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Tag: "football"

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 81

[ 16 ] April 30, 2017 |

This is the grave of Walter Camp.

2016-05-07 11.45.00

The so-called “Father of College Football,” Camp was born in 1859 in New Britain, Connecticut. Even at a very young age, Camp became interested in the new game of football. At the age of 14, he attended the founding meeting of the sport and then played for Yale from 1876 and 1882, playing both as an undergraduate and while at Yale Medical School. He worked for a few years at the New Haven Clock Company, which his family owned, and in 1888 became head coach of Yale. He did not coach for long. He stayed at Yale until 1892 and then moved to Stanford, where he coached briefly in late 1892 and then in 1894 and 1895. Despite being only 36 years old, he retired with a record of 79-5-3 and went back to the clock company. But he continued staying in the game, creating many of the basic rules of the sport, writing books on the topic, and becoming the sport’s foundational figure. As early as 1880, he fought for the creation of the line of scrimmage, helping to separate the game from rugby. He created or co-created the snap, the four-down offensive system, the standard lineup of offensive players, the 2 point safety, the number of players as 11, and the yard marker. He would be on the college football rules committee for 48 years.

Camp also cheated up a storm. He had a slush fund of $10,000 for whatever he wanted, including hiring ringers for key games and bringing in players who were not students and were feted like grandees. He was involved in the creation of the NCAA, which happened after Theodore Roosevelt became concerned that the deadly violence associated with the sport could lead to its eradication. Camp promised to be involved in getting rid of the most violence parts of the sport, but he did nothing. 26 players died in 1909 alone. And of course we know the legacy of the NCAA on college sports to the present, with its refusal to compensate players while teams make millions, something Camp also certainly would collude with were he alive today.

Camp later worked as an athletic advisor to the U.S. military during World War I and wrote many books on the virtue of exercise. He died in 1925 at the age of 65.

To the best that I can tell, Camp has never been portrayed in the movies, which seems a little surprising. I kind of figured he would end up in some silent film about college football, but I guess it never happened, at least according to IMDB.

Walter Camp is buried in Grove Street Cemetery, New Haven, Connecticut.


A Good Use of Resources

[ 73 ] May 12, 2016 |


Since Texas obviously has the best system of education and most fair social programs in the United States, they have nothing better to spend public funds on. So might as well have a race to the top for high school football stadiums:

Massive budget cuts to Texas schools in 2011 are still having ripple effects throughout the school system in the state, but apparently not in McKinney, Texas where a new $62.8 million stadium project passed with 63 percent of the vote on Monday.

Texas schools may have been forced to increase class sizes, cut bus routes, fire teachers, librarians, counselors, nurses and more staff, but when it comes to high school football, they’re willing to raise taxes, according to CBS Sports.

The new stadium is expected to come in right at $50.3 million but there is an additional $12.5 million needed for roads, sewage and other infrastructure associated with the building itself. But compared to the $1.15 billion they spent on the Dallas Cowboy’s stadium in 2009, $62.8 million is just pocket change.

The new 12,000 person structure will be just four miles from Eagle Stadium in Allen, Texas, which was the previous home of the most expensive high school football stadium in the country at $60 million.

Why We Need Football

[ 167 ] January 1, 2016 |


There are many, many reasons why we can argue football is a horrible scourge on the nation. The terrible workplace conditions, the exploitation of unpaid college labor, the deification of violence–these are all really good reasons! I’m not going to defend any of them. But, as an American, I also have to at least acknowledge the social position football plays in American life. Football unites many of us. It’s what families can talk about at Thanksgiving instead of politics. It’s what different generations can bond over. It covers up other social ills that tear us apart. These are important things. There’s not worth it, but then that’s what Americans and maybe all humans do, create justifications for their actions even though they impact others in such a horrifyingly negative way. Jamil Smith wonders what this all says for the national character and why he enjoys football so much even though he knows all of these problems well.

I have no excuse, really. Every time I’ve thought about leaving the sport behind, I remember my favorite photograph: a black-and-white shot my mother took of me in my football uniform in the eighth grade, standing next to my father and smiling after a win. But nostalgia is a reason to love the game, not a reason to need it. Perhaps, then, this is where I should tell you why—even in the wake of Omalu’s revelations—I feel we still need football. Not to rescue the NFL’s largely black labor force from its humble origins, or to entertain the masses that refuse to let it go in the wake of mounting tragedies. We need it partially because football serves as a kind of fun-house mirror for our national character.

The reflection comes in various forms: social movements, national tragedy, political spectacle, and yes, our sports. And we are a dramatic country, so much so that the volume of theatrics we see in every corner of our lives dulls our senses. We need more, and we need it louder. And in spectator sports, we want to see the best versions of ourselves reflected back at us, or else why would we consider it entertainment? We want to believe that inside that arena, everything will be all right because our men are the strongest, and our fight is the hardest. This is why between 2012 and 2015 the Department of Defense paid 18 NFL teams a total of more than $5.6 million for marketing and advertising, including flying military bombers over stadiums at taxpayers’ expense. It’s also why we watch hit montages week after week, delighting in the crack of the pads or the punch of the music without wondering whether that player just got pushed a bit further toward CTE. Football marries artfulness to brutality, providing the most honest interpretation of American character that we have available, and I enjoy football despite its horrors because I have learned to do the same in my life in America.

