tv How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football CSPAN January 22, 2017 8:00am-8:40am EST
it would be tragic if that happened. >> watch the communicators on c-span2. next on history bookshelf, john miller on his book the big scrum, how teddy roosevelt saved football. charles elliott led to campaign to ban the sport and 1905. and how he worked with college football coaches to prevent that. this was recorded in 2011 in washington. it is about 40 minutes. john: if you are wondering what kind of knuckleheads but to have a book about football at the start of baseball season, the answer is the same kind of
knucklehead who is a lifelong fan of the detroit lions. the good thing about being a lifelong fan of the detroit lions is that the experience teaches important life lessons. for example, how to deal with severe and ongoing disappointment. i have learned that humor helps. who knows the difference between the detroit lions and a dollar bill? it turns out that from a delano -- dollar bill you can still get four quarters. thank you, i will be performing all week. let's talk about football and theodore roosevelt. i like to start with a statistic. in 1905, 18 people died playing football. in 1905, 18 people died playing football. so we hear a lot about the problem of concussions and head
injuries and the health effects of all that. that is a controversy of football today. that it has nothing on the challenges that football based a little more than a century ago. so let's go back in time. in 1876, theodore roosevelt attended his first football game. he was an 18-year-old regimen at -- freshman at harvard university. he got on a train with a bunch of friends and they want to new haven it, connecticut where they watched the second ever football game played between harvard and now. in the history of college sports, there are a great rival -- rivalries. auburn.has harvard has yield. let's remember that the ivy league is an athletic conference.
in 1876, they played their second ever football game. the weather was lousy. it was cold. the winds were so strong that ships can leave a harbor. roosevelt shivered on the sidelines that day. as he watched the game, the sport he saw was quite different from what he saw today. there were no quarterbacks, there were no wide receivers, there were no forward passes, football was in its infancy. before play began, the captains from the two teams met to discuss the rules they would play by. what would count for a score, how many people would be on the field at a time. they were like school kids at recess talking about where the sidelines would be, how to count blitzes, whether they played touch or tackle, that is what they did before the game. when it came to football, harvard was the teacher and yell was the student.
just a few years before the game in 1876, harvard sent el to elongated ball. up until that point, the yell team have been played with a soccer ball. they didn't know what to do with it. they discussed fundamentals. they didn't know what to do. before the game started, when the captains met on the field, harvard's veterans agreed to a couple of proposals that the yell team put forward. the first but have a lasting impact on how football is played. up until that point, the team was the custom. this is the first game that had 11 men per side. that continues today. the second suggestion would not
shape the future of the game, but it would affect the outcome that day. they decided touchdown would not they for points are in give you an opportunity to score points. if you score a touchdown, you would not this exports, you would get no points but an extra point attempt. it was the kick after the goal allowed to score. the ball would have to sail over a rope that was tied between a pair of holes in the end zone. the game get underway and harvard scores a touchdown. by the rules of the day they don't get any points. they make a attempt and they miss. no points at all. at halftime, the score was tied zero-zero. the second-half starts, yell and the driveout into harbor territory. a lanky freshman named walter camp, an important administrative football was a clear that they. he tried to shovel the ball
backward to a teammate. it was a lousy pass, it bounced. it took a funny hop that football's content. oliver thompson in the he puts hisd player foot to the ball, kicks from 35 yards out and at an impossible -- added improbable angle and its sales over the road. yale has a score. it is 1-0 and that's how the game ended. harvard lost. a frustrated roosevelt said he did not know whether he enjoyed himself. he had no inkling of the future popularity. he did not anticipate the critical role he would play in a game's future. he did give voice to the frustration we all know of the agony of defeat. i am sorry to say we were
beaten, he wrote to his mother. i would like to say a few things about why football matters to me personally and to americans generally. i met my wife on the way to a football game in ann arbor. we walked from our dorm in michigan stadium. that's my first clear memory of her. we didn't start dating until basketball season. our bond was formed out of a mutual love of blue. my romance with college football goes back further. my father teaching me how to victors" as athe boy. we talked about the carter area. we were talking about a time when anthony carter or a winged helmets and scored a touchdown pass under the watch of coach bo schembechler. when i attended my football
