Wednesday, October 10, 2007

October 10, 2007 Bonus Blog
I'm doing more research on Frederic Remington and ran across a quote that Freddy played on the Yale football team with Walter Camp, who was the captain of the team in 1878, '79 and '81. I asked another Yale football champion, Bob Brink, if he had any books on Camp. The Yale quarterback (1953-54) brought in "The Game: The Harvard-Yale Football Rivalry, 1875-1983," by Thomas G. Bergin, yesterday and I took it home to read last night.

Wow! I had no idea how controversial the game was in those early days. Of course, I knew it started as rugby, but there were so many weird aspcets and changes as the game evolved. For example, in Remington's time, there were 15 players to a side (finally changed to 11 in 1880 through the efforts of Walter Camp), no tackling below the waist, the ball was more round than oblong like it is today. And, it was very violent, with linemen punching each other in the face before the snap (actually a foot kick back to the quarterback). Camp also later helped institute the no moving on the line of scrimmage before the snap. Prior to that there was a phase when the flying wedge was dominate in the game and, as I understand it, the linemen could run towards the line of scrimmage, enabling an advantage to the offense that was later negated by the static line.

In one early phase, the offense didn't have to give up the ball on downs, so, in one game, for the entire first half Yale had the ball, then they kicked off after the half and Harvard hogged the ball for the entire second half. Ha. Amazing.

One thing was constant from the beginning and that is the crowds. The first games attracted some 12,000 fans, throught to be a record for an American sports event up to that time. And they increasingly grew larger crowds every year. There was even a period when the game was banned from college sports because of the increasing violence (one guy lost an eye, several died).

Here's what the Walter Camp website says about The Man Who Basically Invented The NFL:

"Recognized as the "Father of American Football", Walter Camp was one of the giants of football in the US. It was he who sired the game as it is played in the United States, the game that evolved from rugby as it was played in England. He is credited with the play from scrimmage, the numerical assessment of goals and tries, the restriction of play to eleven men per side, set plays, and strategy features which have led to the development of the fast, interesting, and organized game which we enjoy so much today."

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