The college clock struck twelve—that awful hour
When Sophs met Fresh, power met opposing power;
To brave the dangers of approaching fight,
Each army stood of literary might;
With warlike ardor for a deathless fame
Impatient stood—until the football came…
…We could contrive to make the Delta yield up a narrative of the sports it has witnessed…it could tell how many pedal members began the game with white, unspotted skins, but limped off at its conclusion tinged with variegated hues.
…Among College games Football continues a universal favorite, in spite of blackened eyes, “bruised arms,” tailless coats, and an occasional broken limb.
We thought the perpetuation of the game tended to keep alive old differences, and to create new ones. We urged next the brutality of the game, which many will deny, but none can disprove; the unfairness and inequality of the contest, which takes place so early in the term as to deprive one party of the greatest source of strength,—unity; and the immoral concomitants of the game, among which we specified drunkenness… Deeming the game unnecessary at any time, even when freed from these evils (which some people call abuses), and now especially, when it has come to be only a disgraceful fight, we claimed that it ought to be abolished… We expect the abolition of the football game to come about… The Football Game is over… Beyond all hope or expectation, the bad game has “ceased from its troubling.” …The enthusiastic cheers, the singing of ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ each student grasping a brother’s hand,—all, all, have passed away and will soon be buried with the football beneath the sod, to live hereafter only as a dream in our memories and in the College annals.
The faculty of Dartmouth college have restored the game of foot-ball to the students, on their agreeing to comply with the faculty regulations of the game, and be governed in disputes by an umpire. Old graduates will be surprised to hear that the faculty now furnish the balls.
If a man is predestinated to be an athlete and nothing more, the earlier in life he finds it out decidedly the better for him.
Football appears to be as dangerous a game at Harvard as at the public schools in England. Last week two Harvard men were disabled permanently, and one temporarily, while engaged in the game.
Fell, one of their fleetest runners, started from centre field toward Columbia’s goal. In a flash, Henry had thrown his right arm dexterously around Fell’s neck. The neck stopped but Fell’s heels went on—his body straightened out like a whiplash when it is snapped. Fell dropped to the ground like a stone, and the rushing men passed over him, leaving only a comrade leaning over him. For five minutes he did not stir nor speak: then he was helped to his feet, and walked slowly to the dressing house, with a friend on either side.
Then there was a general scrimmage over it within a few feet of the foul line, and 20 men were soon piled on top of each other, seemingly trying to burst the ball by their united weight. It finally rolled out, and Peters, of Yale, got hold of it. In an instant he was surrounded, and a Columbia man “butted” him in the stomach.
It was a gross violation of foot-ball rules, but in the confusion no one could tell who had done it. Peters fell like a log, groaning piteously. Time was called, and brandy was sent for. He soon got strong enough to stand up, and then pluckily insisted on going on with the game. Capt. Camp would not permit him to play…
A football match without throttling and bruising by the Yale men would be an anomaly, and their occasional brutality was severely commented upon by the spectators yesterday.
1885 by Walter Camp:
Neither the faculties nor other critics assisted in building the structure of college athletics. In fact, they put some obstacles in the way. It is a structure which students unaided have builded, and with pride they point to their labor, and love it the more dearly for its very difficulties…Faculty participation in interest would have been and is now not only acceptable but eagerly sought for by the student athlete. A few years of such treatment would do away with the necessity for repressive measures. The growth of college athletics is a most fascinating study for any man…
Sometimes it happens that by a few important changes in methods or rules of play the whole character of a game is revolutionized. In this way an unscientific sport may become scientific; a close, unprogressive game may develop dash and brilliancy, and brute strength may be made to give way to skill. The great majority of people have not yet awakened to the fact that football is not the game it used to be. There are still parents who will not allow their boys to play, because they fear that either a crippled body or a brutal nature will be the outcome.”
A football game without “slugging!” It was like “Hamlet” with Hamlet left out.
All the larger colleges have abandoned it as a harmful and unadvisable breach of rules, and at the present time only the teams of the smaller institutions ever “slug,” so that to do so is considered a mark of inferiority and ignorance.
An event that 100,000 persons are bound to witness and a million more are eager to read about cannot be an insignificant event in the estimation of those to whom such ardor is unintelligible.
1891 by Walter Camp:
There is but one thing which still mars in some degree the thorough popularity of the sport, and that is the unscrupulous sensationalism of certain of the metropolitan journals.
1892 Regents report:
The athleticism of the present age is, in the opinion of the writer, not conducive either to long life or to the enjoyment of good health.
To put it upon the lowest possible scale, college athletics bring young men into colleges just as truly as flaming posters and brass bands and illuminated entrances bring young men and old into theaters.
Whenever any team or management becomes more anxious to win a game over a rival than careful to conduct the contest in a spirit of entire fairness, the greatest danger to which intercollegiate athletics are exposed has been reached.
The characteristics of football that are particularly prominent in the general success of the game might suggest that if gladiatorial shows were allowed they would be enormously profitable.
The athleticism of the present age is, in the opinion of the writer, not conducive either to long life or to the enjoyment of good health.
1892 recollection by Walter Camp:
Terry in some way received a severe blow on the head, but such was the force of the bringing up he had enjoyed that he scrambled back into his place after giving up the ball to the centre rush, and only those perfectly familiar with his usual method of play would have noticed, or did notice anything peculiar about his movements. He managed to get through the half, and at intermission a hasty consultation was held in the dressing-room by the captain and coaches. Terry was kept away from the rest of the players, for he was manifestly “out of his head.”
Richards said that during the latter part of the half Terry couldn’t get his signals, but that being told what each was when it was given he seemed to carry out the play all right from sheer force of habit. Here was a dilemma indeed. No other half-back was available, and Richards, as well as others, believed that Terry, even in his condition, would mechanically carry out his plays if some one kept telling him when and what his signal was. Finally it was decided to start in with him on the second half and chance it.
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 power of thought, and then he knew nothing whatever of the game or its results after he was hurt. Up to that point he could tell the progress of the game accurately—beyond that his mind was a blank until the following morning. I have heard of one or two similar instances, but this is the only one that has chanced to come under my own observation…
1892 by Heffelfinger:
It is only since the playing has developed into a strategic war that the immense crowds have followed the games with absorbed interest.
1892 by Trafford:
American foot ball is the manliest and most scientific of games. It teaches determination, perseverance and courage. If every man who has the responsibility of directing the education of American boys and young men could be made to understand the real character of the game, there would be teams in every school in the country; and if the game were played in all our schools the American people might become the hardiest and bravest race the world has ever known.
Imagine, if you can, twenty-two pugilists in parallel lines sparring with each other. This was the scene in the last fifteen minutes of the game. The spectators were all men and they were delirious with joy.
Before Upton could get up Hinkey came running up full speed and fell heavily on Upton’s face with both knees. The Harvard man was knocked out. He had a nasty cut in the head and looked much the worse for wear. In a few minutes he spat on his hands and jumped into the game again. He soon gave it up and left the field staggering and supported by two of his comrades
Today wherever foot ball is talked you hear almost nothing but the “flying wedge” and Deland, and so long as the game is played these will be household words among lovers of foot ball.
