Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The mystique of the origins of Gridiron Football



The mystique of the Origins of Gridiron Football

By Chino Kafuu
The Daily Magi
August 4, 2069

The history of American football can be traced to early versions of rugby football and association football. Both games have their origin in varieties of football played in Britain in the mid-19th century, in which a football is kicked at a goal and/or run over a line.

American football resulted from several major divergences from rugby, most notably the rule changes instituted by Walter Camp, a Yale graduate and considered to be the "Father of American Football". Among these important changes were the introduction of the line of scrimmage and of down-and-distance rules. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, gameplay developments by college coaches such as Eddie Cochems, Amos Alonzo Stagg, Knute Rockne, and Glenn "Pop" Warner helped take advantage of the newly introduced forward pass. The popularity of college football grew as it became the dominant version of the sport in the United States for the first half of the 20th century. Bowl games, a college football tradition, attracted a national audience for college teams. Boosted by fierce rivalries, college football still holds widespread appeal in the US.

The origin of professional football can be traced back to 1892, with William "Pudge" Heffelfinger's $500 contract to play in a game for the Allegheny Athletic Association against the Pittsburgh Athletic Club. In 1920 the American Professional Football Association was formed. This league changed its name to the National Football League (NFL) two years later, and eventually became the major league of American football. Primarily a sport of Midwestern industrial towns in the United States, professional football eventually became a national phenomenon. Football's increasing popularity is usually traced to the 1958 NFL Championship Game, a contest that has been dubbed the "Greatest Game Ever Played". A rival league to the NFL, the American Football League (AFL), began play in 1960; the pressure it put on the senior league led to a merger between the two leagues and the creation of the Super Bowl, which has become the most watched television event in the United States on an annual basis.

Although there are mentions of Native Americans playing games, modern American football has its origins in traditional ball games played at villages and schools in Europe for many centuries before America was settled by Europeans. There are reports of early settlers at Jamestown, Virginia playing games with inflated balls in the early 17th century.

Early games appear to have had much in common with the traditional "mob football" played in England, especially on Shrove Tuesday when they used a lemon instead of a ball. The games remained largely unorganized until the 19th century, when intramural games of football began to be played on college campuses. This was when Walter Camp, a Yale graduate and "The Father of American Football", invented certain rules (such as system of downs) to provide singularity in the sport. Each school played its own variety of football. Princeton students played a game called "ballown" as early as 1820. A Harvard tradition known as "Bloody Monday" began in 1827, which consisted of a mass ballgame between the freshman and sophomore classes. Dartmouth played its own version called "Old division football", the rules of which were first published in 1871, though the game dates to at least the 1830s. All of these games, and others, shared certain commonalities. They remained largely "mob" style games, with huge numbers of players attempting to advance the ball into a goal area, often by any means necessary. Rules were simple, violence and injury were common. The violence of these mob-style games led to widespread protests and a decision to abandon them. Yale, under pressure from the city of New Haven, banned the play of all forms of football in 1860, while Harvard followed suit in 1861.

While the game was banned in universities, it really was growing in popularity in various east coast prep schools. In 1855, manufactured inflatable balls were introduced. These were much more regular in shape than the handmade balls of earlier times, making kicking and carrying easier. Two general types of football had evolved by this time: "kicking" games and "running" (or "carrying") games. A hybrid of the two, known as the "Boston game", was played by a group known as the Oneida Football Club. The club, considered by some historians as the first formal football club in the United States, was formed in 1862 by schoolboys who played the "Boston game" on Boston Common. They played mostly among themselves, though they organized a team of non-members to play a game in November 1863, which the Oneidas won easily. The game caught the attention of the press, and the "Boston game" continued to spread throughout the 1860s.

The game began to return to college campuses by the late 1860s. Yale, Princeton, Rutgers, and Brown all began playing "kicking" games during this time. In 1867, Princeton used rules based on those of the English Football Association. A "running game", resembling rugby football, was taken up by the Montreal Football Club in Canada in 1868.

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