games and michigan as a student, along with my future bride and more than 100,000 of our closest friends, it dawned on me that these games are not just pieces of entertainment. they are more than athletic competitions. they are cultural events of deep significance. they can unite a diverse campus of a most majors and engineering students. they can bring a state together. alumni and non-alumni, black and white. white-collar, engineers, unions, lunch bucket guys. football can bring them all together. conversations about the team are social icebreakers. it can bring people together in a way that few things can. my marriage is not the only one that owes a debt to the game. love for a college football
team, whether it is the texas longhorns or the hillsdale chargers is almost tribal. in some cases, it is practically inherited. whatever its origin, it has the power to form lifelong loyalties and passions. when i hear the michigan fight song, i still get a chill down my spine. it is a close cousin to patriotism. on brisk autumn afternoons, my three main allegiances are to god, family and football. let's face it, objectively speaking, football is an awesome sport. no other game has such a combination of force and grace, pure grace with 99 yard sprints and goal line stands. crashing bodies at the line of scrimmage and the careful choreography of well-educated place involving 11 men on the field. the infantry combat and the passing game. there is a strong intellectual element as well.
baseball may bask and it's a cerebral pastime. no sport has more meticulous planning than football. little wonder that football has become the most popular sport in the united states. millions of kids play under friday night lights. millions more fans still a stadiums and watch on television on fall weekends. americans are probably more likely to know the name of their favorite team's quarterback than they are their congressman. there is a good case that they have their priorities straight. football occupied the central place in our lives. yet, there was a moment when football almost was taken away from us.
a time when is very existence was in mortal peril. a collection of progressive era prohibitionists try to ban the game. they objected to its pilots and their favor solution was to his mother and newborn sport in its cradle. had the enemies of football gotten their way, they may have erased one of america possibly pastime from our culture. it took a remarkable effort of theodore roosevelt, one of the most extraordinary men to support them. modern controversies over football and violence i would them. time magazine put a deflated football on this cover. too dangerous for its own good. then there is that statistic i share. 18 people died playing football. the sad thing is that this is not unusual, in fact, it is normal, every year, this is going on. dozens or more people would die. even more suffered grievous injuries.
a lot of the casualties were kids in sad lot games. it also affected big-time college football. players at the university of virginia, army, navy, union college died playing football. football is it a contact sport, it is a collision sport. this was especially true in its early years. football though his prized size, strength, so on. this was especially true back then. the game looked more like rugby than what we know today. it was almost a series of goal line stands at the 50 yard line over and over again. as masses of bodies clashed and grappled without the benefit of protective gear. the era of leather heads lay in the future. nobody wore helmets.
facemasks, shoulder pads, that was all just coming into practice. during the frequent pile ups, hidden from the view of referees, players would throw punches in jab era -- elbows. the most unsporting participants would try to get out eyes. bruises, sprains and other minor injuries were taken for granted. more serious impairment such as cracked bones and knocked heads were causes for greater concern but generally accepted as unfortunate byproduct of an entertaining and demanding pastime. the deaths were the worst. they weren't just freak accidents, as much as the inevitable told of activities encouraging strongmen to crash into each other over the course of an afternoon. an ordinary tackle can become a life-threatening calamity when the hard thrusting knee of a ballcarrier runs into a guy trying to tackle him. this slaughter horrified
activists and they crusaded against football. they wanted to remove islets from the sport and then it all together. at the progressive area, the prohibition of football became a social and political movement. the most outspoken proponents included charles w eliot. the frontier scholar frederick jackson turner, muckraking journalists, even the aging confederate general john mosby. the new york evening opposed the sport. inflentialnation, and magazines of news and opinion which aware that colleges were becoming huge training grounds for young gladiators. two weeks after printing those words, the times ran a new
editorial. the headline was to curable evils. the first evil they addressed was the lynching of blacks in the south. the second evil they addressed was football. the main figure to been football was charles w l of it -- elliott. he was the most important person in the history of higher education. we think of harvard as a great american university. a lot of that goes back to charles elliot and what he did over the course of 40 years when he was president of the college. he was to harvard what an former has been to the heritage foundation might say. he was president for 40 years. he radically rearranged the way harvard educated young people. he introduced elective courses, started professional schools, illuminated compulsory worship. he also hated team sports.
