Page images

lege spirit" awakened by the organization of an athletic association and the nondescript uniforming of a football team. The library reading ceases altogether or degenerates into a revel in the sporting columns of the newspapers, spiced with admiring study of the brutalized countenances of distinguished sports and toughs. The work of the college literary societies which is, at least, of equal importance with any one line of scheduled college exercises - is given but little attention, the sporting tendency deadening all interest in forensic exercises. The college paper, the exponent of student life and thought, holds existence by a slender and constantly weakening thread. The reader looks in vain for thought-suggesting contributions but is confronted with columns of sporting news, reported in bad English and bristling with terms and phrases that suggest plagairism from “the thieves' lingo.”

The athletic association, which, under proper organization and control, might do so much for the physical wellbeing of the whole student body, is dominated by a few restless, lawless spirits in whom the animal propensities are thoroughly developed, and its advantages if under existing conditions it can be said to have any monopolized by just those persons who, physically, have least need of them. A select few, chosen for their capacity to exert brute force, represent the athletic association in the only sport or exercise for which thought is exerted or provision made, and the other members of the organization are crowded into the ranks of the “rooters”, with privilege to pay expenses and cheer the contestants with spirited howls and incessant clamor.

That legitimate college work can go on properly under such conditions is impossible, and the fact is well known to every educator of experience, how

ever reluctant he may be to give testimony. The thought of many students is centered more in the doings of the football team than in their lessons. The coming contest is the chief topic of conversation in college halls, and it takes a week of animated talk to explain the cause of a defeat. The games succeed each other in rapid succession. "One woe doth tread upon another's heel so fast they follow." The excitement incident to one contest has not subsided when another event of still more absorbing interest is announced. So it goes on, from term to term, throughout the college year, and the cost is seen in neglected opportunity, poor scholarship, idle propensity, and a low ideal of attainment and duty.

The game of football is not without its worthy apologists - worthy, at least, in that their high positions in society or public service give force to statements which from other sources would be laughed to scorn. Some noted heads of colleges and universities damn football with faint praise; others more boldly range themselves under the banner carried by the "bruisers" and "rooters” that take possession of the "gridiron” and its environment. Public officials turn their backs on official duty and dignity to enjoy a sport whose brutal features ought to be as obnoxious to them as the contests of the prize ring or the sickening scenes of the arena in a bull fight tournament. A President finds relaxation from official responsibility in witnessing, under proper chaperonage, an unusually exciting and closely contested football game in Cincinnati. A prospective candidate for that high office dons a sweater" and evokes tumultuous applause from "the boys”, by giving the “pigskin” a vigorous kick as the opening act of a game which was but another advance in the work of demoralizing college life. How pub


lic men, with respectable antecedents, misnomer - between teams representwill lower their dignity in the hope of ing Baldwin University and Heidelberg spreading political sails before a favor- University, the one at Berea, the other ing breeze! Said a well-known politi- at Tiffin, Ohio. I quote some sentencian and office-holder: "If the risk of ces from a report whose reading would football can be lessened, I would favor glut as insatiate an appetite for blood it, but in any event I believe in foot and bruises as that of the chancellor of ball.” The amount of faith some peo- Syracuse University. Evidently the ple can have, on occasion, in ignoble "general epidemic of reform”, which things is one of the marvels of the the chancellor-clergyman looks upon times. The only response that comes with such misgiving is not strongly in back to the mild suggestion of the pop- evidence in northern Ohio.

“Capt. ularity-courting college presidents and Reed, of Keene, Ohio, has concussion public officials that the football game of the brain and is still unconscious. be freed from some of its brutality and Fullback Young, coach for Baldwin, is danger, is the reply, curt and to the

suffering from injuries to the head and point: “The rules are not in need of is still delirious. The Baldwin men modification: they are now practically claim that the Tiffin team put in a perfect."

‘ringer' on the second half, who, after What are an old mother's tears, a sis- throwing Reed down jumped upon his ter's fond hopes, or human lives, to head. He repeated the performance in "sports” in search of manliness or poli- the case of Young. Reed remained unticians in quest of office? Thistle or conscious and was carried to the train eider down sifted gently on a croco- in that condition. After a search of dile's back would make more impress several hours, Young was found wanthan the entreaties of mothers and sis- dering about in an alley and taken to ters upon the brutal natures of profes- a hospital." sional sports or the cool, calculating In view of such events is it strange dispositions of the average place that President Elliott of Harvard, in his seekers.

approval of football as an agency for Rev. Dr. James R. Day, a Methodist developing "manliness”, should modclergyman, and chancellor of Syracuse ify his usual transports by using the University, New York, approves of the following language? Everybody can "gridiron” because "a man who goes not play football. (Evidently not, withthrough a season of being trodden up- out the design is to give the surgeon on and knocked down deserves fairly a the coroner, or the undertaker diploma in the art of self-control.” all combined a fast-increasing and Sometimes the diploma takes the form lucrative business.) It is only the of a funeral notice. The fortitude of strong and well-built men who can exsome people in bearing the knock- pect to play the game with any degree downs and drag-outs of others, is, at of success.” times, very touching.

