Best Rugby Union Books in 2020
A Game for Hooligans: The History of Rugby Union
A Simple Guide to Rugby Union: A simple guide to the rules of Rugby Union
After the Final Whistle: The First Rugby World Cup and the First World War
No Borders: Playing Rugby for Ireland (Behind the Jersey Series)
Rugby for Dummies 3rd Edition (North American Edition)
Rugby Games & Drills
A Social History of English Rugby Union
Rugby Union For Dummies
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Fringes: Life on the Edge of Professional Rugby
How Did American Football Begin?
Come and listen to a little story about how Americans turned rugby into what we know today as football. It's a story filled with Ivy, clown colleges, death and a cameo by Pres. Teddy Roosevelt.
The origins of American football are up in the air, with two different versions of the story behind the first recognizably American football game in play. Oddly enough, both stories revolve around what is usually recognized as the single worst conference in college football today. It was not always thus, of course. An Ivy League school hasn't competed for the National Championship since we had a Republican President who got involved in scandals involving giving sweetheart oil deals to his buddies and was considered among the two or three worst Presidents ever...hmm, maybe I should clarify that; since Warren G. Harding was President. Regardless, the story of the very first football game puts us squarely in the land of the England that is New irregardless of which bit of historical trivia you use to believe.
According to one perspective the very first American football game took place between Rutgers and Princeton. (The latter, according to Sideshow Bob, is a Clown College.) This game was played according to what were known as Princeton Rules. A football game played by Princeton Rules should make a comeback in the NFL; at least then watching a football game wouldn't be an occasion to nap. Princeton Rules football mandated that there be 25 players on a side. Can you imagine what the NFL would look like under those circumstances? Better, that's for sure. Of course, Princeton Rules football was actually closer to a rugby game than a recognizable football game.
For that reason, most football scholars (I...suppose...there could be football scholars) reject the claim put forth by the eggheads at Rutgers and Princeton that this was the very first American football game. The other claim contains a bit more validity. And by a bit more, I mean like how Bill Clinton has a bit more claim to being an effective President than George W. Bush. Interestingly, the first game that really was American football was played against Harvard by the college that accepted Clinton because of his grades and accepted Bush despite his grades.
Harvard Rules football rejected the reliance upon soccer and rugby styles favored by those clowns at Princeton. Princeton Rules football had this odd European-style aversion to actually handling the ball so it tended to be tossed around quite a bit. Consider Princeton Rules football to be more akin to a precursor of one of the favorite games of my own youth: Kill the Man with the Football. (Or, as it was sometimes called in those far less politically correct times, Smear the Queer with the Football.) Harvard Rules football was also known as the Boston Game, and I don't mean that they cheated by videotaping other teams. That is the modern day version of the Boston Game.
The original Boston Game allowed more adept handling of the football and the rules were rewritten. They would become known as the Concessionary Rules and the primary difference was that players were now allowed to actually run with the football. With these new rules in place Harvard challenged Yale to a game in November 1875, thus setting the stage for November as the month for showdowns between geographical rivalries. Harvard won the game, but mainly because they were allowed to use fifteen players instead of just eleven players like Yale had wanted. The name of the game was brawn over brains...I guess things haven't changed too much. But brawn back in the transformative years of American football was a bit different. No helmets, no shoulder pads, no cups. The game was rough and violent and for a time looked to possibly go the way of professional wrestling.
A game of American football played in 1905 actually resulted in the deaths of eighteen players and despite the fact that notorious elephant-killer Teddy Roosevelt was President, Americans were horrified by the vicious quality of football. There were even calls to outlaw the game. Not surprisingly, Teddy Roosevelt stepped in to make sure such a tragedy did not take place. Roosevelt, again not surprisingly, was a huge football fan and was moved to convene a conference of football representatives from the Ivy League. Yes, Virginia, Roosevelt used his power as President of the United States to call an emergency session at the White House to save the game of football as we know it. It was from this meeting at the White House that the rules were changed to make American football a much safer game.