Monday, October 31, 2011

The Origin of American Football

Contributed by Mark Tolley.
Associate Director, USA Sport Group.

Thanks to the dominating presence of media technology in today's society, finding current coverage of our favorite sports can be as simple as fumbling with a remote control or clicking a bookmark in our web browser. Developments in technology over the past couple of decades mean we have unlimited and instantaneous access to score lines, rankings, highlights and controversies in whatever sport we've chosen as our own. Even in the office, coffee break visionaries tell us of the 'up and coming' generation of young athletes; destined to be the gleaming smile of sports performance drinks of the future... but how many of you sports fans out there have taken the time to really appreciate where it all started, the humble beginnings... the origin of your sport?

American Football

Ok, so some of us may have heard of Walter Camp the 'father of football', in 1879 this guy introduced aspects of the sport which are still relevant to today's modern professional game; the line of scrimmage, down rules, etc.

But before any alterations and modifications were made by Camp, the game was derived from the English game Rugby-Football, which was in turn developed in 1823 as a variation of football (modern day soccer) by William Webb Ellis. His decision to pick up the ball with his hands and make a run forward against his opposing team saw the birth of modern day Rugby (Named after the school in which it was first played).

Earlier records of such team games can be traced back centuries, when English lower classes competed in sports such as 'mob football’. Local men from neighboring villages would brawl against each other in order to move a well stitched pig’s bladder from a central area, to a point at the other end of the opposition's town. These games were played with little to no rules and team size was limitless, often gangs of hundreds of men would violently face off against each other for the simple glory of the win!

Although Walter Camp is credited for the reinvention and refinement of the sport in 1879, the first form of inter-collegiate American Football was played on November 6th 1869 between New Jersey universities, Princeton and Rutgers (final score line 6-4 to the Scarlett Knights). From these modest beginnings, football has developed into one of the most popular participant and spectator sports in America.

With leagues in over 19 countries worldwide, it's safe to say we've come a long way since the folks of yesteryear were chasing pig organs down the street!

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