14. The Killing Fields: American football and the issue of violence
Posted by Mike Roberts
Maxwell himself never complained but others were less impressed, and photos of his battered face the day after the Pennsylvania game were splashed across the papers, and one of the people who saw them was the president of the nation. Football was in crisis, and this was no longer a matter for Walter Camp. This was a matter for the White House.
The rules changes led American football to become little more than one group of eleven men trying to batter their way through another to gain the required number of yards. It was brutal, to the extent that serious injuries and even deaths were commonplace, but was it ever really under serious threat of being outlawed entirely?
This chapter looks at all the different reforms that were made, and reveals how none of them really made any difference, not even the controversial introduction of the forward pass in 1906, which was supposedly designed to open up the game.
American football remained as violent as ever, and ultimately it was improved body protection rather than changes to the rules that managed to make it any safer.