“In fact, nothing affords greater pleasure on the football field than bowling over some big opponent just as he is bracing himself for a tackle.”
…It is often and truly said that young people take very little interest in the achievements of earlier generations, but, while this may be true of poetry or politics or philanthropy, it is not true of athletics.
…Mr. Camp very truly remarks that it is further from the limit of its development than any other college sport.
…the most important point that Mr. Camp insists upon is, that no man knows what he can do until he tries.”
Mr. Deland argued to himself that if he could get a football team so arranged that the eleven men should throw their entire weight, strength, and momentum against a weak point of the opposing team, which must be necessarily stationary, detached, and incapable of using its full weight in opposition, they would break through and make ground very fast.
…It was a rather remarkable case where a man who had never played the game, who scarcely knew the rules, was yet able to touch a vital spot in the game itself, and accomplish something that old players had never taken into account. In doing this Mr. Deland has opened a new field in the science of football; for this new system of “line up” has been, or rather is like to be, only the beginning of more radical systems of play, involving many different formations on the part of one team, together with uncertainty on the part of the other as to what is to take place.
As to physical injuries, there are reports of abundant minor mishaps, strains, sprains, etc., some broken ribs, collar-bones, and fingers, and even noses, but few permanent injuries are reported among the thousands of foot-ball players heard from. A California student had his neck broken, but I have heard of at least three similar accidents in the families of my friends, resulting from gymnasium practice…
…The knees seem to be the most vulnerable part, and some of the accidents suggest the necessity for avoiding the use of hard or frozen ground in playing the game. It is doubtful whether the percentage of accidents among undergraduates would lessen were foot-ball forbidden. Nature will exact her tribute in physical injuries for her bestowal of surplus energy upon the young…
Football is only brutal when players lose their temper, strike with their fists or try to injure an opponent by jumping upon him with their feet or knees. It is seldom that a game is played that slugging does not occur. I do not remember to have ever seen a contest that some of the players did not slug and that others were not slugged.
One who sees for the first time a mass-play in a great game, with a pyramid of struggling bodies; or hears the thump as a man is thrown upon the ground by a hard tackle; or notes the bloody faces and sometimes bloody jackets of the contestants is very apt to be impressed with the idea that some one must soon be desperately injured or killed, an opinion which grows in strength as he sees man after man assisted or carried from the field, while a substitute steps into his place.
…We do not mean to deny the existence of physical danger, but we believe it possible to minimize it and yet retain all the most useful features of the game, and we are urgent for such a revision of rules as shall bring this to pass.
…When it is remembered that large sums for the maintenance of athletics are yearly contributed by the students themselves, and probably still larger sums by alumni and other persons outside of the immediate college circles; and that, notwithstanding this, many, if not most, of the athletic departments are chronically and sometimes hopelessly in debt, it will be seen that whilst the gate receipts are undoubtedly important to the athletic interests of the institutions involved, they cannot be of direct importance to the players, and that there are many avenues for their honest use.
The more serious charge that men are bought or bribed to come to certain colleges for the purpose primarily of playing football is one that has been made in reference to other college sports. The temptations in this direction undoubtedly increase with the apparent importance of the game to the university playing it and with the honors and rewards attendant upon success; but we are sure that other college sports have in the past been far more open to this criticism than has football.
…We believe that it is better for the people of North America to cultivate rather than repress this sudden growth of national sport. To cultivate is to prune, and we are among those who ask earnestly, not only for the suppression of rough and foul play, but for such modification of the rules as shall lessen the danger to life and limb.
I knew also a member of a foot-ball team in one of our colleges who was obliged to give up all study for a year or more, and whose head was not then performing its functions properly.
…That vast crowd of forty thousand people in New York on that beautiful November day—an orderly, well-dressed, even cultivated and intellectual mass of humanity, in great measure composed of brave young men and beautiful young girls—were not there to gloat over an injury done the boys who were their brothers, their friends, or perhaps their lovers.
…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…What does this imply? A wild extravagance in athletic outfits, in traveling with special cars and stopping at expensive hotels, in hiring trainers,—an extravagance which communicates itself to the smaller colleges and leads them dishonestly to contract bills for athletic supplies which they can never pay. Public opinion demands that there shall be an end to this.
It is unquestionably true that the rush line affords the greatest temptation to brutality and viciousness in modern life; and also that “kneeing,” slugging, and the other species of foul play, are all too frequent. But the bursts of indignation with which these are decried in periodicals most zealously devoted to sports, show that they are the exceptions which prove the rule of humanity and fair play.
To men trained in football, and to those intimate with the game, it is questionless a contest of courage, strength, and skill, in which blood and bruises are trivial though unpleasant details; but to the masses who witness but one game a year—on Thanksgiving—the case is perhaps different The fact that the reporters dwell upon and expand the bloody details is fair evidence that to the layman the game is something like a gladiatorial show. Beyond doubt it may degrade an ignorant or brutal mind.
…The events of the Civil War showed that the men of best morals were the best fighters; and it is probable that the man who has sufficient courage, generosity and self-control to make a first-rate football player will be also a man of good morals. …
Deaths certainly do not escape notice, and the total number of deaths ascribed to football in the years 1890, 1891, and 1892 was 23, 22, and 26 respectively, while 154 broken limbs and 212 minor accidents, some of them very minor, were reported in the same period. It is impossible to form any approximate estimate of the number of people who play, and, therefore, of the precise danger of the game. But we may safely assert that football kills a less proportion annually than one in 50,000 of those who play at all, and that less than one in 7,000 breaks a limb.
Mr. Walter Camp, the great American authority on the game, will explain. “When,” he says, “a half dozen good, solid fellows get in motion, and concentrate their force and weight, running at full speed, against one, two, or three men who are able to get under but partial headway, and who are obliged also to look for the man with the ball coming behind this mass, the shock is pretty severe, and, repeatedly practiced, will use up even the stoutest and pluckiest.”
The “flying wedge,” the rough tackling after a punt, and several other plays that are dangerous to life and limb, will, it is thought, be barred altogether in the future.
Walter Camp: “It is hard to speak for the future of the game,” he said, “as to what rules should be altered and to what extent those alterations should go to insure a continuance of popularity for the game and the prevention of evils that at present are but tendencies…”
“The great cry to-day is to do away with the flying wedge, but to defer that question for the present, and speak seriously, there are two things I would like to see done. The first is to have the man making a fair catch protected… Let any man trying for a fair catch hold up his arm. As soon as he does, let it be taken to mean that he is trying for a fair catch and a guarantee that he will not run with the ball…
“The second point to be gained is to reduce the playing time to two half hours. The result would not be materially affected, and the strain on the men would be less…
“…The Hon. Charles Francis Adams expressed the conviction that football was a valuable means of building up character, a more potent influence in forming great nations and peoples than genius. He held that even death on the play ground was cheap if it educated boys in those characteristics that had made the Anglo-Saxon race pre-eminent in history.”
1894: Walter Camp:
Fifteen years ago, when some of the American colleges were endeavoring against great odds to establish the sport of foot-ball, I undertook the then extremely unpleasant task of begging for space in daily papers, weekly periodicals, and magazines in which to exploit the advantages of the sport… During the last two or three years it has become over-popular with the public, and this craze has led it to assume an importance and prominence wholly unsought, and has afforded a pretext for a new arraignment.
