While doing some research from 1894 Razorback season I ran across this article in the Memphis Commercial Appeal that attempts to introduce football to their readers. The article was published on October 13, 1894 and the writer explains football as if you have never seen a game played. He talks a lot about training, conditioning, positions, terminology, and whether or not football is just a “fad.” I found it pretty interesting and thought Hog Database readers would as well. This is the first half of the article, I will post the rest later this weekend after I finish typing from the microfilm. Enjoy..
ALL ABOUT A FOOT BALL GAME
Pointers that introduce the sport to the unitiated.
In the almost icy air of last Thanksgiving day, when cold gusts of wind played with occasional, scurrying snowflakes, 40,000 people – some wrapped in great coats and warm, protecting furs; others shivering in poor attire – sat or moved along the side lines and watched the foot ball elevens of Yale and Princeton struggle on the gridiron on Manhattan field in New York for the foot ball supremacy of the American colleges.
At the same time, in Cambridge, Mass., 20,000 men and women cheered the teams of Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania.
Out in California, Leland Stanford and the University of the “Gold State” struggled before an excited, wildly enthusiastic crowd; over in Nashville, Vanderbilt and Sewanee battled before 2,5000 spectators, throwing into the game all the skill developed by either during the season and manifesting that intense spirit of rivalry which has long existed between the two colleges; the universities of Virginia and North Carolina met in Richmond on the same day in the greatest Southern contest, before a large gathering of collegians, staid business men, society swells and pretty girls; and Atlanta, the best of Southern foot ball cities, presented more than 5,000 of her citizens to witness the play of the Technological eleven of that city against the clever St. Albans boys of Virginia. It has been estimated that fully 200,000 people watched the various gridiron contests in this country on the last appointed day of thanks.
Such wonderful popularity must spring from the game itself. Whatever scoffers at foot ball may say about it being merely a “fad” – which it undeniably is to a degree – yet it is folly to assert that there is no real merit in the play, little opportunity for skill, and no real cause for the great craze over it in the United States today.
Foot ball is a game with unlimited advantages for the player, when properly indulged in, and one of the great and sustaining delight and excitement to the spectator who understands the object of the various plays, the perfection of their execution and who knows what it means to “hit the line,” “go ’round the end,” run behind “pretty interference,” “tackle” well, “punt” to opponents’ ten, twenty or thirty-yard line, and so on through the catalogue of foot ball phraseology.
It is the purpose of this article to treat the benefits of the game to the player and to explain the general play of foot ball so that every reader may attend a contest, understand the object of the spectacle of sustained “brutality,” and have an interest other than one aroused by a conclousness that foot ball is a “fad,” and all up-to-date folks must go to the games and appear enthused and interested, regardless of utter ignorance, chattering teeth, freezing feet and great suffering from November’s winds and frosty atmosphere.
Doubtless the hardiest athletes – the ones who can endure most, and who feel freer from the disorders to watch all are subject, are the foot ball players who have followed the course of training throughout the season, adopted by the leading American colleges. To begin with, the young man, the prospective applicant for his college eleven, returns to school in September from his summer vacation, frequently much the worse physically for his three months’ pleasure. At the same time the new students appear on the campus, and among them those who will apply for the team.
Chests are often shrunken, muscles are soft from non-use; frequently the men are victims of excessive smoking, and blow after a brisk half mile walk as they will by November at the end of a two mile run. The applicants are unfit for the vigorous work of active foot ball practice. They must first be given light work and, accordingly are placed in the gymnasium each day for a portion of their recreation hours. Here they work with bells, wall machines and clubs to tighten up the disused muscles and begin the hardening process that is to make injuries in the coming contests less liable to be received. At the outset the exercise makes many very sore, but in a short time that passes away and the muscles become harder and capable of more and more work. In the meantime short runs have been begun to increase the wind of the men, and each day they run from a quarter of a mile to some greater distance, as seems wise.
After a week or ten days in the gymnasium the applicants cease that exercise almost wholly, and are taken to the field in the hours in which they are free from study. The early work outdoors consists of the lightest possible for a few days. Passing the ball, punting (which is merely kicking the ball, when dropped from the hand, before it strikes the ground), and falling on the ball, together with some running, constitutes the chief work for a few days on the field. After this practice, the men begin to “tackle” (catch the bearer of the ball and throw him to the ground), and the work gets harder and more vigorous each day. By the way, in the “tackling” the “tackler” must never catch the runner around the neck nor below the knees, upon penalty of the runner being given ten yards for the foul.
Under this careful system of training, this gradual increase of work, this supervision of diet, this required cessation of whisky and tobacco use, this care in bathing and regulation of sleep, it is no wonder that the foot ball players are the young men of the best physiques today, and more hardy than all of their fellows who so neglect the laws of health, and it is not remarkable that by the close of the season their muscles are so hard and responsive that the players seem almost beyond the possibility of serious injury. Many a young man who, if left unchecked, would have become a wreck and the victim of dissipation, has, through his foot ball training, become alive to the beauty of robust manhood, has had a desire aroused to preserve himself from decay and has become and eschewer of the evils to which too many young men today are slaves.
Since the beginning of the training the applicants have been required to stop absolutely the use of any intoxicating liquors, the use of tobacco, and at the larger colleges they are required to eat at the same place – called the “training table” – where all the food is selected and prepared under learned medical advice. Thus the diets of the athletes are controlled. They are furthermore required to keep exact and regular hours; baths after each practice and insisted upon, and in fact, all inducements to better physical manhood are placed about the men.