Sport and recreation in the United States — страница 9

  • Просмотров 10869
  • Скачиваний 78
  • Размер файла 73

exception to the rule, but the more farsighted of them realized that the jump shot was impossible to defend against and that the old patterned play game was obsolete. Another example of a plausible theory refuted by practice was the coaches' belief that big men were too clumsy to play basketball, despite the obvious advantage of their height. Professional basketball today displays several marked characteristics; the most obvious is the appearance of bigger and bigger men at all positions who possess, in addition to extraordinary size and strength, the quickness and ball handling agility that once seemed the special province of "smaller" players (i.e., shorter than six feet six inches) [11, p.97-98]. Football Football is unarguably today's preeminent spectator sport;

televised professional football is arguably the preeminent spectacle of any kind in today's American culture. In some parts of the country high school football is the only religion with no dissenters, and in some areas the state university football team is the community's common bond and proudest boast. Football is for most Americans their tribal game, and it has always appealed to their herd instinct. The game can be traced back to the annual autumn free-for-all battles between the new freshmen and sophomores at Harvard in the 1820s. A combination of the free-for-all, soccer, and rugby survived at Harvard until 1874, when the school played two football games against McGill University of Canada. In the first game Harvard's own peculiar rules were used; the second game followed

the rules of McGill's fairly orthodox version of British rugby. The Harvard students decided that the Canadian game was more enjoyable, so they voted to play according to those rules thereafter. It was at Yale that the game of rugby developed into a game closely resembling today's football. The man behind this evolution was Walter Camp, who played football at Yale from 1875 until 1882, when he began training the team, eventually becoming head coach. During the Camp era Yale established a winning record the likes of which has never been seen again. From 1872 until 1909 Yale won 324 games, lost 17, and tied 18, and from 1890 to 1893 Yale outscored its opponents 1265 to 0! Walter Camp changed rugby into football when he replaced the scrum with a pass from the line of scrimmage. Camp

was also responsible for the down-yardage system; he introduced American style below-the-waist tackling, and initiated the annual selection of an All-American team. Almost from the outset American college football was a supremely effective means for binding students, alumni, and community into a cohesive whole. The intensity of alumni and community identification with the football team fostered a win-at-any cost ethic and placed tre­mendous pressure on coaches to field winning teams. All this made a sham of amateurism and of the pretense that football was a normal part of student life like panty-raiding, fraternity hazing, or cheating on exams. The ferocious drive to win, the primitive state of the rules, and the rudimentary quality of protective equipment led to an

unconscionable number of serious injuries at the turn of the century, although the exaggerated and colorful reporting of the period makes unreliable the often quoted statistics on the number of gouged eyes, fractured skulls, and broken limbs. The public's perception of football as a brutal upper-class reversion to barbarianism by robber-barons-to-be was, however, strong enough for Theodore Roosevelt to convene his famous White House Conference on football in 1905, which was attended by representatives of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Legend to the contrary, Roosevelt had no intention of abolishing college football; in any case he certainly had no legal nor actual power to do so. Had it come down to a test of strength between football and the president it would have been

interesting to see who would have prevailed—or would prevail today. In 1910 the rules were amended, supposedly to reduce violence, but really to provide a better spectacle for spectators by evening the balance between offense and defense and "opening up" the game. The flying wedge was outlawed, the pass rules were liberalized, and the number of chances a team was given to make ten yards before surrendering the ball was increased from three to four. These were the rules that Knute Rockne used at Notre Dame to build the greatest football dynasty since the old Yale teams of the nineteenth century, managing also to transform the epithet "fighting Irish" from an ethnic slur to a badge of pride. The first professional football players were really semi pros, who