…A dozen years ago it was commonly remarked to the college foot-ball managers by their friends, the public, “Why do you have the game on Thanksgiving day, when everybody is engaged with family dinners or family reunions? If you must have it on Thanksgiving day, at any rate have it in the morning, and then you’ll have a crowd; but you will never get New Yorkers to give up their Thanksgiving dinner for a foot-ball game. To this the college managers replied that they did not care for a crowd, and they would not be induced to change the day or hour of this match, because, they said, “Our own fellows have this holiday, and can come to the game.” To-day the very same advisers are crying out against Thanksgiving day, accusing the college managers of selecting that day in order to make more money. The fact is that the colleges alone have been consistent. They began by selecting Thanksgiving day because it was a holiday, and their men could therefore see the contest. They selected New York or its vicinity as the place par excellence for a neutral ground and a fair field.
The gate receipts amount to a large sum. Are they too large? That must depend entirely upon the object to which they are devoted. Of course not one cent goes to the players. They are neither richer nor poorer for their connection with the team. The money goes to pay for improvements in the gymnasiums or the athletic fields, or for the erection of suitable houses upon these fields.
Walter Camp has undertaken to gather statistics of injuries, fatal and slight, received at football in this country since the introduction of the game. He has just sent out the following letter to all the old American players: …The questions asked were; “In order to arrive at conclusions regarding American intercollegiate football, will you kindly mail answer to the following questions? Will you add also as much of a statement as you feel disposed and have time to give as to your present occupation and your opinion of the good and bad effects traceable to the sport, both in your own case and in that of others whom you know?
“How many years did you play?
“What was the most serious injury you received?
“Was that injury permanent?
“Was it received in a match or in practice?
“Had you been properly trained?”
Mr. Camp’s efforts were undertaken in the interests of the proposed reform, on which it will have an important bearing.
The work of reform in football which is at present coming to a head does not appear so simple as the correspondents of the press seemed to think during the height of the season. Every proposed change has already been found to involve a dilemma scarcely less excruciating than the present situation. …[T]o the average enthusiast, means the abolition of mass and momentum plays and the opening up of the action by favoring long passes, double passes, punting and end plays.
Not only expert testimony, but the catalogue of injuries during the past season attests that the more open the game the more actually injurious to the player, though it is perhaps less brutalizing to the spectator; and conversely, the more huddled the plays the safer for the players, though perhaps the more aesthetically disgusting to the spectator.
Accordingly, if the reformer legislates in favor of the lively and interesting game, he jeopardizes the player, and if he legislates in favor of the safer mass plays he not only shocks the spectator’s sensibilities, but bores him with repeated slow plays.
Obviously, the only remedy is a compromise which will establish a correct balance between the safer but stupid mass plays and the dangerous but exciting open plays.
“…[B]esides their effectiveness when properly employed, the momentum plays do more to extend the field of strategy than any other recently introduced element. Mr. Deland’s article referred to above also very aptly suggests the wherefore of this: “From one line-up four or five different plays may eventuate, each having a different outlet, a different runner, and differing interference; such a series may be played through without intervening signals, or any one of the plays may be called out at will.” This of course places great premium upon new and even hazardous combinations, clever ruses, and in general upon eternal presence of mind. Such qualities in a player are precisely those which in a general turn defeat into victory.
Football has become a fad, and the desire to win a veritable mania. So much so in fact, that for the one end—victory—the players are driven day in and day out, until overwork defeats the very purpose of their training.
The rules of football may be so changed as to necessitate a proper and expedient balance between open and close plays; but the excesses to which the game has been prone are to be removed only by eliminating the greedy and childish desire to humble an enemy at any cost.
1894 by Lorin F. Deland, inventor of the Flying Wedge:
The writer would add that a number of injuries have come to his knowledge in which the player was not even touched by an opponent, but received his injury in the act of dodging, of recovering a muffed ball, or (in one case) of instructing a novice in the details of his position.
…The suggested legislation designed to prevent flying interference is that no player (if his side has the ball) shall be permitted to start before the ball is put in play.
1894 by Post editor Godkin:
We are glad that the Harvard Overseers have appointed a committee to investigate the game of football in its various aspects. We are also glad to learn that there is to be this winter a convention of the deities of the football world, to revise the rules, and probably abolish the “flying wedge” and other dangerous features of the present game. So far so good. But we would respectfully ask the college faculties whether they propose this winter to take any action looking to the reform of the game, and indeed all college games, on the moral side.
We refer them to some paragraphs in Harper’s Weekly on Phillips Exeter Academy, which show the effect that the inordinate attention given to athletics in college is having on young boys in the preparatory schools. How many of them who have the size and weight qualifying to row or play football now think of the college to which they are going as a seat of learning? The practice, on the part of the athletic element in the colleges, of seeking them out, and bribing them by offers of a free education to come to one college rather than another, has become unhappily common, and has ceased to seem discreditable; that is, very young boys are invited to become professionals, and to take what is in reality a salary for acting as football players in the guise of students.
That the faculties play into the hands of these debauchers of youth by being easy with these young professionals in examinations and recitations is at least generally believed. Can nothing be done to suppress or make disgraceful this abuse of allowing professional athletes to haunt the college buildings as sham students? … We are informed on good authority that Yale spent last year about $47,000 on athletics, and the team went to Springfield the other day with three drawing-room cars and fifty men as substitutes, doctors, trainers, rubbers, and cooks. The receipts from the gate-money in New York cannot have fallen far short of $50,000. It was earned by exhibiting feats of strength and agility by scholars and gentlemen before an enormous city crowd, in which the gambling fraternity and the prostitutes were very prominent.
Rule 30…As soon as a runner attempting to go through is tackled and goes down, the referee shall blow his whistle and the ball shall be considered down at that spot. Any piling up on a man after that shall be punished by giving him fifteen yards…
1894 by Walter Camp:
In the history of athletic sports there has probably never been…such a thorough research into the benefits or evils accompanying any sport as one that has been going on since December, 1893, into the modern American Rugby football.
The following are the questions which were sent out with the various letters:
TO COLLEGE PLAYERS
First – How many years, both in school and college, did you play football?
Second – What was the most serious injury you ever received on the field?
Third – Was it permanent?
Fourth – Was it received in practice, or in a game?
Fifth – Did you consider yourself in good condition at the time?
Sixth – Do you consider the general effect of the sport on you, physically and mentally, good or bad?
TO THE SCHOOLS
First – How many years have you played?
Second – What was the most serious injury you ever received on the field?
Third – Was it permanent?
Fourth – Was it received in practice or in a game?
TO THE SCHOOL FACULTY
First – Do you consider the general effect of the sport upon the boys, physically and mentally, good or bad?
Second – Do you consider the general effect of the sport upon your school, good or bad? (a.) In point of scholarship? (b.) In point of discipline? (c.) In point of physical development?
Letters were also sent to the captains of the Yale, Harvard and Princeton teams of the last eighteen years, requesting that they should state how many men were injured in the match games of their particular years, as well as the extent of each injury. Further, they were asked to state all the injuries that had ever come under their notice, in connection with football.