Unlike Smith, I am not African-American so the horrors of my life in America are significantly fewer. But football does speak to us in very American ways. We don’t watch because we love exploiting people per se, but we do love to watch violent spectacles, whether in video games or boxing (back before the corruption doomed it to a second-tier sport) or MMA or professional wrestling or violent movies or our military kicking some ass overseas. None of these things are really good for society I suppose, but they are what they are.

When people on the left self-righteously talk about how they hate sports (although now you have the exception of “I hate sports except soccer and go USA!” which is a new twist on this), I wonder what then do they talk to working-class people and the conservatives in their families about. And I guess the answer is nothing. They don’t talk to working-class people or the conservatives in their families.

America is complicated. Even though every reader of this site knows the horrors of football, many of us will watch the Rose Bowl today or the NFL on Sunday. Or hopefully Oregon in the Alamo Bowl tomorrow. It’s also nice to know that college football still prioritizes the desires of a few rich men in bad looking blazers over the game itself, as in order to protect the traditional time slots of the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl, the NCAA held the college football playoffs on New Year’s Eve. I haven’t compared ratings to last year, but ESPN was certainly concerned and they must have been lower. I couldn’t believe I was missing the playoffs, but it was New Year’s Eve, and I was going out with my wife. Why they couldn’t be held on January 2 is beyond me. But that’s college football for you.

Surely Harbaugh Could Have Made More than $8 Million a Year in Hollywood

[ 20 ] January 3, 2015 |

I don’t know why Jim Harbaugh decided to take the Michigan job when he could have returned to his fine acting career.


[ 63 ] June 14, 2014 |

P.S. I am not a crank.

Has anyone ever published a book of cranky complaints about football where people get upset about its name or any change to the game? If not, it should end with Nick Saban and Bret Bielema whining that Oregon runs too many plays and therefore there should be mandated slowdowns.

Football’s Decline

[ 232 ] May 11, 2014 |

I’ve said this before, but one really wonders about the end of football as we know it as parents just bail on a sport that destroys their kid’s brains.

The Liberal Conspiracy

[ 115 ] September 14, 2013 |

Evidently, mentioning that football leads to massive brain trauma is a liberal conspiracy against real America.

In other news, I think we all are cheering for Oregon to crush Tennessee today in the kind of north over south victory that hasn’t been witnessed since the days of one W.T. Sherman.

Student-Athletes Indeed

[ 129 ] February 20, 2013 |

Heisman winner Johnny Manziel’s class schedule:

Johnny Football still finds time to be a college student too, even though the Texas A&M star doesn’t have to be on campus very often for classes. His schedule this semester consists of four online classes in sports management, and he just got done with a series of tests and other work.

“Had my first round of tests last week, so I’ve been kind of pushing that off as much as possible doing my online stuff, and all three tests and three papers hit me in a week,” Manziel said Monday night before accepting the Davey O’Brien Award that goes to the nation’s top quarterback. “It was good to feel like a normal student again, just a busy one.”

Manziel was initially enrolled in an English class on campus this spring with only 20 to 25 students before switching his schedule.

Don’t get me wrong–I have no problem with the kid taking advantage of the system and being as little of a student at Texas A&M as he wants. But the entire deal is a joke, both the idea that a student can be a legitimate student by taking a bunch of likely bogus classes in whatever sports management actually consists of outside of easy grades for bad students although one would never graduate with a schedule like that and the fact that the NCAA makes football players go to classes in a facade that allows universities to profit off their unpaid labor.

Can’t we find a way to pay these kids in some kind of minor-league football system? No doubt, with the NCAA such a paragon of integrity and all.

NFL Hall of Fame

[ 70 ] February 3, 2013 |

Yesterday, seven people were elected to the NFL Hall of Fame: Bill Parcells, Jonathan Ogden, Larry Allen, Warren Sapp, Cris Carter, and veterans committee candidates Curley Culp and Dave Robinson. A few thoughts.

1. While I can’t speak to the veterans committee guys (more on this in a second), it’s a pretty unimpeachable class. Parcells is one of the great coaches of our time. In fact, who is the next coach likely to get in. Mike Holmgren will probably get a hearing, but I’m skeptical. I imagine Tony Dungy will get in because of who he is, even if he only won 1 Super Bowl. Definitely Bill Belichick. Ogden and Allen were dominant blockers. Warren Sapp is an all-time great.

2. This brings me to Carter. I’m glad that the long-standing wide receiver logjam was broken by electing Carter. He’s such an obvious call. It’s amazing to me that it took 6 years. The committee faced the fact that 3 similar receivers all reached eligibility at about the same, in Carter, Tim Brown, and Andre Reed. My reading of the debates is that different people were arguing for one while denigrating the other two. The reality is that they are all Hall of Famers, with Carter slightly more deserving. Quite possible this opens the door for Reed next year, since he was closer than Brown this year.

