Football Heroes Capture Our Hearts
Super Bowl Day! The championship of the National Football League! A hundred thousand spectators yelling and cheering in the stadium! The intensity of the competition vibrates over the television in every home! Excitement resonates everywhere! No one remains unaffected by this event!
The excitement all began in the 1860s when courageous players from Princeton and Rutgers played the first football game in New Jersey. The Rutgers’ players wore scarlet-colored scarves wrapped around their head like turbans. This was long before helmets were mandatory and the Princeton players evidently played bare-headed. The competition was fierce. It was intense.
The rivalry between the schools was played out in two vicious games that resulted in football being banned for a time because it interfered with academic studies. This same accusation has plagued college football teams every since.
The memorable heroes of this sport are still talked about years after they’ve passed on. On a dusty dirt field in Ohio in 1915 the infamous Jim Thorpe, a running back, played against the most determined defensive end, Knute Rockne. They didn’t have a television camera on them, but their names went down in history. Rockne was a Norwegian immigrant who grew up in Chicago and went on to Notre Dame. He became the college’s most famous football coach. He died in a plane crash in 1931. Jim Thorpe, a twin, was an American Indian of the Sac and Fox Tribe in Oklahoma and was studying at a federal government vocational school for Indian students. Not just a football player, he went to the Olympics in Stockholm in 1912 and won gold medals in both the pentathlon and the decathlon.
When King Gustaf V of Sweden presented Thorpe with his two gold medals, he said, “You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world!” Bruised members of other football teams playing against Thorpe agreed that he was the theoretical super player in flesh and blood.
The National Football League formed in 1920, and George Halas was one of the twelve founders. In 1921 his Decatur, Illinois, team moved to Chicago and was nicknamed the ‘Bears.’ Halas created his own fast-moving history as the owner, coach and captain of the team he helped make famous.
When introduced to President Calvin Coolidge, along with team member Red Grange, as being with the Chicago Bears, the President replied, “How interesting. I’ve always enjoyed animal acts.” Football was not yet the favorite American sport.
Television both educated and influenced the public regarding football. Especially with the instant play-back features that modern electronics provides, football has captured the hearts of Americans. Now fans can see a unique play not only once, but from several angles, over and over again. They can study every move of their heroes.