The promises of temperance in football are not being fulfilled by the present season. Either alumni are not sincere in their protestations, or they have overestimated their influence with the student body.
In any event, the undergraduate has just about reached the end of his tether in athletic management. Not that he is incapable, so far as actual handling of events go, but he is too partisan, and the gate receipts appear to be too alluring for him to resist the temptation of going where the most is to be made, regardless of other more weighty considerations.
If ever there was a time when the amateur sport of our universities needed the strong backing up of the alumni, the day and hour is at hand. If college sport, and football in particular, is to maintain a healthful, thoroughly wholesome existence, the cupidity of managers, the excessive training of players, the indifference of faculties and graduates, must be corrected.
It is well enough for prominent alumni to write articles on the benefits of the game, or be represented in reportorial interviews as condemning certain doings of the undergraduates, but what the situation needs are more active work at the source of all trouble, and less writing and talking about what ought to be.
…It was a timely moment for the older heads to look into the future a bit, and see to what the present course was bringing college sport. But no one did—at least no one spoke, whatever he may have seen.
1894 by Walter Camp:
The new football rules have already been in operation several weeks, and there has been more or less discussion as to their final result upon the players in the matter of physical injuries.
…It is neither hoped nor expected, even by the most sanguine, that football will ever be made a game free from accident.
It is a rough sport, and not suited to any but sound men and boys. But for such it is a capital exercise, and when carefully watched from year to year the rules can be kept in such a state as to reduce the dangers to a minimum. Nor should players and their sympathizers feel irritated at the occasional criticisms, which are really of advantage.
“The spectator sees most of the game,” and perhaps the crusades, both in England and this country, against certain sports have been the best means of suggesting to their adherents the points upon which reform was necessary.
…The first point at which this development commenced was at kick-off.
This was brought about by the change in the rules, which substituted an actual kick for the running mass of players. If this kick were a long one and went well down the field, the half-back or full-back who obtained the ball was called upon to run it in and return it or have it down. The field was what is known as a “well-broken up” one, and gave opportunities for individual running. This at once brought back the use of the arm, and the mere fact of always starting the game in this way led the runners to appreciate the advantages of the defending hand in many other situations.
Still another excellent point about this play of kicking the ball off at the start is the avoidance of what last season resulted many times in injuries—namely, the meeting of the flying mass of runners by an equally heavy set of men coming in the opposite direction, and that, too, at great speed. The interference for the half-back or back in the return will never be as close and compact as was the original flying wedge.
There is a period of uncertainty while the ball at kick-off is in the air, and before the halfback or full-back has succeeded in securing it, which is almost as full of expectation as the moment before the old-fashioned flying wedge started. But the prettiest sight of all is the run of this man after he secures the ball; and although many of the teams are not yet very far advanced in the perfection of an interference for the runner, before the season ends there will be some very pretty plays of this nature. Everyone is trying new formations on it, and those that are the most original are the ones where the principle of a small wedge is put into operation.
Of course professional football has failed. It was bound to be a failure from the start. No professional is going to take any chances of having his skull crushed, and what is modern football if the element of extreme danger is eliminated?
In his desire to win the applause of a certain class of spectators who applaud brutality, in his zeal to win the game by any means, in his readiness to resent some supposed or real affront, he so loses control of himself that he performs some deed of violence which in after-years, as he thinks it over, will bring a blush of shame to his face. Looking over the reports of the games, there is scarcely one to be found which does not contain, either in the rulings of the umpire or the running account of the game, some evidence of foul play.
…Some day in the near future, when a player falls never to get up again, because his opponent in the heat of the contest has struck a little harder than he intended, you will seize the opportunity to say, “No more football.”
1894 (about the book Facts & Figures):
Mr. Camp and his associates made their inquiries among physicians attached to schools and colleges, among the members of Faculties and head masters, and among the players themselves.
The result is a sweeping and convincing refutation of the charges made, chiefly by sensational newspapers, and cherished by frightened mothers. The percentage of permanent injuries is so small that it is a question whether any other active outdoor sport can show so enviable a record.
…No doubt many fathers and mothers will be disposed to discount the statements of ex-players, even though some of them have had ten years for reflection; but they can hardly gainsay the records produced by men like Dr. Loveland, who finds that 20 percent of the players of ten years received permanent injuries, and that 11 per cent of these were of the importance of an enlarged finger or a broken nose.
1894: An Insane Centre Rush:
Barney Foote, a student at the Fairfield Seminary, seven miles from this village, was taken violently insane Sunday night, the result of an injury in a football game. The faculty of the school have done everything possible to prevent the matter becoming public. Foote was centre rush for the seminary eleven, and was a good player. On Saturday the team played at Fort Plain against the strong team of the Clinton Liberal Institute.
An injury to the head which Foote then received seemed so slight that nothing was thought of it at the time.
On Sunday night Foote arose and dressed himself in his football suit. He grabbed his roommate and threw him violently to the floor. The latter, perceiving that he had to do with a maniac, cried for help. Before assistance came Foote jumped upon him in a merciless manner.
Several students rushed into the room and Foote grabbed his valise and threw it at their leader, saying: “Now catch the ball and go around the end.” The student was knocked down. The maniac then grabbed a water pitcher and an oil-can and held the other students at bay.
They were greatly frightened and made for their rooms and locked the doors. One student who was in the hallway was pursued by Foote, and to escape him jumped from a second-story window thirty feet to the ground, hurting his kneepan. Foote amused himself until daylight by lining up against the doors, and, with his valise for the football, rushing and knocking them from their hinges. He guarded the stairs, and would not let any one near him.
Finally the football team lined up in the yard below, and Foote, seeing them, went down and took his place as centre. Then a constable grabbed him from behind and bound him. His parents came from their home at Deansville Madison County, N.Y., and took him to the Utica Insane Asylum.
1894: A Boy Dies of Football Injuries:
Daniel McTiernan, aged 14, while playing football yesterday, was fallen upon by one of his companions. He went home feeling dizzy. When his father went to call him this morning he was dead.
Charlie Brewer, Harvard’s great hope, was stretched helpless on the ground. He tried to rise, fell upon his knees, and then flat upon his face. Three men helped to carry him off. All the time he was crying openly, begging the doctor to let him return. Even after he was wrapped in a blanket, he would not keep quiet, but crawled on his hands and knees along the side lines as the play moved up and down the field.
He was the first victim of the fiercest game ever played. Both Yale and Harvard tackled like demons, slamming the men down with wicked desperation.
…With white, set face and hair matted over a pallid forehead, Murphy was borne away tenderly on a stretcher, quite senseless…
…Hallowell staggered up with a broken nose. He adjusted a borrowed protector over the injured feature and continued to play. Shortly after he was thrown heavily. When they lifted him up he was so dazed that he could neither speak nor walk. Two coaches put their arms about him to help him off. The plucky fellow tried to take his limp arms from around their necks and to stagger back into the game. When he found himself too weak he burst into tears.