what bothered him most was competition and have it motivated players to conduct themselves in ways he considered unbecoming a gentleman. if baseball and football for honorable pastimes he reasoned, then why did require umpires and referees? a game that needs to be washed -- watched is not in forging a sportsman he wants said. he thought that it baseball pitcher with for the curveball and engaged in a act of deception which was treacherous. football distressed him even more. he believed it was improper for the money back to attack the weakest part of an opposing team's line. he thought the proper thing to do was to attack the strongest part, that is what a gentleman would do. he liked nothing about the game. he despised its violence. he condemned football as evil. one of the main adversaries was walter camp.
camp was a pretty good football player. he really made his mark as a coach and rules maker. he is the closest thing football has to a founding father. he invented the position of quarterback and the concept of possession, downs and line of scrimmage and formations. the way the game was laid out. he was a great salesman of the sport. he wrote books and newspaper articles to promote the game and make it popular. he and a journalist collaborated to invent the idea of the all-american. a term that we have that is a -- he wanted controversy about who should be on the american all-american team every year. he made it a great game to discuss and debate. in the rivalry between elliott and camp we see one of the , ongoing conflicts in american
politics on display. a fight between the progressives and a dream of the world without risk and the resistance to the agenda. elliott and the progressives identify the problems with football but their preferred solution was radical. they wanted to regulate football out of existence because they believed that participants were not making their own judgment but the cost of the benefits of the game. they would take away the freedom to play, and the sport for the sake of players. into the struggle steps theodore roosevelt. one of the most remarkable men to walk across the stage of american politics. he suffered from chronic as to when he was a kid. many wondered if he was survive into adulthood. it was not uncommon for children to go survive into adulthood. his parents were so desperate to cure his asthma that they tried everything they can think of.
nothing worked. eventually, they concluded that he would have to overcome his disability. there is a story in family lore in which the father summons the boy, theodore he says, you have the mind but not the body. without the help of the body, the mind cannot go far as it should. teddy threw back his head, flashed his to the grin and said i will make my body. he was about 11 years old when that happened. soon after, he began to exercise in the gym. later on he took auction license -- boxing lessons and he hunted. he really did make his body. the asthma was there with him for years but eventually, went away. by the time he was an adult, the lesson was that a commitment to physical fitness could take his
scrawny little boy and turn him into a vigorous man. as roosevelt was coming to believe this, he was becoming a fan of football. as with so many other americans. roosevelt remained a fan as he graduated from politics and branched out west to become an increasingly visible public figure. in 1895, shortly because for -- shortly before he became a dozen of the police commissioner james o'neill a letter to walter camp. it is a great letter and i will read about 300 words from. -- from it. here is what he said. for your championship of athletics, they met on the farm and in the workshop here as in other countries is an -- at enough to get is a coworker. we were trying to produce sedentary classes. i think he is worried about videogame watching. from this, the athletic spirit has saved us. of all games, i personally like
football the best. i would rather see my voice plate than see them play any other. i have no patience with the people who did claim against it because it necessitates rough play and occasional injuries. the rough play is confined within family and honorable limits. it is a good thing to have personal contact about which the new york evening post smile so much. no fellow worth his salt doesn't get the occasional bruise or cut. i was not able to play for all in college. i never cared for rowing and baseball. i did all my work in rowing and boxing. they are both good exercises but they are not up to football. i am disgusted with the harvard faculty about their attitudes over football. i do not give a good step for a man who cannot hold his own in the world. that is the first requisite. the second and the most important is that he has to be efficient. nothing has impressed me more in
many college graduates during the 15 years i have been out of college than the fact that on average, the men who most have been those who had sound bodies. roosevelt saw football as more than a diversion. in 1898, he recruited the rough riders. if you read his memoirs, that is all true. he did want that but he said he wanted college football players. he signed them up. he thought it would give them experience of athletics and college would give them the stuff it would take to win a war in cuba. the duke of wellington reportedly once said that the battle of waterloo was one on the plane built of eden. roosevelt never said anything quite so pixie about the battle of san juan hill but when he emerged from these wars a hero,
