Football aint tough
BY JOE JOE WRIGHT
Football is a sissy game nowadays.
When you think about football and some of the big hits that people put on each other and the injuries. Let’s go back in time. It’s November 6, 1869 and Rutgers vs Princeton is universally recognized as the first “football” game however, the rules were much different than what you see today and the equipment was non-existent.
Walter Camp, a coach at Yale University is generally considered the founder of modern football. The game has been played in many forms going back 200 years but, that was really soccer, not football. Like I said, variations, not what we see today.
Then 1880 to 1883 Coach Camp set up some rules with other coaches and formed a league. The formation of the 7-man line was done at this time but the forward pass came much later. Our modern day game was an evolution of soccer and the British game of Rugby.
Did you know that the first footballs were made of a pigs bladder, which could be blown up to hold air? It was from that the term “pigskin” was derived and is still used today.
Did you know the first football fields were 100 yards wide not 55 and one third as they are now, and 120 yards long not including the end zones. Yes the fields have changed as well as the game. In 1906 the first legal forward passes were made. All those others prior to that were illegal in so much as some officials even flipped a coin to determine if the play would stand or not.
In 1905 the violence of the game had reached epic proportions with 19 players killed and 159 very seriously injured. Let’s pause right there a moment. There was a small percentage of people playing football in 1905. High school football was all but non existent and few colleges participated. Today approximately 3,000,000 men, women, and children, both amateur and professional, play football every year.
Ok back to 1905, it was during that year that maybe 25,000 people played nationwide. There was a serious movement put forth to have the game outlawed by Congress. In steps President Theodore Roosevelt met with college officials in an attempt to curb the violence and unsportmanlike conduct in football. Shortly after this 60 colleges in the USA met to form what would later become the NCAA.
Let’s take a look at the equipment of today; helment, shoulder pads, knee pads, thigh pads, butt pad, arm pads, rib pads and of course a mouth piece. Prior to 1906 very few players had any protective equipment. The game of football is as different today as is a 1906 Cadillac and a 2015 Caddy. They are miles apart.
Take the nationwide 1905 death toll of 19 out of say 25,000 that’s one out of every 1315 players back then, that number would be equal to 2280 deaths nationwide in modern times if all things had stayed the same. Thank God things changed. I don’t believe my favorite game would be getting played today if those were the numbers.
As time marched forward protective equipment advanced. Fifty years after the founding of the NCAA not everyone had a face guard. Football went from no helments to leather helments to plastic helments to high impact plastic helments with foam and air bladders inside. On the shoulder it went from a shirt to a leather strap to foam pad with a plastic shell on the outside to the modern version of built in air conditioning. The equipment has improved to help prevent serious injury and now the focus in America is on the rules to even further reduce injuries. Personally I am glad that football has watered down somewhat.