Frederick T. Murphy, the Yale football player who was knocked insensible in the game against Harvard yesterday, returned to this city to-night in good condition. He alighted from a cab about 9 o’clock to-night on the college campus and walked to his room as unconcernedly as if his name had not been spoken by more mouths than any other person in America within the last twenty-four hours. He will suffer no permanent effect whatever from the encounter with Mackie’s boot and will play with Yale in the annual game with Princeton at New-York next Saturday. Murphy’s body bears no visible marks of the desperate conflict from which he was taken unconscious, and he himself laughs at his experience, terming it trifling in the extreme.
Walter Blackburn, 19 years old, received injuries in a football game which caused his death. While “interfering” with another player Blackburn was thrown heavily to the ground and five or six of the players fell on him. When he was extricated he was paralyzed from the neck down, and a surgical examination disclosed the fact that the spinal column had been fractured. Blackburn lived but two hours.
…We would ask those parents who are deluded by this talk of the great training of the young, whether there can be moral training in any game in which ruffianism has to be checked by rules which cannot possibly be enforced, and whether, in any case, any parent does right in risking his son’s life, or limb, or worldly career, in order to promote the manliness of other young men.
To be asked to expose one’s son to a broken spine, or a dislocated hip, or an injured brain, in order that nine or ten other young fellows may once a year have some invigorating sport is carrying the sacrifice too far…
The gentle game of football as she is now played beats West Point all hollow as a discipline for real fighting warriors weltering in their gore. The report of no game is complete without a list of the legs, fingers and collar bones broken and the winds knocked out. The great Harvard-Yale game last week was more bloody than some battles history makes much of.
The Yale and Harvard football teams played (?) at Springfield, Mass., last Saturday a match game which was little short of a free fight. Of the twenty-two men engaged, six were taken off the field injured, and the Associated Press reporter felt impelled to say that “the great feature of the game was what may be fairly called its brutality.” One of the players lay for seven minutes on the field unconscious.
Now in that spirit of democracy which teaches us that the world is already governed too much, we should say that such affairs as this are primarily and largely if not entirely the business of parents and guardians and of the college authorities who have these young men in charge, but it is only truth to say that, excepting the bullfights of Mexico and Cuba, there has been no sport quite so brutal as football, as it is played today, since the tourneys of the Middle Ages and the gladiatorial contests which delighted the elite of ancient Rome.
For example, The Yale News proposes a demonstration in honor of Mr. F. Hinkey of the Yale team by way of a “vindication and endorsement,” because he has been “unjustly abused by the press.” So far as we have remarked, the abuse of the press has consisted in statements that Hinkey last week with force and arms jumped upon an inoffensive citizen named Wrightington, inoffensive except that he was in lawful possession of a football, and continued to jump upon Wrightington till Wrightington’s collar bone was broken.
Thereupon the scurrilous part of the press suggested that Hinkey ought to be in jail for assault and battery. Whether he is to be vindicated and endorsed upon the ground that he did not jump upon Wrightington, or upon the ground that jumping upon a Harvard man is not a legal offense, does not appear; but it ought to be made to appear.
Meanwhile, if Hinkey appears on the field to-day, we have a better guarantee against his excesses than appears to be afforded by the sense of decency or of fair play at Hinkey’s university. Superintendent Byrnes announces that he will have some officers on the field, and that if any players engage in mayhem, assault and battery, or disorderly conduct, they will be promptly arrested and locked up, even if these legal offenses be not offenses at all according to the code of the newer football. This precaution is likely to insure a game so quiet and gentlemanlike that Hinkey, John L. Sullivan, and Jack the Ripper will find it mawkish, and that a well-regulated kinetoscope would disdain to record it.
After all the discussion and revision of last winter, we are forced to admit, at the end of a season’s play under the new rules, that no attempt at improvement means any appreciable difference in the frequency of bodily injuries, accidental or otherwise, so long as the spirit with which players go into the game remains unchanged.
Football statutes do not differ a whit from legislation generally. However stringent the code and severe the penalties, their enforcement depends upon public opinion; and what Mr. Lincoln remarked about the evils of slavery is equally applicable to the brutalities of sport. So long as the general public applauds a winning team, no matter how brutally they play the game, and even when the victory is won at the price of brutality, for just so long will rough and brutal play be at a premium.
…The public which to-day cries out with disgust at the sight of a Wrightington lying prone with a broken collar-bone, and a Murphy borne off senseless on a stretcher, has itself to blame for the spectacle; for these scenes are only the outward evidence of the underlying spirit which a senseless and indiscriminate laudation of victory, won at the cost of honor and decency, has created and fostered.
…Bad blood and the temptation to rough and brutal play on the football field seem to be generated in the line.
…When the ball goes sailing down the field, is it the kick itself which is the great achievement, and does the interest reach its pitch when it is seen that a long drive has been accomplished?
Or is it the fact that the climax comes only when the ball reaches the opposing full-back, as he stands or runs with face and arms uplifted, and as the rival ends come thundering down upon him, while twenty thousand hearts leap into twenty thousand throats, and he knows that forty-thousand eyes are on him at the crucial instant, when a muff may mean a touch-down, possibly the loss of the game? Is not that the supreme moment of the play?
And should not the man who meets it and makes the catch, in spite of thundering forwards and roaring masses, win for his side something more than the mere right to a free kick, which, too, he must claim by an awkward signal just before he attempts the catch?
…But then there ought to be some premium, and a high one, on the difficult feat of taking a twisting oval on the fly. It might work well to minimize the now too great chances of scoring on a “fluke,” when a dropped punt so often means a touch-down for the other side, by providing for the surrender of the ball, if muffed, at the point where the catch is attempted and fails.
It was an exceedingly unpleasant game to the spectators generally, and made every sportsman on the ground fearful for the future of football.
Personally, for the first time in my life, I felt, as I sat on the sidelines, that better no football than a game between our two leading university elevens which should be made the vehicle of pent-up venom turned loose.
This department has warned alumni of an approaching crisis in the game’s career; it has begged them to come forward to the rescue before parents and faculties published their veto.
Thus far we have warned and begged in vain.
We have heard no end of coincident opinion privately expressed, but nothing has been done to correct what every level-headed college-man knows must be corrected promptly, or one of the grandest games ever played will fall into disgrace.
…The trouble is not all with the players themselves. There are exceptions where men are by nature vicious players—like Hinkey, for instance—but more often the tendency is cultivated by the coaches, who damn a man up hill and down dale because he does not play hard enough, and instruct him to go in and “smash” his opponent.
That is where the seeds of slugging are sown; and yet these same coaches lift up their voices in loud lamentation if their men get the worst of the slugging, and cannot find adjectives strong enough to describe the brutality of the other side.
I have no patience with all this hyper-critical rot, all these philanthropic protestations, that are labeled for public use only, and these college alumni that prate the clean sport in the meeting-room and post off to the alma mater to incite tendencies in their eleven that are unsportsmanlike and cowardly.
…I have no patience with all this hyper-critical rot, all these philanthropic protestations, that are labeled for public use only, and these college alumni that prate the clean sport in the meeting-room and post off to the alma mater to incite tendencies in their eleven that are unsportsmanlike and cowardly.
We all know that football is not a gentle game; nor would we have it so. It is its rugged vigor that gives the boy the knocks that do him a great deal more good than harm.
