Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Some History of Football

American football has a very long history. It evolved from soccer and rugby football too. One ancestor of football was played in Britain when a football was kicked at a goal or kicked over a line during the mid-19th century. Before that time, there was the ball game called harpastum played during the Roman Empire. Native Americans played games with a ball too. Rugby football is a sport where 2 competing teams vie for control of a ball. The ball can be kicked through a set of goalposts or run into the opponent’s goal area to score points. The first modern American football game took place on November 6, 1869. It was between Rutgers and Princeton. They are 2 college teams. The game was played between 2 teams of 25 players each and used a round ball that could not be picked or carried. It could be kicked or batted with the hands, feet, head, or sides with the goal ultimate goal being to advance it into the opponent’s goal. Rutgers won the game 6 goals to 4. Collegiate play continued for many years. These matches were played using the rules of the host school. On October 19, 1873, the representatives of Yale, Columbia, Princeton, and Rutgers met to form a set of rules for all schools to adhere to. Teams were set at 20 players each. The fields were in the dimensions of 400 by 250 feet (122 m × 76 m) were specified. Harvard abstained from the conference, as they favored a rugby-style game that allowed running with the ball. By 1875, the Harvard-Yale game played under rugby style rules was observed by two impressed Princeton athletes. Those players introduced the sport to Princeton. Princeton, Harvard, Yale and Columbia then agreed to intercollegiate play using a form of rugby union rules with a modified scoring system. These schools formed the Intercollegiate Football Association, although Yale did not join until 1879. Yale player Walter Camp, now regarded as the "Father of American Football", secured rule changes in 1880 that reduced the size of each team from 15 to 11 players and instituted the snap to replace the chaotic and inconsistent scrum. Walter Camp also excelled in track, baseball, and association football. Camp promoted the establishment of the line of scrimmage, the snap from center to quarterback which was passed in 1880. The game quickly evolved.

Camp's innovations in the area of point scoring influenced rugby union's move to point scoring in 1890. In 1887, game time was set at two halves of 45 minutes each. Also in 1887, two paid officials—a referee and an umpire—were mandated for each game. A year later, the rules were changed to allow tackling below the waist, and in 1889, the officials were given whistles and stopwatches.  The creation of the snap resulted in many consequences. Before the snap, the strategy was to punt if a scrum resulted in bad field position. However, a group of Princeton players realized that, as the snap was uncontested, they now could hold the ball indefinitely to prevent their opponent from scoring. In 1881, both Yale and Princeton played a game with this new strategy. Each team held the ball. They gained no ground for an entire half. It resulted in a 0-0 tie. This "block game" proved extremely unpopular with the spectators and fans of both teams. Some called for a rule change. Camp proposed another rule in 1882. He wanted each team to be limited to three downs or tackles to advance the ball five yards. Failure to advance the ball of the required distance within those three downs would result in control of the ball being forfeited to the other team. This change made American football a separate sport from rugby and the resulting five-yard lines added to the field to measure distances made it resemble a gridiron in appearance. Other major rule changes included a reduction of the field size to 110 by 53.333 yards (100.584 m × 48.768 m), and the adoption of a scoring system that awarded four points for a touchdown, two for a safety and a goal following a touchdown, and five for a goal from field; additionally, tackling below the waist was legalized.

The last, and arguably most important innovation, which would at last make American football uniquely "American", was the legalization of interference, or blocking, a tactic which was highly illegal under the rugby-style rules. The new rules were ahead of its time. The Big Game between Stanford and California is the oldest college football rivalry in the West. The first game was played on San Francisco's Haight Street Grounds on March 19, 1892 with Stanford winning 14–10. The term "Big Game" was first used in 1900, when it was played on Thanksgiving Day in San Francisco. The sport was a violent sport. Back then, there was dangerous mass-formation. This caused interlocking interference like the flying wedge. This caused serious injuries and deaths. A 1905 peak of 19 fatalities nationwide resulted in a threat by President Theodore Roosevelt to abolish the game unless major changes were made. In response, sixty-two colleges and universities met in New York City to discuss rule changes on December 28, 1905, and these proceedings resulted in the formation of the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States, later named the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The legal forward pass was introduced in 1906. It was limited due to the restrictions placed on its usage. There were other rule changes introduced like: that year included the reduction of the time of play from 70 to 60 minutes and the increase of the distance required for a first down from 5 to 10 yards (9.1 m). To reduce infighting and dirty play between teams, the neutral zone was created along the width of the football. The scoring changes included the following too: field goals were lowed to three points in 1909, and touchdowns were raised to six points in 1912. The field was also reduced to 100 yards (91 m) long, but two 10-yard-long end zones were created and teams were given four downs instead of three to advance the ball 10 yards (9.1 m). The roughing-the-passer penalty was implemented in 1914, and eligible players were first allowed to catch the ball anywhere on the field in 1918.

