Football and golf are daily news events. Both part of the American scene. College football begins this week. Professional football ready to go. Professional golf completed its 2021-2022 season sunday. The controversy involving the new Saudi league continues to be a daily news item.
There was a time when football and golf experienced what might be described as special newsworthy periods of time.
For football, it was 1905. Injuries a concern. As brain injuries are today.
College football the problem. The game had become so brutal that more than 100 student players had died. College Presidents were disbanding teams. Several state legislatures were giving serious considerations to making football illegal.
In October 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt convened an urgent summit meeting at the White House. Roosevelt was a football fan. Nevertheless he had a harsh message for the men who ruled the game. If they didn’t change the rules to make football safer, he might have no choice but to ban it.
His call for reform resulted in the formation of a new rules committee. One committee member suggested an idea long advocated by legendary coach John Heisman: Legalize the forward pass. He thought such would open up the game, reducing mass collisions in the middle of the field.
The idea was not met with favor. The New York Times called the idea “radical.” However the concept was voted upon favorably to be tested in the 1906 season. Other rule changes outlawed holding, unnecessary roughness, and required a team to gain 10 yards instead of 5 for a first down.
The new rules, especially the pass, made the game safer and interestingly more popular.
Though permitting the forward pass, the new rules heavily restricted its use. The ball could not be passed within 5 yards of center, it could not be passed to a receiver in the end zone, and an incomplete pass automatically resulted in the other team gaining possession of the ball.
Way back in the 1300’s and 1400’s, golf and soccer were popular sports. British and Scottish kings were opposed. The sports were banned. English King Edward II banned soccer in 1314: “We command and forbid…..on pain of imprisonment, such game to be used. In 1491 Scottish King James IV issued this decree: “It is statute and ordained that in no place of the Realme there be use Fute-ball, Golf, or uther unprofitable sports.”
Why were golf , soccer and “uther” sports so unpopular with the Kings? It had to do with defense.
The Kings considered them “unprofitable” because they were distracting men from archery practice, which was essential to the defense of their countries. Without a populace of trained archers, the Kings could not raise effective armies in times of crisis.
The laws were as effective as modern day prohibition ones. The passion of men for the sports was so great the laws were ignored. Golf and soccer continued to thrive.
Enjoy your day!