We do not mind the clean hard play, but the vicious spirit with which players are inspired to “do their men up” we declare disgracefully unmanly.
…The most popular method of “doing up” the opponent is by kicking him in the head or jumping on his back with the knees when he is down.
…It is too bad indeed that there should have been anything to so severely criticize in Saturday’s game, for from a football stand-point it was one of the grandest contests we have ever had on the gridiron field.
…Captain Hinkey’s play was really remarkable. It is a shame so good a player should be so vicious a one. He made a couple of bad fumbles of a catch when he had gone in at half-back, but he was everywhere, and put up a notably strong defensive game….
Brutality is by no means an essential of football play; it is entirely a quality of personal instinct. Almost any game, certainly every vigorous one, may be made the conveyance of brutal tendencies. It merely happens that football gives a better opportunity for the display of viciousness than any other modern game, because a larger number of men are brought into contact, and because it is naturally hardier and calls for greater and more prolonged physical energy.
…History repeats itself in sport, as well as in the affairs of the world. It is positively useless to look for the expulsion of a game that has from time out of mind held so firm a place in the affections of a race so hardy as the Anglo-Saxon. Football has thrived as far back as we can get any record of it, and rest assured it will continue to thrive until our race has become emasculated. Nor need we search ancient history for the lesson; it has been given in very recent years with much emphasis.
…Because football discloses an occasional brute, or offers another field of operation for the dishonest, must it be abolished? Our little topsy-turvy planet teems with deceit and viciousness, with betrayed trusts and shattered hopes; shall we then expect to find nothing of sordidness in football, baseball, cricket, where the true nature of the boy reveals itself ere disguised by the worldly mask he assumes later? Is human nature cast in one mould for its games of play and in another for its games of life?
Until man is born again there will be dishonesty in every field of his endeavor, whether it be of sport or trade. Our only salvation is the inculcation of proper sentiments in the nursery of each, the framing of adequate rules, and the swift punishment of transgressors.
Unnecessary roughness in football is a matter that has had the almost continuous attention of the game’s legislators. That they have not entirely kept pace with the requirements of the day is simply because the extraordinarily rapid spread of the sport throughout the land and development of play have brought into the game thousands where formerly there were hundreds of participants, and created situations each season of the last three that required especial handling.
…Any faculty member or any Eastern alumnus thirty-five years of age, who has made a study of this matter, will bear me out when I assert that the general morale of the undergraduate body has been materially elevated since athletics became a recognized part of college life. Dissipation is neither of so frequent occurrence nor so general as it was fifteen to twenty years ago; the animal spirits that then found vent in orgies of greater or less degree are now more often exploded on the football or baseball field or the running track.
A large share of the tribute once paid to Bacchus now goes to Hercules.
1894 by Rev. Madison C. Peters, pastor:
“When every ninth man in America is a drunkard, every seventh person is an opium fiend, every fifth woman is a victim of hysteria, every fourth man is a slave of the tobacco habit, and women are old at forty, and men gray and worn at fifty, and when nearly everybody is inhumanly careless of the laws of life and health, it is high time to preach the gospel of good health, and cry out against the prevailingly wicked and suicidal practices of New-York society. It is a sin to die when we ought to begin to live.
“We work ten or twelve hours a day, spend six hours a night at the club or party, awake half-asleep, with splitting headaches and shattered nerves, and to keep up this feverish and unnatural life, our men and women resort to an alarming use of stimulants. The daily record of those who died from overwork and lack of rest is something appalling.
“We go to extremes in everything: we make hard work out of our holidays, and we are always glad to get home to rest from the dissipations of our recreations. The ball game, which a few years ago promised to do so much for the physical manhood for the overworked, has been speedily degraded into a craze, so that the game as now conducted has become the great national nuisance.
“Every sensible man commends a moderate use of games and sport after a hard day of toil, but have we not gone to extremes in our play? We spend so much time and money on our sports that the question rises, whither is this tendency leading?”
One of the most noticeable and of course natural results of the tremendous progress that has been made in football science of the past few years is the development of the high-class players. A few years back an extraordinarily good player stood out so prominently that the effulgence of his star was not lessened by even the approach of others.
Thus we often hear to-day men cited who, while they were undoubtedly strong and did great work in their time, would be rather outclassed by the most skilled exponents of modern football.
…There are probably a few men whose work, as we recall it, would seem impossible to better in point of brilliancy and efficacy; and yet if we carefully consider the quality of those whom they met, and the difference in play then and now, we must come to the conclusion that the science of football to-day is greatly superior to what it was two or three years ago.
It is very common in the reminiscing of football men to allude to such and such a man as having been “the best that ever wore a canvas jacket”; but memories are always prone to ignore conditions and inclined to glorify individuals.
Thus it is common to refer to the contemporaries of our own college days as being altogether a superior class of fellows; there is always a tendency to refer to the “good old days” as being the ones that contained the best of everything going.
…Every college man whose memory extends over the last ten years realizes that the quality of football five years ago was very much inferior to that of to-day, and the slugging has decreased as the game has improved.
Brutality in football, as in any other game in which animal strength is a potent factor, depends upon the personality of the player and his proneness to lose his temper or ability to control it. The elimination of brutality rests wholly with the individual. Laws may be enacted that will make an exhibition of brutality punishable by disgrace, and this possibility of disgrace may serve to make hot-tempered men control themselves.
The mere fact that there is no one thing that a player so dreads as to be taken out of a game may indicate a means of the prevention of brutality in the future.
…Football as a college sport is bound to live.
1895: Harvard University President Eliot:
What is called the development of the game has steadily increased its risks, until they have become unjustifiable. Naturally the public is losing faith in the sincerity of the professed desire of coaches, Captains, and promoters to reform it….
The state of mind of the spectators at a hard-fought football match at Springfield, New York, or Philadelphia cannot but suggest the query how far these assemblages differ at heart from the throngs which enjoyed the prize fight, cock fight, or bull fight, or which, in other centuries, delighted in the sports of the Roman arena. Several fatal accidents have happened this year to schoolboys and college students on the football field; and in every strenuous game now played, whether for practice or in an intercollegiate or other competition, there is the ever-present liability of death on the field.
George D. Bahen, the football player of the Georgetown University of Washington, D.C., who was injured last Thanksgiving day in a game between the University and the Columbia Athletic Club, died shortly before noon to-day at the Emergency Hospital, in this city, where he had been receiving medical attendance since the injury.
To avoid the dents made by the battering ram game, new inventions of defense have come into use, until the modern football player resembles a medieval knight. Shin and nose guards, shoulder pads and headgear, cushions, extra padding and long hair have made friends unrecognizable. You know they are on the field, but to single them out is well nigh impossible.
1896 by Walter Camp:
What we do wish is to make the play more open. Not because close play is more fruitful of injury, nor because it is not scientific, but because it rather makes of mere brute force an ascendant quality, and tends to the introduction of plays that show too wide a discrepancy between mind and matter.
It is not well for the future of football that its development should be along only the strength-requiring lines. Much physical effort is needful in all the plays of football, but a close adherence to wedges, turtle-backs, and other mass plays would soon destroy the traditions of the game and the interest of the spectators. And it is well to bear this in mind.