one of presidential timber, he knew how much he owed to the rough riders and the culture of manliness and risk-taking. that had shaped them. like roosevelt, our society values sports. though we don't always think about why. or why we should. my kids have play football -- played football, baseball, hockey, lacrosse, as a family, we are sport oriented. it is forced me to ask a question. it why do we want our kids to play sports? why not let them spend more time in for the tv or studying ancient greek literature. a lot of parents will reply with the obvious fact that sports are good fitness. they will also discuss the intangible benefits of learning about teamwork. building character, things like that. it turns out that there really
is something to all this. empirical research shows us that kids who play sports stay in school longer. as adults, they vote more often. as adults, they earn more money. explain why this is true, it is tricky. it has something to do with developing a competitive instinct and a desire for achievement. roosevelt was probably correct in believing that sports influenced the character of nations. americans are much more likely than europeans to play sports. we are more likely to attribute economic success to hardware as opposed to luck. sports are a manifestation or a source of american ideals. roosevelt wrote a kid's version of his most favorite speech. he described how a boy can't row
into the kind of american men of whom america can be really proud. he singled out the rough sports for their creation of pluck, endurance, physical fitness, he concluded with the direct reference to what maybe regarded as the roughest at all -- of all. the printable to follow is it the line hard, don't follow and don't jerk but if the line hard. that was his advice for kids. soon enough, roosevelt became one of the hardest hitting chief executives ever to occupy the white house. his overall political legacy is mixed. he was unfailingly colorful. as roosevelt presided in washington, football remains controversial.
in 1905, roosevelt was persuaded to act. he invited walter camp of yell to the white house and also the coaches to the white house. these were the three biggest college football programs at the time. a lot has changed obviously. he invites them to the white house for football. trial said on , roosevelt. i believe in the game, i want to do all i can to save it. encourage the coaches to illuminate brutality and they promised they would. whether they really meant it was another matter. walter camp didn't see anything wrong with the way football was played. he practically invented the game and over the years he tweaked the rules and he thought he had got them is just about right. by 1905, he was very happy with the way football was. harvard's coach was a young man
named bill read. he took roosevelt more seriously. as a harvard man, he understood the threat to football differently. he knew that elliott still wanted to eliminate the game and was in fear of elliott was finally success. this would have encouraged harvard to drop the sport. all other colleges look to harvard for leadership. this would have endangered the future of football in america. at the end of 1905, he plotted with a group of reform minded colleagues to form an organization that today we know of as the ncaa. they approved a set of rule changes to reduce football's violence. they outmaneuvered camp. that off-season, football experience and extreme makeover.
the yardage necessary for a first down increased to 10. the rules makers also created a neutral zone at the line of scrimmage. they limited the number of players that might have in the backfield and made the personal file a heavily penalized infraction. one of my favorite rules was that they outright banned because it of both carriers. you cannot throw has across the line. these were important revisions. the one that would transform the sport was the advent of the forward pass. up until that point, football was a game of running and kicking. there was no passing, there were quarterbacks but there was no wide receivers. for years, a number of football men had wanted to introduce the forward pass. among them was a coach named john heisman. this changed after roosevelt positive action.
bill reads committee decided to permit the forward pass in order to open up the game. it took them a few years to get the full right. the coaches and teams did not know how to take the advantage of the latest revision. he wanted to make football more aerodynamic and turn them from watermelons into the shape that the football is today. eventually it all clicked. on november 1, 1913, football moved irreversibly into the modern era. the u.s. military academy in west point had one of the best teams in the country. they were considered real national championship contenders last year. they were scheduled to play a game. army wants big score read the headline in the new york times that morning. it was going to be a blowout, just like when michigan played the appalachian state if years ago.
