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Not Your Father's Football

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Hey, Football Fans!

American Football is the only sport I know where the offense and the defense collide like on a medieval battlefield. Our nation’s most popular sport, Football is likely to be offered at just about any summer camp where you stay. If you’re fanatical over football, then you likely already know the ins and outs of the way the game is played. But what about the history of the sport? How did it develop into the National Football League that we know and love today?

The earliest traces of Football go all the way back to a popular sport in Ancient Greece called Episkyros (Eh-pisk-ear-roce). This game involved throwing a ball past a scrimmage line and avoiding being tackled. Football was first developed as a hybrid sport that sort of combined Rugby and Soccer. Both of these games have their origin in medieval sports which may explain where Football gets its resemblance to medieval warfare.  

Beyond Ancient history, townsfolk of the Dark Ages started developing a number of archaic forms of football. In general, they involved teams lining up against each other in scrimmage formation and moving the “ball” (which was traditionally an inflated pig bladder) toward a goal.

Old versions of football—typically referred to as the blanket term of Mob Football—would be played between an entire town or village against the folks of the next town over. Games of Mob Football allowed for an unlimited number of players who would clash in the streets and highways with the objective of moving the ball to the markers of each town.

Players were allowed to move the ball by any means necessary short of killing other players. This was a much more brutal game than our modern televised events. Deemed too dangerous for civilization, versions of Mob Football were put to bed with the Highway Act of 1835 which banned football from being played on public highways.  

However, in order not to throw out the baby with the bathwater, protective helmets were brought to the scene and the game was played in designated areas. More protective measures were slowly introduced as this much tamer version of football was established and it soon became an organized sport that drew audiences. Check out a previous Blog post to learn more about the history of the NFL by clicking here. And, as always, thanks for reading!


- John


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