Such a statement smacks of truth and In the next column to that in which gives the lie to the assertion that footthe Rev. Dr. expresses his willingness ball exercises, in educational instituto see college students "developed" by tions, is needed to invigorate the physgames that contain "necessary ele- ical organism of students whom overments of roughness and danger" we attention to study is hurrying to prefind an account of a football contest mature graves. the word game in such connection is a An excerpt from a report of a

[ocr errors]



Thanksgiving game in which Harvard was represented, two or three years ago, fairly bristles with hero-making incidents. Here are

some samples: "Wrightington's collar-bone broken; Hollowell was carried off the field disabled; Murphy lay bleeding and insensible on the ground, the result of a hard punch in the stomach; Brewer was hurt in the first half, but was able to resume play, though subsequently retired by the physician's orders. Just before the game began, George Gray, the Harvard halfback, who broke his leg in a practice game, hobbled down to the line on crutches and received an ovation. The only Butterworth was more severely injured this afternoon than ever before in his football career.

His right eye was almost gouged out in the first half, and he can not see out of it at all.”

Under the head of “Thanksgiving Barbarities” the eidtor of Good Health calls the members of the football team "fighting men" and says their so-called game is attended with "barbarities such as are seldom exceeded even in savage lands, and which, in such semi-civilized countries as India, China, and Japan, would be regarded with positive horror and disgust.” In the same article, the author quotes from an act of the Scottish Parliament, passed in the reign of James I., (died 1437) prohibiting football: “The ball in this play may be compared to an infernal spirit: for whosoever catcheth it, fareth straightway like a madman, struggling and fighting with those who go about to hold him. It is accompanied with many dangers, some of which do even fall to the player's share; for proof thereof, when the hurling is ended, you shall see them returning home as from a pitched battle, with bloody pates, bones broken and out of joint, and such bruises as serve to shorten their days; and yet all is in good play, and

never attorney nor coroner troubled for the matter."

Another quotation taken from Sir Thomas Elyot's "The Govenour", published in 1531, shows the English game of "foote balle” to be "nothynge but beastly furie and extreme violence, whereof proceedeth hurte.”

President Sewall, of the Denver Board of Aldermen, made investigation of football injuries with the following result:

"In the battle of Gettysburg the mortality was three and one-half per cent of those engaged. The figures show, so far as they have been obtainable, that the mortality among football players this year has been four per cent of those engaged in the struggles. These figures include the deaths caused by the game, not the accidents that were only followed by injuries which were not fatal. Advocates of a law against football have the advantage of these statistics, which can not be disputed."

A newspaper clipping before me contains the following statements:

“A few years ago the Superintendent of the United States Military Academy, at West Point, submitted a report in which he called attention to the injuries received by those engaging in football. It showed tnat 27 men playing football received 37 injuries: while 198 men exercising in the riding hall received 26 injuries in the same period – three months. The 101 men exercising in the gymnasium in the same period received 10 injuries. The time lost by students on account of injuries was divided this way: Through football, 106 days; through riding, 71 days; through gymnasium work, 58 days."

“The superintendent called the attention of the Board of Visitors to this showing, and testified that the distraction from studies caused by interest in the game was a greater injury than the contusions and sprains he had record

ed, because it affected the entire school. and led him thence with dragging feet The Board of Visitors made report and head that drooped from side to condemning the match games. The side, while from his mouth came clotGeneral of the Army (General Scho- ted blood.” The sporting reporters of field, now retired) made a report on the newspapers should hasten to familthe subject which was laid before the iarize themselves with the contents of President."

the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid, “As a result of the recommendation for the authors of these classic works of the General, considered at a cabinet excelled in minute, graphic descriptions meeting, an order was issued providing of which the quoted passage affords a that the Superintendent should make worthy example. regulations for the game, and that the The hero of ancient wars, recorded in Military Academy team should not play classic tongues, was a brute and a bulgames away from West Point. A sim

ly. The noble lineage of Achilles did ilar order was issued by the Secretary not rescue him from being an inhuman of the Navy concerning the team at monster who found delight in vile inAnnapolis and that put an end to sult to the body of a fallen foe. His the West Point-Annapolis matches." ruthless murder of captives is not rob

