JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.
Football is not as bad as the Fourth of July. In the first place it costs only ten to fifteen per cent. as many lives and fewer eyes; furthermore, the fun lasts three months instead of two or three days, so we get more per boy. Yet in spite of this evident innocuity, the popular protest against the game, as played at present, seems to be stronger and more general than ever before. Not that the game is waning in popularity, for as usual the attendance at the big championship games is limited to the number of people the grounds will hold, plus as many more as can get in. We hear a great deal about lessening the danger of football by making the game more open, and substituting end runs, trick plays and punting, for the steady hammering down the field a yard or two at a time, with a unanimous pile-up at each down. Interesting as the open game is to the spectator, the idea that the only real football is the line-bucking, bone-breaking game seems to have a firm hold. This was well illustrated by a recent championship game between two of the great universities of the Middle West. One coach had developed the open game to an unusual extent, not with any idea of “elevating the stage,” but simply because his team was best adapted to that style of game. The team met another which limited its efforts to steady line plunging, and the open game won. The ball was on the opponent’s side of the field the majority of the time, the line-plunging team made fewer yards than were made by the open game of the winner, and the team playing the open game did not have to take out a man for injuries during the entire game; and yet, almost unanimously the press and the public insisted that the defeated team played the better game, simply because it had gained more ground by line bucks than had its conqueror. The public verdict seems to be that five yards made by line bucking is worth more than ten yards made through open plays. While the public attitude is such it seems improbable that any reformation in football is near at hand.
FOOTBALL AND ITS DANGERS.. JAMA. 2005;294(20):2645. doi:10.1001/jama.294.20.2645