3. It’s certainly an excellent group, unlike last year, when Curtis Martin got in for reasons still mysterious to me and Chris Doleman was a fairly marginal selection as well. Both Martin and Jerome Bettis, who still awaits his likely enshrinement at some point, were basically above-average running backs who did a good job of not getting injured. Had Martin had that career in Detroit or Cleveland, I don’t think he makes it. Did anyone ever fear Curtis Martin? On the other hand, Terrell Davis remains not even close to election. Yes, he got hurt young. He also had one of the greatest 4-year stretches in the history of running backs, playing a key role in 2 Super Bowl titles. Given the reality of NFL running backs, I don’t see that a devastating knee injury should disqualify him. It certainly didn’t disqualify Gale Sayers.

4. The only real complaint I have this year is that Charles Haley continues to not be elected. There’s really only one good reason for this–Haley was a jerk to the media. Haley is one of the dominant pass rushers of my lifetime and was an absolutely vital player on several Super Bowl teams with both Dallas and San Francisco. To me, he’s the easiest call of anyone not elected. Yet I begin to wonder if he will ever be elected. That may be especially true if we are beginning to see a pass rusher logjam like the receivers, with Haley, Strahan, and Greene (who probably has the weakest candidacy of any of this year’s finalists, outside of the unelectable Art Modell) all being denied.

5. What I find interesting about the Veterans’ Committee selections is just how old the candidates remain. I’ve been watching football for about 35 years now. There’s never been a single Veterans’ Committee candidate I remember watching. That might not mean much. But I do wonder how much nostalgia is going into picking these players, many of whom played during the childhood of the current voters. It almost seems the culture of the voting now to find truly forgotten players rather than rethink the candidacy of players who played in the late 70s or early 80s. That’s fine, I’m sure a lot of these people are true greats who were underappreciated in their own time. But given how the game has changed, as well as how we measure success, it’s probably time to rethink some people. The clear starting point should be former Bengals QB Ken Anderson, whose qualifications are clear comparing him to the other quarterbacks of his era.

6. Finally, it’s worth repeating what a travesty the actual Hall of Fame building in Canton remains. It’s an embarrassment to the NFL, who should replace that thing with a palace like exists in Cooperstown. When I visited 2 years ago, the building still had exhibits talking about current Denver Broncos QB John Elway. I know the NFL owners care about nothing but profit and squeezing small amounts of money from referees in order to score points against the union, but this is ridiculous and unacceptable. It’s arguably the most disappointing museum in the United States. And look, Canton could really use the additional tourist dollars this would bring.

The Loomis Brothers’ Super Bowl Podcast

[ 12 ] January 31, 2013 |

A.k.a. “Why you don’t let SEK name your podcast,” is now available:

Download it here, and subscribe here.

The Death of Football?

[ 113 ] January 22, 2013 |

The news that you can scan for CTE in living football players is a pretty big deal. Ta-Nehisi Coates thinks it will lead to the end of football. I am skeptical. I think it might lead to the end of upper class white kids playing football. But I do not think one can overestimate how ingrained football is in American culture. I am sure that plenty of players would continue playing, even if they knew they had brain damage. And while one can argue that the government can step in and end such a violent game, that’s not going to happen. It’s possible that it could lead to shorter professional careers, some people dropping out of the game before they suffer damage, etc., but there will be hundreds of people to step in their place. The overall quality of the game could theoretically drop, but I doubt it. Coates uses the decline of boxing as an example that this can happen. But while it’s remarkable how quickly boxing fell off the sporting map, it’s replacement by ultimate fighting certainly suggests neither the appetite for bloodsports nor the willingness of poor people to engage in them has waned at all. The decline of boxing is complicated and more related to factors ranging from a decline in compelling American heavyweights to corruption and mismanagement than an existential crisis that led to its end.

The Atom Bowl

[ 32 ] January 1, 2013 |


One of the most bizarre episodes in the entire occupation of Japan took place less than two months later, on January 1, 1946, in Nagasaki.

Back in the States, the Rose Bowl and other major college football bowl games, with the Great War over, were played as usual on New Year’s Day. To mark the day in Japan, and raise morale (at least for the Americans), two Marine divisions faced off in the so-called Atom Bowl, played on a killing field in Nagasaki that had been cleared of debris. It had been “carved out of dust and rubble,” as one wire service report put it.

Both teams had enlisted former college or pro stars for their squads. The “Bears” were led by quarterback Angelo Bertelli of Notre Dame, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1943, while the “Tigers” featured Bullet Bill Osmanski of the Chicago Bears, who topped pro football in rushing in 1939. Marines fashioned goal posts and bleachers out of scrap wood that had been blasted by the A-bomb. Nature helped provide more of a feel of home, as the day turned unusually chilly for Nagasaki and snow swirled.

More than 2000 turned out to watch. A band played the fight song, “On Wisconsin!” The rules were changed from tackle to two-hand touch because of all the glass shards remaining on the turf.

Press reports the next day claimed some Japanese observed the game—from the shells of blasted- out buildings nearby.

Something to think about while watching your New Year’s bowl games. Or the far superior Fiesta Bowl on Thursday.

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