History of American Football : Past and Present

By: Sean Carter

American football emerged from the European game of Rugby in 1879. Walter Camp, a player and coach of Yale University, is recognized as "The Father Of American Football" as the early rules of the game was instituted by him. However, previous to that, the students of Princeton were already playing a game called "Ballown". It was about fisting the ball and then using their feet to advance the ball past their opponents. There were no hard and fast rules that applied and could be stated as the easiest form of football at it's early times. However, the physical aspect of the game was immense and often it turned violent.

At Harvard too, a football-type game was being played on the first Monday of the school year. This game was so much physical that the day it was played was often mentioned as "Bloody Monday". The year 1865 was very important for American Football. The Civil War had ended and football started gaining popularity in the colleges. It was in this year that some basic rules for the game were established and the game got its patent for the first time. Thus on 6th November, 1869 the first inter-collegiate football was played between Rutgers and Princeton where Rutgers won by a score of six goals to four.

In 1873, the Intercollegiate Football Association was formed by the representatives of Columbia, Rutgers, Princeton, and Yale. Till then, the increasingly popular game was being played with many different rules. The association brought into effect the first set of rules of intercollegiate football which allowed fifteen players in each team. However, it was Walter Camp, a coach at Yale, who began the final process of evolution from rugby like game to what we know today as the American Football. The number of players was reduced to eleven and the standard size of the field was set to hundred and ten yards. A little later downs were introduced and tackling below the belt was legalized.

However, the violent physical challenge that the game demanded, caused many serious injuries and deaths in the next few years. As a result, though still gaining popularity, football was banned in many colleges. In 1905, under a directive from President Theodore Roosevelt, Yale, Harvard and Princeton setup a couple of meetings between schools and formed a seven member Rules Committee which was later came to be known as National Collegiate Athletic Association, or the NCAA.

American Football has now become a multi-billion dollar industry. With the advent of cable television, the game have crossed the boundaries of America and spread its wings all over the world. Dozens of games both collegiate ad professional are aired almost every Friday and Saturday afternoons and Sunday and Monday nights during the football season. The super Bowl, that decides the national champion, has become the most watched sporting event of all times. Plenty of merchandise and football products have taken the markets by storm. Quite a number of innovative products are often offered as token gifts and memorabilia. Even free American Football ecards can be found over the net . Some like 123greetings has an entire category dedicated to the game .

Thus from the humble past where football only meant throwing or kicking a ball past the opponents, American Football has emerged as a game which has influenced the culture and economy of the United States of America.

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