Monday, February 6, 2012

On the Grid Iron: How Theodore Roosevelt Saved Football

Lately, your good friend Old Guru has been, and I admit it, pretty hard on the GOP.  Now although, I truly believe they deserve the pointed criticisms I lash at them, I must note that I am fair and reasonable, and I can give Republicans credit when they do the right thing for our great country.

Now many of you probably have red eyes this morning because you stayed up long after the Super Bowl ended and many of you probably don't plan to head to work at all because you just had to prove that you're still "Frank the Tank" during the party.  Leading up to the Super Bowl, you probably talked football all day to everyone that would listen and even those that wouldn't -  and you didn't even care.  Yup, you probably updated your authentic jersey collection and you probably spent nights watching highlights from the 2011-12 NFL season and studying your favorite players' stats.  Ok, maybe that was just me but you get my point.

But guess what?  Our glorious holiday, commonly known as Super Bowl Sunday, was made possible thanks to the leadership and negotiating skills of Theodore Roosevelt.  That's right, the GOP Rough Rider saved football.  Here's the skinny on how he did it.

In the early 1900s, the National Football Leauge did not exist  and the collegiate level was the biggest stage for players.  But football was incredibly dangerous.  At best, players had thin, leather head gear and virtually no protective equipment.  Imagine Mike Vick wearing a leather skull cap and getting tackled by Ray Lewis.  Or imagine yourself running up the middle and meeting Brian Urlacher, and all you have to protect yourself is a striped rugby sweater.  Yeah, that's how it was back then.

Interestingly enough, players weren't even that big.  For  example, at 5'10", and 195 pounds, I could have easily played tight end for any top university.  At lesser schools, if I had added another 5 pounds, I would have been an above-average sized player in the middle linebacker position.  Still the same, football was vicious. 

Though players were much smaller than the super human players that make up the NFL today, there were almost no rules and defenses pulled every dirty trick in the book.  During tackles, defenders could grab you by the face or anything on your face, they could pile drive you into the ground, and most devastatingly, opponents could gang tackle you.  In fact, the sport was so dangerous that 18 college and amateur players died in 1905 alone.

Now fans craved the violence of the sport, and in fact, football was growing its fan base.  However, football wasn't that popular amongst the intellectual sect.  Apparently, Harvard University President Charles W. Eliot, opposed our beloved sport because it was too war like, because "the weaker man is considered the legitimate prey of the stronger," and because  "the violence of the game [could] not be prevented."  Now though I would have opposed abolishing football, I understand his point. See Hardest football hits .  And let me tell you Eliot, as Harvard's President, had a lot of political clout in those days.  So much in fact, that football as we know it was set to meet its maker.

Enter President Theodore Roosevelt.  Now ole Teddy was a 98-pound weakling as a youth and he spent his time learning about zoology.  Think Napoleon Dynamite in the 20th Century.  But as an adult, Teddy was a strong, burly, athletic man (at least for the 1900s)  who  enjoyed outdoors sports and burnished a tough guy image.  When Teddy found out about football's impending death, he was having none of it and called a meeting at the White House with opponents and supporters of football.  Though he didn't "big stick" football's opponents, he used leadership, tact, persuasion, and superior communication skills ( are you writing this down GOP?) to forge an agreement between the two factions.

The end result?  Safer equipment for players, rigorous enforcement of new rules, strategic playbooks and get this - the forward pass.  Football as we know it was born.  So, as you prance in your office today, or in between high-fives as you congratulate all the NY Giant fans, find and Republican and give him a big hug.  One of their own thought about the best interests of the country and saved football.


What would happen if Obama was to intervene in today's debates over concussions and other long term football-related injuries?
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