gave me a great idea: If he wanted to play with Legos instead of watching the game, then why not play with a toy that’s about the game? While we watched the game, of course.
Already familiar with OYO, a company that makes LEGO-like buildable sports sets for all four major U.S. sports leagues (MLB, NBA, NHL, and the NFL), I immediately ordered up one of its Carolina Panthers Endzone Sets for about $30. If you haven’t seen one before, they’re pretty fantastic. Each Oyo Endzone set comes with two Lego mini-fig players with articulating joints, a referee, and a couple of footballs and water bottles, not to mention all the blocks needed to build the uprights and the red zone ⏤ from the 20-yard line to the back of the end zone. They’re available for every team in the league, as well as a bevy of big-name college programs.
The 2.0 next-generation sets, by the way, include only one mini figure but more bricks ⏤ 106 to be exact. They also come with some really cool new accouterments: a swiveling power kicking tee (the figures can actually kick field goals now), a blocking dummy, and uprights decked out with a retractable net and wind flags. Build time is pretty swift and once the set is assembled, it’s time to toss around the proverbial pigskin and learn the basics of playing ball.
All in all, you can’t ask for a better setup to teach a Lego-loving toddler about the Xs and Os of the game. Although, the red zone is really all you need to work on the fundamentals ⏤ from the ins and outs of the line of scrimmage to QBs making the choice to either toss the ball, hand it off, or run it themselves. My son took to it immediately.
Not only that, but because original Lego figures are also compatible with the field, he enjoyed sending Batman in on third down to snap the ball to Cam Newton. Who then, of course, hits wide receiver Thor on a post route in the endzone after he got free off the line by hurling his hammer Mjölnir at the hapless defenders. In our “exhibition games,” the normally sure-handed running back Flash inexplicably fumbles the ball whenever he runs into Luke Kuechly. When executing plays, my son always gets a kick out of signal calling slang. He thinks “blue 42, blue 42, hut, hut…” is a riot and never wants to yell “Omaha” when announcing an audible.
Admittedly, his football IQ is still a work in progress, but his appreciation for the game has grown considerably. And the OYO Endzone has been great at holding his attention while I school him on everything from how a team gets four chances to gain ten yards to why they punt on fourth down. It’s also jacked up his scoring fluency. Aside from touchdowns, which were already on his radar pre-OYO, he now has a cursory understanding of scoring extra points, two-point conversions, field goals, and safeties. To take his football knowledge to the next level, and get him to stomach more than ten minutes of a televised game (like I said, it’s a work in progress), I just may have to spring for a whole gridiron.