Quotations from The Lost Century of American Football

Excerpts of articles originally published in the 1800s –

1852: “In almost every University in America there is some contest to decide the strength and agility of the Freshman and Sophomore classes. In Yale, it is the Foot-ball Game.” Pg. 6

1856: “Come, leave work for once on this cool, nice evening, and go out to the foot-ball ground…” Pg. 9

1861: “Our troops are in the best of spirits, and are anxiously waiting for an order to move forward. Having attained an excellent degree of proficiency in drill, they are now organizing sports to wile away the monotony of camp life. Foot ball and boxing matches are of frequent occurrence, and are participated in with much spirit.” Pg. 17

1869: “We must say that we think our style much more exciting, and more as Foot Ball should be.” Pg. 25

1872: “It would be better if the clubs now playing the game would meet at once and adopt a series of rules that shall govern all games in the future.” Pg. 38 

1880: “The man who receives the ball from the snap-back shall be called quarter-back.” Pg. 83

1882: “There has hitherto been no attempt to establish a body of written laws upon the subject, or to create by Faulty action what may be called a policy of athletics…it is evident that undue rivalry has carried college athletics beyond their proper sphere.” Pg. 102

1883: “There is no game played at the colleges which offers such opportunities for brilliant individual play as foot-ball.” Pg. 113

1883: “The effort should be not to prevent the games, but to regulate them so that the attendant evils shall be avoided, and all their good influences be exerted.” Pg. 116

1884: “…it is advisable to lay out the five-yard lines the full length of the field.” Pg. 127

1885: “Neither the faculties nor other critics assisted in building the structure of college athletics. In fact, they have put some obstacles in the way. It is a structure which students unaided have builded… Student athletes unaided by outsiders have met their own difficulties and conquered them until they have systemitazed every sport and made their own way clear to satisfactory settlement of their own affairs.” Pg. 136

1886: “In passing the ball any distance, it should be thrown by a horizontal sweep of the arm, sending it revolving upon its short axis, with that axis vertical. It then skims along almost as a flat dish would, preserving both the speed and aim.” Pg. 149

1887: “If the quarter-back by his signals lets each man know just who is going to take the ball and where he is going to run with it or kick it, each one of the eleven can then take part in every play.” Pg. 177

1888: “It has the elements of war without the quarrel.” Pg. 195

1888: “And the audience! Never until the advent of this sport has anything like it been assembled.” Pg. 201

1889: “The form and quality of man took their ancestral shape in just such pleasurable activities as are manifest in our sports, and not in the grim work of the money-getting world…” Pg. 212

1889: “Football may now be said to have passed the critical periods of its history and established itself as one of our most desirable sports… Every player may and should become an inventor; coaching must be supplemented by careful personal study.” Pg. 236

1890: “Upon what grounds and how far can the winning chances of different American college football elevens be computed in advance of the intercollegiate matches?” Pg. 279

1890: “These men were taught to perform certain acts as if by instinct, until each man was only part of the machine-like precision of the movement.” Pg. 295

1891: “To the average newspaper writer the facts of today are everything, while yesterday is entirely wiped out of existence.” Pg. 301

1891: “To dispute the writers of ten years ago who said that the American game would yield to the British, to dispute the Englishman or Canadian of today who says our game is stupid and unattractive, there were thirty thousand people at Eastern Park on Thanksgiving Day.” Pg. 303

1891: “…football can be played by electric light and under such a huge roof as that of the Madison Square Garden.” Pg. 310

1891: “It is not exaggeration to say that no better opportunity of teaching a boy self control and manly courage can be found than that offered upon the football field.” Pg. 336

1892: “We are an easily satisfied people as we rush through our existence from day to day, accepting the shadow for the substance.” Pg. 353

1892: “When we see an athlete whom we know has no income and no employment save athletics, living at his ease month in and month out, it is fair to assume his club is supporting him. This is what I call a professional athlete, and there are a handful of them here in New York.” Pg. 359

1892: “He not only played, but played well, desperately well at times, although he actually knew nothing of his actions and was placed in a physician’s care immediately after the game. It was some 12 hours before he recovered ordinary powers of thought, and then he knew nothing whatever of the game or its results after he was hurt.” Pg. 387

