Football Was Always Violent

Those new to American football sometimes think the injuries to players are a relatively new phenomenon resulting from the large physical size of the players and the introduction of armor-like protective equipment that can injure as well as shield. A century ago, when pads consisted of cotton wadding held in by quilting on the shoulders and elbows and the few helmets that were worn consisted of two leather straps across the crown of the player’s head and connected to a leather headband. That gear couldn’t be used as a weapon but it didn’t save the wearer from much harm either. The November 13, 1903 Eau Claire Daily Telegram ran a poem that bemoaned the damage done to players who were then mostly normal-sized human beings. The newspaper introduced the poem as follows: “A western poet sizes up the game in this fashion:”

They gathered up the remnants when his battered soul had gone.

The others took their places and the gory play went on.

They punched and jabbed and shouted and they kicked and struck and swore.

And blood was flowing freely when they paused for breath once more.

Oh, you with sons in College, how delightful it must seem

To know your toothless offspring is the hero of the team!

To know that he’s minus eyes and fingers, nose and ears.

He’s earning fame and glory that shall sound through endless years!


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