The Big Scrum: How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football

John J. Miller, Harper, $25.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-174450-1
Though it is now an autumn distraction for millions every weekend, football was on the verge of extinction in the early 20th century. Its participants, who did not benefit from padding or helmets, frequently suffered severe injuries or died. States considered banning the sport—including, of all places, Georgia—while colleges fervently endorsed its demise. But President Theodore Roosevelt always defended the game. According to Miller, Roosevelt's 1905 meeting with football coaches at Yale, Princeton, and Harvard, urging the popular teams to play clean, began the game's ascent to legitimacy. Miller offers full glimpses into the lives of the men who nurtured or nearly destroyed the game, like cantankerous Harvard president Charles W. Eliot (who compared football to "the ‘supreme savagery' of war"), legendary Yale football coach Walter Camp (who essentially invented the position of quarterback), and Harvard coach William T. Reid, whose public letter outlining football's commitment to safety kept the sport at the influential school. But Miller, a national correspondent for the National Review, is far too preoccupied with Roosevelt's life as a sportsman. The book feels like a fascinating footnote with biographical padding. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 01/24/2011
Release date: 04/01/2011
Ebook - 272 pages - 978-0-06-207899-5
Paperback - 274 pages - 978-0-06-174452-5
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