Fall is here. There is a nip in the air, trees are beginning to show tinges of red and orange, and that aroma in the air is brats sizzling on the grill at tailgate parties.
It has been a long time since I attended high school football games. A few things have changed with the times but the basic excitement of gladiator proportions still exists.
The sound of the band and the drums start the heart racing. The cheerleaders do their best to capitalize on this adrenalin rush with rhythmic stomps, thumps, and yells. Then the team runs on the field clad in their form fitting uniforms with lots of protective padding underneath and new state-of-the-art custom fit helmets. All sorts of protective measures have been taken to shield the player as he fights for his school and hometown’s honor.
The fans are packed into the stadium wearing a wide assortment of paraphernalia reflecting their team’s colors. They cheer and moan and groan depending upon their team’s success. Officials wearing black and white uniforms are positioned around the field to ensure a fair and safe game. However, the fans sometimes see their calls as more of an interference or nuisance and voice their opinions accordingly.
It is a grueling fight to the finish and we can only pray that all players escape the game with no serious injuries. But football has always been a violent sport. It dates back to the ancient Greek game of harpaston and is mentioned in classical Greek literature as a “very rough and brutal game.” The rules were very simple and similar to today’s game. Points were awarded when a player crossed a goal line either by kicking the ball, running across it with the ball, or throwing the ball across the line to another player.
In the United States the Native Americans played a game similar to football and it was reported that the settlers in Jamestown also played a similar game with inflated balls. Modern day football has its roots in rugby and soccer. It resulted from some major rule changes instituted by Walter Camp, considered the “Father of American Football”. Among those changes were the introduction of the line of scrimmage and down-and-distance rules.
I might be a bit different from most women. I love football and always have. I even understand it. Some of my earliest memories are of my father and uncle sitting in front of a small black and white TV screen yelling and screaming. I married a former player, coach and scout who takes his sport seriously. So much so that he never yells or screams at the TV and never cusses out the officials. However, I have seen him so disgusted that he says he is giving up on his Buckeyes—that is until the next game.
I live in the middle of Big 10 territory and the Ohio State Buckeyes. This area is rich in football history not only for the Buckeyes but Columbus was also the site of the first NFL headquarters. I frequently pass through Portsmouth, Ohio and go past an ancient, inconsequential looking concrete stadium; however, this was the home of the Portsmouth Spartans (which later became the Detroit Lions) and is the sight of the first professional night game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1930. Famed Jim Thorpe played here when the team was the Portsmouth Shoe-Steels. I also live a little over 100 miles from the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Yes, like so many other Americans I love football. It gives me a tingle up my spine to watch my grandson run onto the field ready for battle in this ancient sport. A sport steeped in tradition and history. A sport that creates more energy than a nuclear blast. A sport young boys dream about and old men remember fondly.