Professional Football In America Essay, Research Paper
The game of professional football in America began, not with a single person s conception but rather as a gradual evolution. From soccer to rugby, to rugby- football, and finally to football ( Camp 1). In the year 1823, according to record, a student at rugby school (William Webb Ellis) picked up the soccer ball during a game and ran with it. This action was strictly forbidden by the rules, but it shed some light for new ideas to come forth ( Ask 1). Over the years, independent thinking Americans wrote rules that would eventually overhaul the traditional style of rugby, and then rugby-football was born. On the day of April 17, 1859 in New Haven, Connecticut a child named Walter Camp was born, he would later emerge as the major founding father of the game. Even though many say there is no single inventor of the game, many still agree that he is the father of American Football for his many new additions and innovations that shaped the game as we know it today ( Camp 1). In 1880 he had the first of these breakthroughs. He wanted one team to have undisputed possession of the ball, until that side gave it up under their own violation. This was passed by the rules convention (probably the main forerunner to the NCAA) along with the reduction of each side s players from fifteen to eleven. Another of his ideas was passed again on October 12, 1882 in which a team had three downs to advance the ball at least five yards. Then in 1894 games were shortened from a monstrous 150 minutes to a mere 70. And in 1912 Camp decided to change point values because of several problems in the past. Such as the incident in the Harvard-Princeton game in 1882, Harvard scored a touchdown, missed the goal but later kicked a goal from the field. Meanwhile, Princeton scored a touchdown and successfully kicked the point after. The referee, a Yale man, gave the win to Harvard. Princeton, claiming the rules did not justify that, refused to accept that and claimed victory for years afterward ( Camp 6). So the values were changed, a touchdown was now six points instead of four, field goals went down from five points to three. Again in 1912, the rules committee decided to change a little more about the game. The field was now one hundred yards and the offense had four downs (instead of three) to advance the ball ten yards instead of five. Some say when all was said and done and Walter Camp finally stopped the game was forever changed into the unique sport that it has become. Historically, the NFL began in 1920, but it s beginnings were in 1915 with the arrival of Jim Thorpe. Jim Thorpe was considered one of the greatest athletes of his time. Many tend to remember him as a great kicker and little else about his playing ability. There is much more. Physically, he was perfect for his time. At 6 1 and 195 to 205 pounds he was bigger than most linemen of his day. He was extremely strong. His favorite running maneuver in an open field was to lower his shoulder and drive himself into the defender. Then at the moment of impact, he would lift and peel back the defender. A generation later, Bronko Nagurski used the same style. Yet Thorpe was also a dash man on the Carlisle track team, and his speed on a football field enabled him to break away for long runs. He was an evasive runner, but probably not so much as Red Grange. However, his combination of power and his explosive speed made him a more versatile runner than either Grange or Nagurski ( Ask 4). Then on August 20, 1920, leaders of the four best Ohio League teams met to discuss forming a national professional football league. The attendees included Ralph Hay and Jim Thorpe from the Canton Bulldogs, Frank Neid and Art Ranney from the Akron pros, Jimmy O Donnell and Stan Cofall from the Cleveland Tigers, and Carl Storck of the Dayton Triangles. Buffalo, Rochester and Hammond applied for membership by letter. The result of this meeting was the American Professional Football Conference ( NFL 3) With the Great Depression of the 1920s and 1930s, the NFL went from 26 teams down to a mere eight. 1932 is when the first playoff game occurred. The Chicago Bears
and Portsmouth both ended the season with 6-1 records (ties were not counted). Then league president Joe Carr set up a playoff game to determine the championship. Chicago won ( NFL 5). The 1940s were tough on the NFL. In 1939, league president, Joe Carr died. Carl Storck was interim president until Elmer Layden (head coach and athletic director at Notre Dame) took over. Layden was the first commissioner . The position of president was abolished when Layden took over. World War II obviously had an affect on the league. Most players were involved in the war in some way, whether drafted or working in war plants. The Cleveland Rams suspended play in 1943 and the Steelers and Eagles merged to form what is called the Steagles . They played four games in each city. In 1945, Bert Bell replaced Elmer Layden as League commissioner. The idea of an NFL players union started in the 1950s. In November, 1956, the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) was started. Labor discussions included a minimum salary of $5000 a year for each player, clubs must pay for the equipment, and a clause in the standard player contract to continue payment in the event of injury. The 1950s ended with the death of commission Bert Bell. He was later replaced by Pete Rozelle as his successor. In the 1960s several changes occurred to the NFL. The Chicago Cardinals ( a charter NFL team) moved to St. Louis. Four new teams were added -Atlanta, Dallas, Minnesota, and New Orleans. The 12 game schedule was increased to fourteen games. Also, the emergence of the American Football League had a serious impact on the NFL. And in 1963 the NFL Hall of Fame was opened with 17 charter members : Sammy Baugh, Bert Bell, Joe Carr, Earl Clark, Red Grange, George Halas, Mel Hein, Wilbur Henry, Cal Hubbard, Don McNally, Bronko Nagurski, Ernie Nevers, and Jim Thorpe. Canton, Ohio was selected for the site of it ( NFL 8). The 1970s were highlighted by the start of Monday Night Football. The first game was between the New York Jets and the Cleveland Brown. Football had changed forever. Also in the 1970s the Miami Dolphins had the first (and only) undefeated season in NFL history. And in 1973 O.J. Simpson ran for 2000 yards in a single season, a first for any running back in NFL history. In the same year he broke Jim Brown s old record of 1,863 yards. The 1980s were marred by not only one, but two player strikes. The first came in 1982. The stoppage forced the league to shorten it s season to nine games. Then, in 1987, the players went on strike again. This time, the owners replaced the striking players with scabs . Both of these strikes were over free agency. The collective-bargaining agreement signed to the the end of the strike of 1987 allowed restricted player movement in exchange for a salary cap. The 1980s were also known for the class of 83. Six quarterbacks were selected in the first round draft : John Elway, Todd Blackledge, Jim Kelly, Tony Eason, Ken O Brien, and Dan Marino. Interestingly enough, all were selected by AFC teams. At the March 22, 1989 NFL annual meeting, commissioner Pete Rozelle announced his retirement. His replacement was announced on October 26, 1989 : Paul Tagliabue. The collective bargaining agreement signed in 1993 gave the players what they were seeking : free agency. There were a few restrictions on player movement. Classifications were devised depending on years of service in the league. There was also a salary cap, including a rookie salary cap. Still, players with over five years of experience were allowed to sign with any team. The game is still changing today, Just last week instant replay was reinstated and it will be in place for one season before being revisited next year at this time. It was last in effect from 1986 to 1991 ( Instantly 1). Who knows what the future holds for this ever changing and evolving game.
Camp and his Followers. (online) available http://www.geocities.com/Colosseum/Sideline/5960/d-to1889.htm, February 1999 Ask the Guru. (online) available http://nflhistory.com/roots.shtml,8 February 1999. How it all started : the story of the NFL. NFL Films television special, ESPN, national TV, February 9, 1999. NFL History. (online) available http://www.nflproweb.com/NFLHistory/, March 1999 Instantly Reinstated. (online) available http://www.nfl.com/news/990317replay.html, March 1999