“It is no easy task to so modify the rules as to stamp out the evils and make (football) safer, while retaining the tactical beauties and the essential features of the game.”
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? The sort of thing we’ve grown accustomed to, these days, as the most popular sport in America, and a National Football League that has grown into a multi-billion dollar business, grapples with an inability to keep its star players on the field, a full-blown brain injury crisis, and a growing fear that the next generation will shy away from the gridiron in favor of safer options.
Except that, well, this isn’t actually a contemporary quote. Far from it, in fact. The passage above was actually printed in the New York Daily Tribune, more than a century ago, in December of 1905, as a committee of collegiate officials, at the urging of President Theodore Roosevelt, set out to reform a game that had become so brutal in its vicious, close quarters, rugby-like scrums, that dozens of players had been killed in college competition in the last few years.
All of which is to take notice of two things, really. One is that football has survived, and even thrived, despite the violence inherent in the game, for more than a century now.
But the second is that – even after more than 100 years of competition – the problem has never really been solved either.