1892: “It is not uncommon today for a father to make matters worse by unconsciously over-encouraging his son, thereby fortifying him in his delusion that the sport is the most important part of college life.” Pg. 397

1892: “The ability to take hard knocks and not retaliate in kind is one of the most valuable lessons that football men acquire…football strengthens the physical side of a man, it develops his mental capacity, it trains him to restrain his temper and teaches him obedience and self-control.” Pg. 403

1892: “A feature which will be much appreciated will be a novel method of disseminating official information. At the north end of the park a large board will be erected, 10 x 18 feet. Each player in the field will be numbered and the various plays and points made during the progress of the game will be instantly recorded on the board, the corresponding numbers being used.” Pg. 410

1892: “In every man’s pocket there is a generous wad of greenbacks to bet on the great football game tomorrow.” Pg. 415

1892: “A mass meeting of the students will be held on Monday night at which steps will be taken towards effective organization for cheering at the big game.” Pg. 416

1892: “Those who attended the game did not cease talking yesterday of the discomforts they suffered in getting to and from the grounds, and every one of the sufferers is now an earnest advocate of some improved system of rapid transit which will enable them to get about the city with some degree of comfort.” Pg. 457

1893: “The evil of inducing preparatory school men to go to one college or another by offers of something close to a pecuniary advantage has been growing… Did you hear the money jingle? Perhaps not yet, but the chink of silver will soon subside into the more quiet rustle of the bank-note, and anything like amateur sport for gentlemen be but the name of something entirely antiquated and forgotten.” Pg. 488

1893: “Football players are the heroes of modern scholastic life.” Pg. 527

1894: “It is the lack of money which seems to our struggling colleges to be the root of all evil. They stand agape when they learn from the public press that the income from the Thanksgiving game of foot-ball is greater than the total annual expenditure of their trustees for the support of twenty-five professors and the education of three hundred boys.” Pg. 555

1894: “Before the days of athletics these men of superabundant animal life supplied the class bullies in fights.” Pg. 568

1894: “There is nothing which deters a man in tackling so much as to have the opponent running with the ball put out his arm and push him away by putting his hand against his chest, and especially his face.” Pg. 596

1894: “Let the faculties dig into this business end of college sport…we make too much money and spend too much; outrageously high prices are charged for tickets. Are college football elevens maintained to make money? Certainly not; and yet obviously they are… We are making too much of a business of our college sport- it has grown to be a feature rather than an incident…The most notable success is in spending money, and to an extent that would astonish the uninformed…the business air that makes all sportsmen shudder for very dread of the future.” Pg. 606

1894: “The men were tackled with savage ferocity, till, time and again, time was called to aid a disabled player.” Pg. 631

1894: “We have noticed in the last two or three years the tendency towards professionalism growing stronger and stronger.” Pg. 645

1894: “Passing the ball over the top of the interference was a very clever act and it worked well.” Pg. 686

1895: “Double passes used to be all the go, years ago, and were most effective plays, while at the same time their execution pleased the spectators, who could follow without effort the course of the ball from one player to another.” Pg. 712

1896: “The first thing a player should do in order to avoid accident is to begin training early; get into good condition early, and keep so.” Pg. 727

1897: “The character and disposition of the coach are certain to reveal themselves in the character and disposition of the team’s play.” Pg. 735

1898: “This year we are promised an unusual football treat, in that the principal games are so arranged as not to conflict with each other, and upon nearly every Saturday in November the enthusiast may watch a first-class game.” Pt. 745

1899: “Christmas day has been set for the game, but this may be altered. It is suggested that a game on New Year’s day would be more fruitful from a financial point of view.” Pg 749

1900: “Passing, as practiced in the modern game, would have been directly contrary to the rules of the old game.” Pg. 766

1900: “All remedies used in football, owing to the shortness of the season and the necessity of immediate preparation to play, are of the kill-or-cure variety.” Pg. 782

1900: “With the approach of the big games, excitement in the community begins to run high until it reaches a fever heat, and the letters, telegrams, suggestions, etc., with which the coaches and captains are flooded are beyond belief.” Pg. 786

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