Thursday, September 15, 2011

A formerly repugnant sport

Recall that mixed martial arts are only slowly gaining acceptance. So it shouldn't be so surprising to read that professional football was once repugnant also. The New York Times reviews the book THE BIG SCRUM: How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football by John J. Miller.

"On the first page of “The Big Scrum: How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football,” John J. Miller’s informative account of Roosevelt’s impact on the sport’s early years, readers are taken back to 1876 and a contest between Harvard and Yale. It was the first game Roosevelt, then an 18-year-old Harvard freshman, ever attended, and it propelled him into a lifelong love of the sport. Its physical dangers, he thought, helped build character.

"Dangerous it certainly was. In its earliest forms, football veered toward the brutishness of English rugby, and by the time of Roosevelt’s presidency, it had resulted in a rash of player deaths (18 in 1905 alone). To save the game from those who wanted to abolish it completely, Roosevelt used the “bully pulpit” to push for enormous rules changes to improve safety. But he obviously had mixed feelings. In 1895 he wrote that he wanted to eliminate “needless brutality,” but that he would rather keep the game as it was than lose it completely."

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