This spasmodic effort on the part of bed of its atrocity because committed government authorities to control foot- to honor the funeral rites of a friend. ball among the military and naval The value of one's physical strength cadets was

not far-reaching, as the depends upon the use made of it. “Army and Navy Register", for October, Samson had long hair long enough 1897, reports the Annapolis Cadets as to insure him a captaincy of a football playing match games of football with a team in these times. He was an expert number of teams representing different in handling foxes and firebrands; in eastern educational institutions. Some wielding jaw bones of asses; in pulling games are reported to be “full of gin- down prisons even in his blindness ger” and cause for laudation is found but Delilah was his undoing. Says in the fact that while the cadets stood Bulwer: "It is rare, indeed, that a "the great weight hurled against their great intellect is found in the form of lines” without physical injury their op- a giant.” A bulky frame indicates one ponents "frequently called time for in

thing, a lofty expanse of brow, another. jured players."

In our college museum are two busts, The brutalities of football, prize one representing a primitive man, the fights, and other delectable sports of other the intellectual and refined featthe same kidney are no new things un- ures of the great botanist, Linnaeus. der the sun. It is probable that some The brutal instincts of the former are college football cranks know enough glaringly apparent in his massive, of Greek to read Homer with the aid of coarse, and bestial features. The best a translation. In Book XXIII, of the that is in man, guided by reason, inIliad, an account is given of the brutal fluenced by sensibility, and held to games and sports instituted by Achilles right direction by will, is represented in in honor of his dead friend, Patroclus, the facial make-up of the latter. These In a boxing contest, in which the ces- forms give an object lesson to every one tus was used, Epeius defeated Eury- who looks upon them with attentive inlaus. The poet describes the condition terest. of the vanquished – I use Bryant's Football ought to be popular with translation: "His friends came round the students of Baylor University, a Baptist institution located at Waco, ing admission to the state's higher inTexas. These recipients of Christian stitutions of learning. education, at the expense of the pock- Some of the zest with which football ets of decent people, recently mobbed is carried on would be lost were exthe editor of “The Iconoclast'', a local citement, as to results, not intensified paper that had charged the authorities by the gambling spirit which is not of the university with incapacity and confined to the professed “sports" but the students with immorality. The stu- exhibits itself among students themdents' redressing a grievance, real or selves and their friends. The tendency otherwise, by mob violence fails to con- of students to stake money on a match vince the public of their innocence, game of football, and on other events while it does bring more prominently of a like character, can not be truthforward the question often suggested in fully denied. It is bad enough for one reference to much of our so-called to bet his own money; it is folly borhigher education "Is it worth its dering on criminality for him to stake cost?"

money which he holds as an agent. A If college halls are to resound with self-respecting son would not misuse the senseless yells and hoots of a mob the bounty of his father. For a son to of football cranks, if college play- bet away the money his parents progrounds and gymnasiums are to be vide for his education, is another way monopolized by long-haired and be- to evince manliness of the kind which padded athletes, if the culture of the is in such distinguished favor among soul is to be held in abeyance while all football apologists. brutal, animal instincts are encouraged The coach of one of the football to run riot, it may well be considered teams, prior to Thansgiving day conwhether the state would not be the tests, said to an enthusiast who was gainer by the restriction of higher ed- preparing to stake his money with a ucation, at the public expense, to those liberality not born of discretion, “Judge, who give most promise of profiting by don't let your ardor run away with their training. The free-school idea, it your judgment.” I would like to name would seem, is not a modern thought the "Judge” who is going around shakproduct. When the power of Babylon ing his money in people's faces. Were brought Jerusalem into captivity, this brazen-faced character on the Nebuchadnezzar spake unto the mas- bench, we might expect decisions as ter of his eunuchs, commanding him to unjust and iniquitous as that probring certain Israelite youths "in whom nounced by Angelo, whose hypocrisy was no blemish, but well-favored and Shakespeare has held up to just scorn skillful in all wisdom, and cunning in and execration. knowledge, and understanding science, The honor that is said to prevail and such as had ability in them” that among thieves would be a moral adthey might be taught the learning and vance upon that which marks the contongue of the Chaldeans. And the king duct of some football players. Fremade provision for the maintenance of quently any sharp practice, however unthese youths for three years to the end fair and dishonorable, will be employthat they might be prepared by rigor- ed to secure the victory in which the ous training for the public service. The contestants are often so deeply intersurvival of the fittest, with limitations, ested pecuniarily. Paid "thugs” are immight be made applicable to those ask- ported, at no slight expense, and en

« PreviousContinue »