One professional football player from the old days was William “Pudge” Heffelfinger. On November 12, 1892, he was paid $500 to play for a game for the Allegheny Athletic Association in a match against the Pittsburgh Athletic Club. This is the first recorded instance of a player being paid to participate in a game of American football. Many athletic clubs by the 1880’s offered indirect benefits like helping players attain employment, giving out trophies or watches that players could pawn for money, or paying double in expense money. . Despite these extra benefits, the game had a strict sense of amateurism at the time, and direct payment to players was frowned upon, if not outright prohibited. As time came about, professional play was more common. Higher salaries existed and unpredictable player movement came about. There was the illegal payment of college players who were still in school. The National Football League (NFL) was a group of professional teams that was originated established in 1920 as the American Professional Football Association. The NFL was created to solve problems. It wanted to end bidding wars over players, it didn’t use college players, and it banned the practice of paying players to leave another team. By 1922, the NFL had established itself as the premier professional football league. Back during the early 20th century, football was dominated at the collegiate level. The upstart NFL received a boost in legitimacy in 1925. That was when a NFL team called the Pottsville Maroons defeated a team of Notre Dame all stars in an exhibition game. A greater emphasis on the passing game helped professional football to further distinguish itself from the college game during the late 1930’s. Football became very popular by the 1958 Championship NFL game between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants. It was an overtime victory for the Colts. Millions of people saw it on television and the sport grew into immense popularity. There was the American Football League (or AFL) by the early 1960’s. Football started to be the most popular sport in the United States by the mid-1960’s. The rival American Football League arose in 1960 and challenged the NFL's dominance. The AFL began in relative obscurity but eventually thrived, with an initial television contract with the ABC network. The AFL's existence forced the conservative NFL to expand to Dallas and Minnesota in an attempt to destroy the new league.

Meanwhile, the AFL introduced many new features to Professional Football in the United States: official time on the scoreboard clock, rather than on a watch in the referee's pocket, as the NFL did; optional two-point conversions by pass or run after touchdowns; names on the jerseys of players; and several others, including expansion of the role of minority players, actively recruited by the league in contrast to the NFL. The AFL also signed several star college players that had also been drafted by NFL teams. Competition for players heated up in 1965, when the AFL New York Jets signed rookie Joe Namath to a then-record US $437,000 contract. A five-year, $40 million NBC television contract followed, which helped to sustain the young league. The bidding war for players ended in 1966, when NFL owners approached the AFL regarding a merger, and the two leagues agreed on one that would take full effect in 1970. This agreement gave a common draft that took place each year. There was an annual World Championship game to be played between each champions of each league. The game was played at the end of the 1966 season. Once the merger was completed, it was no longer a championship game between two leagues, and reverted to the NFL championship game, which came to be known as the Super Bowl. Legends of the National Football League are diverse spanning decades. They include Walter Payton and Joe Montana. They include people like Joe Aikman and Jim Brown. They also include people like Deion Sanders and the legendary player Gale Sayers. College football is known for postseason bowl games too. Each bowl game would be associated with a particular conference, and earning a spot in a bowl game was the reward for winning a conference. This arrangement was profitable, but it tended to prevent the two top-ranked teams from meeting in a true national championship game, as they would normally be committed to the bowl games of their respective conferences. Several systems have been used since 1992 to determine a national champion of college football. The first was the Bowl Coalition, in place from 1992 to 1994. This was replaced in 1995 by the Bowl Alliance, which gave way in 1997 to the Bowl Championship Series (BCS). The BCS arrangement proved to be controversial, and was replaced in 2014 by the College Football Playoff (CFP).  Today, the N FL is very popular in the early 21st century. The commissioner now is Roger Coodell, who has been controversial on many issues. Professional football leagues exist globally.

By Timothy

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