Scholastic

Feb 09, 2016

Is football degrading...

As many of you know, I am working on a book about early (1887-1917) Notre Dame Football.  I would have been done a long time ago, but I keep going on tangents.

Here’s an interesting item I found in a bit of student writing:

GLANCING through the papers and magazines of the present day we see discussions of many strange subjects: such as, "The Possibilities of Bottling the Sun's Light," "The Great Benefit to be gained through the Prohibition of Flirtation", “The Inhumanity of Football," and many other subjects just as trivial. 

Notice the three topics the writer selected: 

1.  “Bottling the sun” sounds like today’s arguments about renewable fuels;

2.  “Prohibition of flirting” sounds like today’s arguments against sexual harassment; and

3.  What could be more topical than “The Inhumanity of Football” with all the discussion about concussions and other harmful results from repetitive head trauma.

When did this article appear in the SCHOLASTIC?

February 12, 1898.

Incidentally, the sentence above was the beginning or an article by the ND Football Captain, and a strong defense of the importance of all sports and especially football.

He also added this data:

The following statistics, taken from the Literary Digest, give the ratio of deaths issuing from the various athletic sports: 

Swimming-135

Boating-986

Hunting-654

Bicycling-264

Horseback Riding-333

Ice Boating-22

Football-11

He ended the article with this:

IS FOOTB.ALL DEGRADING?

Many a youth has gone upon the gridiron a half fool, and after playing a few months he has become a very rational fellow. To play the game a man must have a moderate temper. If he has a high temper the game will tend to moderate it. A player must submit to strict discipline. This is the first requisite for the training of any character. He must also fight a losing battle; this gives him the nerve and the courage he needs to force his way through the rough world. This trait of character is obtained in no college class-room; it must be secured by costly experience, or directly from the gridiron. Take any stubborn, ill-tempered man and put him on the football field for a year or two, and he will be as gentle and harmless as a child. His character will be that of a gentleman's; nor will his body be developed at the expense of his mind.

As a rule, people are of the opinion that football players are poor students. It is not so at Notre Dame. The average standing of the "Varsity" football player in 1897 and 1898 was nine per centum higher than the average of the general student body. The inference drawn from this must be that students had better spend their recreation at playing football instead of lounging around the smoking room. Let us take a glance at the character of those who are trying to suppress our manly game. Are they men of large, warm hearts? I dare say they are not. If they were they would not, without a just cause, try to deprive youth of innocent pleasure. Is it the broadminded man who is trying to commit the sin?  Were it he, his conscience, for justice' sake, would force him to put his foot on sports; for there is no sport that is unaccompanied by danger. Statistics will bear me out in this assertion. 

JOHN L. MULLEN,

Captain, Varsity Eleven

Civil Engineering, 1900


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