Who Remembers Walter Camp?

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Football Evolves

It’s shocking a University of Michigan graduate, John Miller (Hillsdale College), author “The Big Scrum: How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football,” can know so much about Walter Chauncey Camp (1859 -1925). Camp was an American football player, coach, and sports writer known as the “Father of American Football”. The sport of football would not exist, if not for Walter Camp.

Before Camp’s time, soccer had been the dominant’ruffian’ sport in American colleges, but Yale and Harvard agreed to play rugby instead. Camp played in the first Yale-Harvard rugby game, in 1876, and virtually invented American football with his extensive changes to rugby rules.

Roosevelt Not Political

Even more surprisingly, a sports game-football-was unalterably aligned with politics, when Theodore Roosevelt got involved. As an 18 yr-old freshman at Harvard (1876) is when Roosevelt attended his first game of the new sport of football. Before the game began, both teams met to discuss the rules. During the game he saw a lanky freshman, called Walter Camp shovel a lateral to Oliver Thomson who decided to kick the ball 35-yards away from the goal, allowing Yale a win (1-0). At that point, the game of football was born.

Today, football is almost ‘tribal’, and has supplanted baseball as America’s pastime. But 100 years ago, it almost died. Serious injuries were rampant. There were no helmets, face masks, nor shoulder pads. A horrified group of crusading activists, considered football just on the ‘south-side’ of violence and mayhem. Harvard president, Charles Elliot, was convinced team sports motivated players to act in rough and unkind ways.

Football Villian

Walter Camp Project Gutenberg eText 18048
Walter Camp pictured as Yale’s Captain, 187879 – Project Gutenberg eText 18048.

The Project Gutenberg EBook of Football Days, by William H. Edwards

It turned out Elliot was Camp’s main adversary. But Camp was one of the players Teddy watched in 1876. It’s interesting we witness the rivalry between Elliot and Camp, as in the political controversy between regulators wanting a world with no risk, and non-regulators who want a world with freedom and responsibility.

Elliot and his cohorts wanted to entirely eliminate the sport of football. But somehow, Theodore Roosevelt entered the struggle. Bouts of chronic asthma eventually taught him physical fitness could take a scrawny boy, and make him a vigorous young man. Roosevelt’s love of football had him write a long letter to Camp-saying football was actually a positive social good. When Roosevelt was recruited for the Rough Riders (1898), he selected many men who had played football earlier.

Character Building

History reveals Roosevelt was correct in believing sports influenced a nation’s character. He did, however, encourage coaches to eliminate brutality. Harvard’s coach, Bill Reid, worked tirelessly forming the NCAA. It approved sweeping rule changes to reduce football’s violence. These revisions put football into the modern era by 1913.

As an undergraduate and medical student at Yale (1876-81), Camp was halfback, team captain (equivalent to head coach), and was put on the Intercollegiate Football Association. A good player, Camp really made his mark coaching and rule-making to become football’s founding father.

Camp coached at Yale (1888-1892) with a record of 67-2. Various changes by Camp: 1) 11-man team, 2) quarterback position, 3) scrimmage line, 4) offensive signal calling, and 5) requirement for a team to give up ball after failing to advance in 4 downs. In 1883 he secured values for scoring touchdowns, point-‘afters,’ field goals, and safeties.

David vs. Goliath

Later Army, one of the nation’s best teams, was scheduled to play a little-known Catholic school from the Midwest. That school was Notre Dame, where Knute Rockne launched football’s first true ‘air war’, with multiple forward passes. After the Indiana collegians won the game 35-14, even a West Point cadet named Dwight Eisenhower(sidelined from injury), watched in utter horror as Notre Dame’s highly perfected attacks gave birth to the game we enjoy today.

Roosevelt used a light touch to solve the annoying problem of brutality. ESPN’s Gregg Easterbrook wrote: “…any teen driving a car for an hour has about a ‘one-in-a-million’ chance of dying-compared to a ‘one-in-six-million’ chance for practicing football for an hour.”

On the Intercollegiate Football Rules Committee, Camp worked to ban the “flying wedge” play, which had killed several players, and originally opposed allowing the forward pass. Obviously, this was eventually changed.

Even today, attempts are made to tone down the game of football. Vicious hits, helmet infractions, grandstanding after a touchdown-you name it.

Football Enters Politics

One of the worst attempts at political-correctness is admonished by Armstrong Williams: “If ever there were an example of political correctness run amok, then demanding the Redskins give up their name is it.” The Washington Redskins have a historical attachment to ‘Redskins’ which goes back over 80 years. Yet they still published an ‘article relying on quotes sounding like he is not a legitimate member of the Oneida Tribe.

