1903 Football Deaths vs Other Sports

We’ve discussed football deaths for 1905 previously but the concern over deadly violence did not begin at that time.  Concern existed well before that.  The 1903 Spalding’s Guide includes the result of a study on football injuries but, before we look at that, we will focus our attention on a December 4, 1903 article that was run across the country. This article reported 17 deaths and 64 serious injuries for the season just ended. Not included were what the writer called local or scrub teams or the carnage from the railroad accident involving the entire Purdue team.  “They are simply the deaths and accidents that occurred in noted games. And the record for this season is nothing unusual. It is just about an average with other seasons.”

The writer was evidently not a supporter of football as it existed at that time. He compared football to boxing and found fewer serious injuries in boxing although it attracted more attention from legislators. When he compared football to bullfighting, football came out as worse because the bulls would be eaten for food and the horses used in bullfighting were destined for the glue factory anyway. Also, bulls and horses alike were killed in combat, a much more desirable way to die than at a packing plant. He went on to compare bullfighting with fox hunting with dogs and horses in not very complimentary terms as another example of a sport over which Americans preferred football. He further criticized Americans’ taste by pointing out that if the 20 hunters already dead and the five more dying in Northern Wisconsin because they were mistaken for deer by other hunters were killed by Spaniards, Russians or the Chinese, we would view them as being very stupid.

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