…Rather than to go further in the prohibition of close plays, it seems to me the advisable course of legislation lies in suggesting rules that will make close plays less valuable to the side using them. Experience has taught us that a close play at its uttermost perfection is more often than not sure to gain the requisite five yards in four downs. It may be argued that a team which attains such a skilful development in this direction is entitled to the reward, and in a general way this is of course true. But that brings us back to the point from which we started, and from which we wish to diverge. Given two teams of equal physical strength using mass plays, and the game would resolve itself into a pushing-match.
The only apparent solution appears to be through increasing the number of yards that must, in order to retain possession of the ball, be gained in four downs. It is not probable that greater skill in close plays will be developed than has already been shown, so we are safe in taking what has been accomplished in the past as a basis in providing for the future.
If, therefore, it were ruled that a team must gain ten instead of five yards in four downs, we should undoubtedly attain the open game without entirely abolishing close play. Increasing the distance to gain would not, so far as I can see, make the game harder. It would naturally make a faster game, and certainly give us plenty of kicking and some of the old long passing and the criss-crosses.
Instead of depending on close play almost entirely, it would be reserved for a supreme effort when near the opponents’ goal, or tried for a down, or perhaps for even two, on first possession of the ball; but a kick or some brilliant open play would beyond doubt be necessary to making the required ten yards. Besides, it would relieve the present wear and tear on the men in a hard match.
1897 by Harry Beecher:
Football has been maligned. Its enemies have grouped themselves under the banner of brutality. It does not seem to be necessary that their arguments withstand the test of logic, or that their motives are purely unselfish. Football must be abolished is their war cry. The bad points of the game have been brought out, while the good points have been passed over without mention. As an old football player I demand a fair discussion of the subject. I do not contend that the game is perfect, that it is a sport which should win every youth to its standard, but I do protest against its unfair treatment by means of unlogical statements.
Any fair-minded man will acknowledge that every discussion should be entered into with coolness and reason, and not under the heat of combative prejudice. In tracing the history of football from its origin it is not difficult to separate its faults and good qualities as represented by the play of to-day. Football has been over-scienced; the brain work has far outrun its physical development; plays are attempted which are perhaps too onerous for the human frame to stand.
That much I will admit, but no more. Abolish the mass plays, should be the war-cry of every true enthusiast over the sport. They are the causes of the bitter attacks, and give a certain sense of reasoning to the arguments of its enemies.
“The dead people and the extraordinary mutilation” that is continually fed to the public is no doubt due to the severe strain of these plays. It cannot be well disputed that one human being can withstand the physical attack of six opponents without the danger of injury…My aim, however, is to make football as far as possible a perfect school; to bring out the best physical growth for young men, and educate them in all the manly traits that they must meet in after life. There is no game in the world that so evenly prepares every muscle to its fullest limit, that brings out such a restraint of temper, or that cultivates the manly instincts of Americans as football.
…Gen. Grant could afford to go on the principle of losing many men to accomplish his purpose and to make a battering ram out of his armies without thought of casualties. Football cannot afford to Grant it.
War is a necessity; football is supposed to be a pleasure. Perhaps football suffers in somewhat the same way as business does in America. It is a characteristic of we Americans to overdo things; we can truthfully acknowledge this ourselves. We are prone to rush to extremes and to forget to study the future from the past. We look only at the present, and the desire to be successful is so wrapt up in our character that we overlook important features that may upset us in the end. I have no doubt that football legislators when they introduced the close or mass game intended to benefit the sport; their innovations have certainly received a fair trial, and I’m sure the public will agree in the statement that they are a failure.
…They say football is dangerous, they bring up long lists of dead and wounded, they picture to the public the terrible results to the youths who enter into its play.
I have played football myself for eight years, have been mixed up in numerous scrimmages, not a few tackles, and some falls.
I am still alive; I have received no serious injuries, and from factual experience I consider football a splendid American game.
It must be acknowledged that the sport is rough.
No young man should enter into it who is sickly, or who has not had the proper preparation.
…The question can be fairly put, I think, by bringing it down to the point of whether you would want your own son to enter into the sport, should you have one. Life itself is not an easy game; it is full of hard knocks, and experiences and bitter disappointments.
Is it wise therefore to surround a young man with plush and velvet, so to speak—to tell him, “Don’t do that, you might get hurt,” and to guard him in every direction during his youth against possible dangers? I say it is better to give him experience, to let him meet the world as early as possible, to receive a few hard knocks, that he may be able to know how to withstand them later on. There is no better training in this direction than football.
With the tragic ending of young Von Gammon’s life on the football field Saturday afternoon came the death knell of football in Georgia. Shocked inexpressibly by the untimely death of this manly young student and popular athlete, the Georgia legislature is determined now to put a law on the statute books prohibiting this most popular of all latter day college games…
Mrs. Gammon writes as follows: “…It would be the greatest favor to the family of Von Gammon if your influence could prevent his death from being used as an argument detrimental to the athletic cause and its advancement at the University. His love for his college and his interest in all manly sports, without which he deemed the highest type of manhood impossible, is well known by his classmates and friends, and it would be inexpressibly sad to have the cause he held so dear injured by his sacrifice. Grant me the right to request that my boy’s death should not be used to defeat the most cherished object of his life…”
It is the dead man’s own mother who has induced the Governor to veto the bill. Mrs. Gammon in her petition says that football was her son’s favorite game and that if he could be consulted he would join in the request of his fellow-students for the veto of the bill. In her letter, this heroic mother calls the Governor’s attention to the fact that two of her son’s school-mates have recently met accidental deaths, one by falling over a precipice and one by falling down stairs. She asks if it be not equally sensible for the Legislature to abolish precipices and stairways on account of these deaths as it is to abolish football because of the death of her son.
The first section of this act makes it unlawful for any person or persons to engage in any prize or match game of football. The second section says it shall be unlawful for any person or persons to come together and play a prize or match game of football in any park or other place in this state where an admission fee is charged for admission to the same. The third provides that each and every person violating the provisions of this act shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $1,000, imprisonment not to exceed six months, to work in the chain-gang or on the public works not to exceed twelve months, any one or more of which penalties may be ordered in the discretion of the judge.
“Football is brutal!”
“Football is not brutal!”
“Football should be prohibited by law!”
“Football should be fostered.”
This is the position of the United States toward football. It is right and it is wrong, according to the viewpoint from which it is studied.
There have been several unfortunate deaths and many accidents, which give the enemies of the game the opportunity to shout aloud “inhuman,” “brutal,” “barbarous” and to rush to City Councils and to Legislatures in a hasty and mistaken effort to entirely suppress a game that has much in it that is good. Prohibitive laws directed against a sport that has won its way into the heart of the nation have never succeeded in suppressing that sport. The law is too severe, and whenever this is the case that law is honored in the breach.
So will it be to-day, as the enemies of football will discover. The game is an excellent game, and is generally recognized as such, though even its most devoted admirers admit that abuses have crept in…
Yesterday Aldermen Plotke introduced in the Chicago Council the following ordinance:
Section 1 – It shall hereafter be unlawful for any person or persons to assemble for the purpose of witnessing or playing, taking part or engaging in the game known as football anywhere within the corporate limits of the city of Chicago.