The language police have been out in force in recent months. The target du jour is the NFL team that resides in the nation’s capital. They are trying to force the owner of that illustrious franchise to ditch the team’s 80-year-old mascot.

Some, a precious few as it turns out, believe the word “Redskins” to be a slur.

Barack Obama, who never misses an opportunity to right every perceived racial wrong, didn’t help by wading into the matter recently and ginning up the controversy.

Let’s face it. Some people with way too much time on their hands can get offended by a ham sandwich! The fact that the overwhelming majority of Native Americas aren’t offended by the term, and are proud that this team chose to highlight the positive attributes of their heritage, ought to count for something.

Such was the case when a few uptight feminists with their panties in a twist began insisting we rid our speech of words like “Miss, Mrs., Mistress, Madam,” “lady” and “ma’am” as in “Yes, ma’am.” What generally is considered to be polite forms of address is offensive to the NOW crowd. They want to be referred to as “women” or individually as a “woman” and will accept no substitutes.

Frankly, I am offended when a youngster I barely know answers me with a simple “yes,” or worse, “yeah,” which is all too common these days.

These disgruntled charmers are right about one thing though. Every adult female is a woman. However, all women are not ladies. That is a term that must be earned!

The Washington team began as the Boston Braves, sharing a playing field with its baseball counterpart. The following year the franchise moved across town to share Fenway Park with the Red Sox and became Redskins. What else? Also, the name was a way to honor the fact that four of the original players and the head coach were Native Americans.

I’m not aware of any Native Americans who play for the Redskins today. However, many Native Americans contributed to the founding of this country. One of the paintings in the dome of the Capitol is of Pocahontas at her Christian baptism.

Nevertheless, if the traditional mascot is to be abolished at the request of the president and a few other malcontents, may I suggest that the team choose one that is more indicative of Washington today. I humbly offer a few suggestions.

Washington Statesman – this one, too, is outdated. Few statesmen left.

Washington Lawmakers – this one is too obvious.

Washington Politicians – now that’s more like it.

Washington Bureaucrats – getting warmer.

Washington Spinners – both lawmakers and bureaucrats have mastered this art.

Washington Freeloaders – the key to lawmakers and bureaucrats’ power.

Washington Entitled – they pass and enforce laws but exempt themselves from our misery.

If the shoe fits … Then again, the team could choose to change the mascot but keep the feathers:

Washington Crows – Our representatives are always crowing about how much they do for the rest of us.

Washington Buzzards – they pick our bones clean.

Washington Vultures – redundant.

Charles Krauthammer is one who believes the team should abandon the word “Redskins” because, over time, language changes. He suggested the team drop the “red” and go with “skins” since it has a sports connotation. He is referring to “skins vs. shirts,” which is used to denote teams in pickup games when uniforms are unavailable. One team wears shirts and the other team wears simply skin.

Skins also stands for cigarette papers, particular those for rolling a joint. While this would appeal to some liberal groups, it would anger the angry feminists. Who would dare suggest a group of female basketball players go topless? Also, skin often refers to nudes as in “skin magazines” or “skin flicks.”

I will admit that Dr. Krauthammer’s suggestion does have merit. Our elected representatives play loose and fast with our money because they have no “skin” in the game. Also, they could be accused of “skinning” taxpayers alive in order to feed their favored friends.

This will no doubt offend members of the House and Senate, which just proves my point: You can’t please everyone.

Despite the language police, I prefer to keep the term “Mrs.” And, when someone calls me “a lady,” I’m flattered. Thank you very much!

Meanwhile, as long as most Native Americans aren’t offended by the use of Redskins – which was a name they used to describe themselves – as long as they want to keep their proud heritage alive as this Washington’s team mascot, I believe we ought to leave the name alone.

Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2013/10/suggestions-for-redskins-new-name/#DjJ168AXwjjlOQTK.99 (WND) writes: “Meanwhile, as long as most Native Americans are not offended by the use of Redskins – which was a name they used to describe themselves – as long as they want to keep their proud heritage alive as this Washington’s team mascot, I believe we ought to leave the name alone.” Even so, the ‘protocol police ‘have changed the name to only ‘Redskins’, without ‘Washington’.

Americans are a self-governing people. Even though sports may be dangerous at times, they can be very good for us, more often. Mark up another reason to be distinctly American.