you can probably guess the rest of the story. little-known catholic school from the midwest was notre dame. it rock me launched the first true air war. throwing again and again for reception and touchdowns. they won 35-14. the westerners flash the most sensational football that had been seen in the east this year just the new york times the next day. the army players were hopelessly chagrined. their style of old fashion line smashing play was no match for the spectacular and highly perfected attack of the indiana collegians. a cadet named dwight eisenhower watched from the sideline. he played for the army team but he was injured that they and couldn't perform. everything has gone wrong he wrote to his girlfriend. the football team got beaten most gloriously by notre dame. before then, nobody had really
heard about notre dame before. everybody knew notre dame was a football powerhouse. when you think of notre dame as a football school today, it started with that very game. with that game, football's long first chapter came to a close. the game we enjoy today is distinctively american and it was born. the sports solved this problem and improved its quality at the same time. nobody speaks of prohibiting football anymore. many influential people did however. theodore roosevelt stepped in. he played a critical role in sports of element and preservation. i think as a general rule, we don't our politicians thrusting themselves into our sports. the only thing that can make people take a series worse is to have congressional oversight.
the example of roosevelt does show that a skillful leader can use a light touch to solve a vexing problem. but the nfl season threaten and maybe even cancellation, who doesn't want football to have a teddy roosevelt today? decades after roosevelt positive involvement, dolby, the harvard coach hails his role. except for this chain of events, there might not be no such thing as american football as we know it he wrote. you asked me if president theodore roosevelt hoped to save the game. i can tell you that he did. theodore roosevelt took on many roles in america's life. war hero, trust buster, canal builder, big stick wielding diplomat. but he deserves another title as well. he may have been football's most indispensable fan. thank you. [applause]
>> i know john will take questions from you. it is interesting to hear roosevelt with a light touch. i thought immediately in the beginning of your detroit lions ascussion that they append mise the definition of insanity. the redskins are getting close to that. if you have any questions for john, raise your hand. the microphone will come to you. if you'd be so kind as to state your name and affiliation, it would be appreciated. >> did you say that the ncaa was built out of this? john: football was governed by rules committee. the walter camp's dominated
throughout the 1880's and 1890's and there was a rule of committee that had presented this from the major schools. every winter they would meet and they would tweak the rules and develop the sport basically. in 1905, bill reid decided that with some other figures in higher education, this will committee was not going to take anything about football. they are not going to do what is to be done so they created a separate organization. they tried to sign up a number of colleges to join. briefly, there were two organizations competing for members. read got harvard to join. harvard joining with the help of roosevelt was critical to this. it became the dominant organization. a few years later, it renamed
itself the ncaa and over time, it gathered other collegiate sports under isabella. -- its umbrella. it started as a football rules committee. >> height. -- you said that nobody attacks football in the way that i did. i was wondering if you might think that that was actually untrue in the modern feminist movement and their attacks on sports that encourage this kind of masculinity that overpowers rights of women? john: that is a good point. i don't mean to suggest that football is on criticized today. it's different than what it was like a century ago. there are modern controversies. congress has held hearings about
concussions in football. there are concerns about the health effects that football can have on people. the nfl did a study where they found that nfl veterans are four and or five times likely to suffer from dementia. you can imagine why that may be true. there's a lot of ongoing research in this area, debate about equipment and tweaking the rules. the nfl just changed it they kickoff rule. will kick off on the 30 are the rather than the -- they moved it five yards. there will be more touchbacks. there will be to a kick returns and kick returns are famously dangerous place. -- plays. there are controversies about what was the organization a criticized the super bowl for domestic violence increases on
super bowl sunday? that was shown to be not true or at least unproven. but football does come under attack and there is -- there are people who don't care for it and they are not going to stop football the way these progressive era prohibitionists try to do. they may have succeeded in doing headed that been for these innovations. any final comments? >> we do have copies of the book available for you in the lobby. he will be glad to sign them and talk to further on this topic. if you for your attention and we hope to see you soon here at heritage. [applause]
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