“I think seven men should be kept on the line, and all mass plays prohibited. Open play should be encouraged. More persons are killed riding a bicycle than are killed playing football.”
On account of a fatal accident one house of the Georgia Legislature has passed a law forbidding football games in that State. A Chicago Alderman has introduced an ordinance providing penalties for persons engaging in football games in that city. Even here in Denver, where one would expect a robust Western sentiment prevailed, there has been an ill-considered demand that football should not be allowed. There is a possibility of going into that sort of paternal government too far. The kind of government that undertakes to regulate what everybody shall say or do…
The opinion of the vast majority is in favor of a change in the rules, but to say that football should be abolished is going too far. Many more persons are killed or injured riding bicycles or driving horses, for that matter, then on the football field, if that be taken as an argument. There is a lot of namby-pamby sentimentality about the lack of gentleness in a football game. Some of the critics presumably would like to see the elevens doing aesthetic posing and drinking chocolate from china cups. But civilization in the last analysis rests on muscle intelligently directed. The strongest nation will pass its rivals. A great general once said that battles were won not by the chiefs of staff or by improved appliances for killing the enemy, but by the feet and legs of the soldiers.
Football as played by American college teams is now the deadliest national sport known in any civilized country.
Spanish bull fighting has been called the most bloody, dangerous and brutal national sport, but a report from Madrid says that in the last year there has been killed in the arena only one matador.
Yet as will be shown by the summary that follows there have been thirteen players actually killed, twenty-three maimed or injured for life and 126 otherwise severely hurt. Besides these there have been reported 135 minor casualties. The record covers the first part of this season and the latter part of last.
The governor of Arkansas in a letter to the president of the State University at Fayetteville strongly condemns the sport as brutal and recommends that there be a stop put altogether to the playing of the game by the students of the university.
At Maysville Saturday, while Woodward was playing the local team, Sammy started around the end with the ball. He had run about fifteen yards when he saw an opposing player coming at him to tackle him. He leaped clear over his opponent, but just as he did so, the other fellow raised up and Tomlinson landed on his face with his feet in the air. All dazed, he kept on playing for two minutes longer, when the first half ended. He then fell unconscious, and so remained until 7 o’clock that evening. His nose, which had been dislocated in practice with University of Cincinnati, was again sprained. His spine was also hurt. The doctor says he can never play football again.
The game was terribly rough, and accidents were so frequent that it was greatly delayed. In this half Tichenor was hurt and retired from the field…Tichenor’s withdrawal from the field was a sad sight. The game little player got two raps on the head, and it was necessary to take him out of the game, but he did not want to go by any means, and when he was led off the field he broke down and wept. His cries and pleadings were of no avail, and he was taken to the side lines and left to weep alone, while the game went on.
While desperately “bucking the line” of an opposing football eleven at Lincoln park yesterday afternoon 16-year-old John O’Brien was buried under a pile of half a dozen opponents and received a kick in the right temple which may prove fatal. The blow knocked him senseless. But as his companions started to carry him to a doctor’s office he partially revived. It required the combined strength of six of his fellow players to hold him. After he had been attended to by a doctor young O’Brien was taken to his home….
The football game between the teams of the East Denver and the West Denver high school students yesterday ended in a riot, in which all the players and a couple of hundred spectators took part. That no one was seriously injured was due to the fact that a dozen policemen were sent to the scene and dispersed the mobs. The game had been characterized from the start by slugging. Several players were displaced, and when fraud was charged against the East Denver team in making a touchdown a free fight was at once started. When the police arrived the East Denver team had barricaded itself in its dressing room, and the mob was making desperate efforts to break in.
Truly a deplorable condition of things when our institutions of learning are turned into arenas where young men delight in torturing each other… I do not wish to be considered as writing from an old-fashioned standard—the standard of the has been, who denounces the bicycle and the ball field simply because it is a modern growth. I am an ardent believer in athletics and have taken part in athletics in my college days… I consider the influence of football to be brutalizing: killing every instinct of humanity and developing only the lower characteristics, those of the prize fighter.
Arkansas Governor Jones: “I think the game of football as now played is a brutal sport, fraught with much danger to those playing it, and altogether out of harmony with a proper educational system. In my opinion, the higher civilization which we profess is entirely inconsistent with the toleration of such a game, and therefore it being expedient to call a meeting of the board of trustees, I deem it my duty to call your attention to this matter and respectfully suggest that you put a stop altogether to the playing of this game by the students of the state university. The best interests of the university, I think, clearly demand this, and I hope you will take this matter at once into serious consideration.”
Nebraska Gov. Holcomb: “I believe in outdoor games and health-producing sports for the American people, and, instead of prohibiting the game by law, it seems to me that the objections raised might better be obviated by a revision of the rules so as to eliminate the rougher part of the play and make it more a game of scientific kicking and running. I understand that some progress in this direction has been already made, and hope it may be continued until the danger of accidents has been all but entirely eliminated.”
The Georgia legislature should by all means at its present session pass a bill to prohibit football matches in this state. The fatal accident in the game between the Virginia and Georgia teams in Atlanta Saturday has aroused a righteous sentiment against this brutal and dangerous game which is overwhelming, and which our lawmakers are bound to respect.
Modern football players believe in protecting their heads. Twelve years ago there were very few “long-haired” experts, but the craze for letting one’s locks grow has become universal, so that a football man with short hair is looked down upon. The rubber nose mask, which covers the mouth as well, and the leather helmet are devices that seem almost indispensable. A helmet that is in use now not only covers the top of the head with a cap of hard leather, but protects the ears with two big muffs made of thick felt, through which are small holes, so that the wearer can hear the instructions of his captain. It is estimated that with all of his football togs on a player can tip the scales at thirty pounds above his actual weight.
The faculty of American colleges find themselves confronted once more with the serious question of what is the proper course to pursue with regard to the game of football as played in this country. Various plans have been suggested to lessen the dangers of the game, and so reduce the number of college casualties during football season, but none seems to be satisfactory… As to the remedy for the known objections in football the directors of our establishments of learning are all at sea. They cry, with uplifted hands; “What is to be done?”
Is football becoming so brutally dangerous as to call for legislative restriction or abolishment? Just as the desire for the superseding of war by arbitration in straightening out international complications had its birth in the grief and tears of the widow and the fatherless, so does the above question owe its origin to those who have seen promising young men cut off in the prime of their youth, or maimed for life by the desperate struggle for football honors. Year after year the list of victims grow, until the matter has at last attracted national attention, and in the absence of laws declaring that young men may not risk life and limb in the gridiron contests, some college authorities are forbidding the students to play football…
The officers of the West Point academy made a strong protest against football. They based their objections to the game on statistics which show that the injuries to the cadets were vastly greater from playing football than from exercising in the gymnasium or riding… The officers gave it as their united opinion that if the dangerous features of the game could not be eliminated it would be better to forbid football altogether in spite of its advantages in some respects. It was pointed out at the same time that the lives of the West Point students were of too much importance to the country to risk them in rough-and-tumble rushes on the football field… All efforts by humanitarian lovers of the game to eliminate its brutal features have been unsuccessful.
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