Brownielocks and The 3 Bears

The Ancient History of Football
Animated Cartoon Fun

Another Football cartoon we have is part of our Weekly Cartoons.
Take a peek at our  Guards & Tackles Cartoon.

Football was started by the Vikings.  Way back in the eighth  century Vikings landed on the shores of England with the sole purpose of overthrowing it. Not only did  they did not succeed in  conquering England, but it wasn't really a pretty sight. What the English did with the leader of the Vikings was to cut off his head (they seemed to be big on that aren't they?). Then for fun they started to kick the head around and made some game of it. The rules (if there were any?) were not known.

This was really fun the English thought.  The problem was, they didn't fight battles daily to get heads to kick around for fun. What to do? Well what they did was to cut the bladder out of a dead cow, let it dry and then they blew it up and tied it off. This is the reason that the  air-filled, rubber bag inside footballs today are referred to as a "bladder."  Now, the problem with cow bladders is that they had a problem of bursting during the game.  So to help make them stronger, they started covering them with animal skins like cowhide, deerskin and goat hide.  But after those proved not too good, they decided to try pigskin.  This worked great. And this is the origin of why the football today is called "the pigskin."

Football didn't start being played by a lot of people until the Middle Ages. At that time the entire town played football, including women and children.  So it was called "Townball."  However, just because it allowed everyone didn't make it nice.  It was pretty a pretty fierce free-for-all where kicking, gouging, hitting, etc. was legal.  The game was played in the main street of the town and the goal was to get the pigskin to the opponent's end of town.  Teams were equal in size as best it could be. The guess is that each team was approximately 200.  If you thought football games last a long time today, well back then the game lasted all day! After the game ended, the town was a mess, many were injured and unfortunately some were hauled away dead.

After a while the local authorities got tired of this mess to it's town and citizens. So the game was sent outside the town limits to be played in a field. A level grassy area was set up, along with boundaries, goal lines and the number of players was reduced, although the two teams still had to remain equal.

After a few hundred more years, the game was actually turned more like what we know as Soccer today than American football. The ball could be hit and kicked with any part of the player's body. The only rule was "no running with the ball."  A private boy's school named, Rugby in Warwickshire, England changed the game in 1823. A school boy named William Ellis got really impatient.  In a moment of sports rage he just picked up the ball and ran with full speed down the field.  Everyone yelled at him.  The coach was infuriated with him for breaking the rules. While other kids laughed.  All this emotion stirred the imagination of many football players and fans.  This is how a new type of football game got formed where you were allowed to run with the ball. People started calling it "Rugby" after the name of the school and after William Ellis.

The game didn't make it's way to the United States until the 19th Century.  At first it was a blend of Rugby and Soccer. Kicking was important. And the points were: 

Field Goal = 5 points
Safety = 1 point
Touchdown = 2 points

In 1883 the touchdown points were doubled to 4 points. Then in 1897 it was increased to 6 points, where it is today.

Over the next hundred years what changed in the game was the shape of the ball.  America changed it from the round Rugby ball to the more egg-shaped ball that we know today.  Then the length of the field was shortened by 10 yards from 110 to 100 yards.  Then the game got divided up into two halves periods (45 minutes each) with a rest period in between.  The game was still long so they changed the halves to 30 minutes as they remain today.

In the early days players did not wear helmets.  What they did was rather funny.  They grew their hair long and then pinned it on top of their heads in buns to protect themselves.  They also didn't have any player padding for shoulders, legs or hips like we do today either.

After years of being bruised, toward the end of the 19th century some players started wearing homemade leather helmets.  The inventor of the football helmet, ironically was James Naismith, who is credited with inventing Basketball.  At first when players wore these helmets they were sneered, heckled and laughed at. And, called "Sissies" by the opponents.  Finally the opponents wised up after getting so bruised and started wearing helmets too.

Around the time the helmets were added, the idea to have a line of scrimmage got started. But the players didn't line up like they do today. The linemen didn't crouch down in a three-point stance. They just stood face-to-face. So when the ball was snapped, the linemen just began punching, hitting, tackling, and wrestling with one another. 

The funniest part of the game back then to me (which is illegal today) is that not only were players allowed to pick up the ball and run with it, but; do you know they were also allowed to pick up the player with the ball and run with him?  The opponents often would be grabbing at the player their teammates were carrying trying to stop them. So the poor player being carried was treated like a rope in a tug-of-war, being pulled in all directions.

Back then also, a team was only allowed 3 downs to make the first down, and required to gain only 5 yards for a new set of downs. Today the rules are that a team is given 4 downs, but they have to go 10 yards.

By this time the number of players on each side was down to 15 and not in the hundreds as the game originally began. This is the same number as in Rugby.  But one day in 1874 a game between Cambridge University and McGill University had a game all set up.  At the last minute, 4 players from the McGill squad couldn't make it.  The only thing they could do was to make both sides have 11 players.  And it's been 11 players to this day.

In 1906 a new strategy was made legal in the game, called "The Forward Pass."  At first teams didn't really think much of it and didn't bother to use it. But... in 1913 a game in which Notre Dame was playing against the Army (U.S. Military Academy at West Point),  well Notre Dame was being just tossed around by the big, huge, tough Army players.  Notre Dame's men were well...tiny by comparison. So, desperate times call for desperate measures, right?   As a result Notre Dame resorted to using the new "forward pass" and ended up beating the Army with a score of 35 -13.  After seeing the power of this pass, many teams all over the country suddenly began using it.

The forward pass is considered to be what turned football today into one of the exciting sports that it is, and gave it it's unique American football style.

Football fans know there is much more to say about football. Each year new records and information is added to the sport's history.  It's impossible to cover it 100% in depth.  But the highlight of the sport is the Super Bowl.  Click our link below the trivia question for how that all began.


In Pro football, how many yards was the longest field goal kicked?
(a) 52 Yards
(b) 78 Yards
(c) 63 Yards

(Place your cursor over the dot)


You might also want to visit our Super Bowl Sunday page.

Check out some other Sports Fun at our Main Entry Page.

Source: "When Human Heads were Footballs"
By Don L. Wulffson
Aladdin Paperbacks (Simon and Schuster) © 1998

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