Fellow Patriot:

The voluntary financial generosity of Patriots — people like you — keeps our doors open. Please support the 2020 Year-End Campaign today. Thank you for your support! —Nate Jackson, Managing Editor

Terence Jeffrey / Nov. 21, 2018

Football Makes America Great

Charles Eliot, who served for decades as president of Harvard, hated football and led a crusade against it.

Charles Eliot, who served for decades as president of Harvard, hated football and led a crusade against it.

He lost — and America won.

Eliot did not believe football genteel enough for college men. “In short,” he wrote in his report on Harvard’s 1892-93 academic year, “football cultivates strength and skill kept in play by all the combative instincts, whereas the strength most serviceable to civilized society is the strength which is associated with gentleness and courtesy.”

The next year, Eliot escalated his attack on America’s greatest game.

“The evils of the intercollegiate sports, as described in the president’s report of last year, continue without real redress and diminution,” he wrote in his annual report for 1893-94.

“In particular,” he said, “the game of football grows worse and worse as regards foul and violent play and the number and gravity of the injuries which the players suffer. It has become perfectly clear that the game as now played is unfit for college use.”

Eliot argued that other more civilized activities — such as walking and biking — were superior diversions for American schoolboys.

“The athletic sports and exercises which commend themselves to sensible teachers and parents are those which can be used moderately and steadily, and which remain available in some measure in mature life,” he wrote. “Such are gymnasium exercises, walking, running, rowing, sailing, riding, cycling, tennis, gunning, bowling and fencing.”

Not all Harvard officials agreed with Eliot.

Robert Bacon, who would eventually serve as secretary of state under President Teddy Roosevelt, graduated from Harvard in 1880 — after serving as captain of the football team. In November 1893, as a member of the Harvard Board of Overseers, he asked Walter Camp to lead an investigation into the alleged problems with college football.

Camp, who played at Yale when Bacon played at Harvard, is properly considered the father of American football.

Following up on Bacon’s request, he surveyed almost all the men who had played football at Harvard, Yale and Princeton in the years since 1876.

The survey discovered that only one player had died in a manner “attributed in any way to the sport.”

“In that single case overtraining in several athletic lines was supposed to have weakened the constitution of the man, although no direct connection existed,” Camp reported in “Football Facts and Figures.”

He caustically pointed to a then-recent news story: “Five young men, students at Harvard, went sailing, their boat was upset in a squall, and all five were drowned. Had similar fatalities occurred in any of the sports called games, the shock to the community would have been so severe as to have prompted many letters to the newspapers and to the faculty, urging the forbidding of the sport.”

Camp also published the views of Eugene Lamb Richards, a Yale mathematics professor whose son and namesake captained the school’s 1884 football team. Richards conceded that there were evils football needed to remove or avoid, but argued that the game instilled virtues in young men in a way no other game did.

These were both moral and intellectual.

“It will surprise many good people who have been accustomed to hear such an epithet as ‘brutal’ applied to the game of football, that I claim for it, as the first point of superiority over other college athletic sports, that it is eminently an intellectual game,” this Ivy League mathematician wrote.

“A game of football, between contestants evenly matched in other respects, is won by the superior mental work of the winning team as embodied in the generalship of the captain and the thoughtful work of his men,” he said.

Football, he argued, instills courage.

“If there is one virtue more to be desired in a manly character, without which indeed the character ceases to be manly, that virtue is courage,” Richards wrote.

“And of the college sports there is not one which cultivates this manly virtue more than football,” he said. “Neither is the courage required entirely physical. Indeed, the best players feel and see the danger which they brave. Conscious of injuries received, they often continue to face plays which may exaggerate their pains.”

Richards believed good college football teams required good men.

“As there is no other college sport which so brings out the best virtues in a man, so there is no other college sport which is so dependent for its success upon good all-around men,” he wrote. “Though this statement is measurably true for all amateur sports, it is emphatically true for football.”

“The best teams at Yale,” he said, “have had not only the best players, but the most successful teams have contained the most moral and religious men.”

The year Camp’s report came out, college football prohibited the flying wedge, making the game safer. Many other rule changes have been made since then, including, in 1906, legalization of the forward pass.

To the chagrin of those like Charles Eliot — who would prefer that young men walk and bike — football remains by far the most popular participation sport for American high school boys.

In 2017, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations, 1,036,842 young American men played high school football.

Among them, no doubt, are many of this nation’s best future leaders, who will bring with them into adulthood lessons they learned on the field.

COPYRIGHT 2018 CREATORS.COM

Who We Are

The Patriot Post is a highly acclaimed weekday digest of news analysis, policy and opinion written from the heartland — as opposed to the MSM’s ubiquitous Beltway echo chambers — for grassroots leaders nationwide. More

What We Offer

On the Web

We provide solid conservative perspective on the most important issues, including analysis, opinion columns, headline summaries, memes, cartoons and much more.

Via Email

Choose our full-length Digest or our quick-reading Snapshot for a summary of important news. We also offer Cartoons & Memes on Monday and Alexander’s column on Wednesday.

Our Mission

The Patriot Post is steadfast in our mission to extend the endowment of Liberty to the next generation by advocating for individual rights and responsibilities, supporting the restoration of constitutional limits on government and the judiciary, and promoting free enterprise, national defense and traditional American values. We are a rock-solid conservative touchstone for the expanding ranks of grassroots Americans Patriots from all walks of life. Our mission and operation budgets are not financed by any political or special interest groups, and to protect our editorial integrity, we accept no advertising. We are sustained solely by you. Please support The Patriot Fund today!

★ PUBLIUS ★

“Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!” —George Washington

The Patriot Post is protected speech, as enumerated in the First Amendment and enforced by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, in accordance with the endowed and unalienable Rights of All Mankind.

Copyright © 2020 The Patriot Post. All Rights Reserved.

The Patriot Post does not support Internet Explorer. We recommend installing the latest version of Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome.