by Morley Evans
Here's an excerpt from an article in Counterpunch that surprised me.
Would they ban an activity if the injury and death rate affected more than 30% of the participants, Counterpunch asks?
Bull fighting has been banned in Barcelona, Spain and Fox Hunting has been banned in England where 100% of the animals die. Yet abattoirs remain in business. Boxing is surely more dangerous than football. Boxing is dying out because no one wants to watch it anymore. Fight fans are watching Unlimited Fighting now. (I'm not.) Bull fighting has died for the same reason. It's not considered highbrow anymore. Fox hunting is very expensive. Few can afford it. It is not televised. Football is very popular. It is ideal for television. Football makes billions of dollars so it's safe for now. Americans kill over 40,000 people a year on the highways. They are not going to ban cars either.
It will surprise many to learn that, around the turn of the 20th century, banning the game of football was not out of the question. In 1905, the public outcry over the stunning brutality of the sport had reached the point where President Theodore Roosevelt himself felt it necessary to intervene. Accordingly, he summoned the football coaches and staff of Harvard, Yale and Princeton University, and challenged them to come up with ways of making the game safer. How brutal was football, circa 1905? It was brutal enough to have become a national scandal. Incredibly, in that year alone, 18 high school and college players died from injuries. The Washington Post reported that from 1900 to 1905, inclusive, at least 45 football players had died from injuries sustained during games. The following is taken from the Post, October 15, 1905: “Nearly every death may be traced to ‘unnecessary roughness.’ Picked up unconscious from beneath a mass of other players, it was generally found that the victim had been kicked in the head or stomach, so as to cause internal injuries or concussion of the brain, which, sooner or later, ended life.” The fact that 18 young men died in a single year is staggering enough; that it occurred in high school and college football games, and not at the professional level, where the hardest hitters play the game for money, makes it almost unfathomable. Yet, the death count was so alarming, a lurid cartoon appeared in the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune showing the Grim Reaper straddling a goal post.