The early evolution of American football, also why is Canadian rules different?

Apr 2014
203
Earth
#1
Since this is the wonderful season of Autumn now, let's talk about the evolution of what is now considered "American football" which is called "American" to make it different from soccer which most people outside of the USA and Canada would call football.

Historians place what we call "American football" (from now just called football) was from an article from Wikipedia of the history of football. American football - Wikipedia

What is considered to be the first American football game was played on November 6, 1869, between Rutgers and Princeton, two college teams. The game was played between two teams of 25 players each and used a round ball that could not be picked up or carried. It could, however, be kicked or batted with the feet, hands, head or sides, with the ultimate goal being to advance it into the opponent's goal. Rutgers won the game 6 goals to 4. Collegiate play continued for several years in which matches were played using the rules of the host school. Representatives of Yale, Columbia, Princeton and Rutgers met on October 19, 1873 to create a standard set of rules for all schools to adhere to. Teams were set at 20 players each, and fields of 400 by 250 feet (122 m × 76 m) were specified. Harvard abstained from the conference, as they favored a rugby-style game that allowed running with the ball.[10]After playing McGill University using both Canadian and American rules, the Harvard players preferred the Canadian style having only 11 men on the field, running and throwing the ball without having to be chased by an opponent, the forward pass, tackling, and using an oblong instead of a round ball.

This to me sounds like a rugby game. I have watched and like Rugby. I have seen several Rugby games but with probably 11 to 13 players to a side. Seems fairly similar. I think my question is why this game became the genesis and the birth and the evolution of what we now know as football. So why is this game so important or seen as a benchmark to the evolution of the game? This 1869 game had to have been played before to have two colleges host a game like this so this means this game has been around for awhile. Has people ever recreated the 1869 game with the rules at the time? that would be cool to see. There had to have been some rules of the 1869 game to have been played by these two fine schools. So why is this game so important and historical and why did it evolve? And were there older games similar as this, where groups of players with a ball and a field try to run the ball from one end of the field to the other? Seems a game sort of like football would have been around for ages? A group of boys versus a group of boys trying to run a ball from one end of a field to another by whatever means necessary. Seems simple, fun and violent and a sport that would have been played in the evolution since ancient times instead of just a 150 years ago.

Really the early inventor of this game was a one Walter Camp (Walter Camp - Wikipedia) who made up the rules of the early version but really the true ancestor of the game we now know. So wouldnt it be accurate that it was really Camp who invented the game we know now from rugby? So wouldnt Camp be the inventor of the game intead of harkening back to a 1869 game which wasnt football as we know it, was basically a rugby match?

What was a direct ancestor of American football became so popular yet so violent that even Teddy Roosevelt, a manly man almost made the game illegal because of deaths from injuries from playing the game? Was TR instrumental in new rules and strategoes in the game to make it a bit safer for the players so he and the government does not make the game illegal?

At one time, a Field Goal was actually worth more than a touchdown. I believe (and I amybe wrong) that in the early 20th Century that a Field Goal was worth 5 points and a Touchdown only 3 points. Dwight Eisenhower played football for West Point under these rules around the early 1910's. Who thought of the forward pass? This is what I dislike about rugby. Love Rugby but watching the game I would yell "PASS THE BALL!" knowing this is illegal. I believe that a "forward lateral" has always been illegal, which harkens back to the rules of old rugby. The evolution of football interests me, and would like some insight on how and why the game changed and evolved to wat we have now.

On to Canada. Why do they play such a similar game to the USA but have different rules? The rules are about the same except that there are 12 to a side, there are only three downs and the end zone is a HUGE twenty yards deep. Why the differences of the rules? Why cannot America and Canada have the same rules for the sport? I dont like it because Americans and Canadians cannot play each other. Would be great if there could be American and Canadian colleges playing each other, and that at least there could be one or two NFL franchises in Canada. The NFL to my limited knowledge have tried to place a team or two in Canada but have been thwarted by the Canadian government in support of CFL. CFL is pretty good, I dont diss it except the endzones are bigger than Donald Trump's house. This is an "America is better, you should play by our rules". It is more that a sport which is popular in only really the USA and Canada shouldnt have the same rules so we can play each other an build a wider base.

Who created the modern football we see in the NCAA and NFL. I think the Canadian football is the same or very similar. A rugby ball is much bigger. As said in the 1869 game, it was a round ball so someone had to invent the ball we know now. So where did this come from?

So chime in Historium players and educate me. Its Fall so let's play!
 

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,065
Dispargum
#2
Football evolved slowly over many years. In the late 19th century there were no standardized rules, each team playing by the home team's rules. The 19th century game was dangerous with many players dying from 'unnecessary roughness.' Camp and a contempory Bill Reid reformed the game in 1906 to make it safer. These reforms included introducing the forward pass to force the defense to cover the whole field instead ganging up on just the ball carrier. The forward pass was initially perfected by Knute Rockne, coach at Notre Dame in the 1910s and '20s. In the early days football was a college game. The NFL was founded in 1920 and was initially very small and much less popular than, say, Major League Baseball. In the 1960s Norwegian ski jumper and soccer player Jan Stenerud became one of the first full time kickers in the NFL. Previously, kickers also played other positions. Another major change came in the 1970s when new rules encouraged the passing game which was seen as more exciting than the running game. Canadian football evolved differently, adopting new rules at different times in response to different pressures, so naturally the Canadian game is slightly different today. Australia also has a similar game but with slightly different rules.
 
Jan 2010
4,010
Atlanta, Georgia USA
#3
As Chlodio says, the game gradually evolved from Rugby. E.g. The ball changed shape with the development of the forward pass--can't really throw an accurate forward pass any distance with a rugby ball or soccer ball.

Canadian rules are different because Canadians are quite contrary. (Just kidding--I have no idea why there is a difference)
 
Oct 2018
53
Minneapolis, MN
#4
Football evolved slowly over many years. In the late 19th century there were no standardized rules, each team playing by the home team's rules. The 19th century game was dangerous with many players dying from 'unnecessary roughness.' Camp and a contempory Bill Reid reformed the game in 1906 to make it safer. These reforms included introducing the forward pass to force the defense to cover the whole field instead ganging up on just the ball carrier. The forward pass was initially perfected by Knute Rockne, coach at Notre Dame in the 1910s and '20s. In the early days football was a college game. The NFL was founded in 1920 and was initially very small and much less popular than, say, Major League Baseball. In the 1960s Norwegian ski jumper and soccer player Jan Stenerud became one of the first full time kickers in the NFL. Previously, kickers also played other positions. Another major change came in the 1970s when new rules encouraged the passing game which was seen as more exciting than the running game. Canadian football evolved differently, adopting new rules at different times in response to different pressures, so naturally the Canadian game is slightly different today. Australia also has a similar game but with slightly different rules.
A big football fan and love it's history here but the earliest days aren't my forte.

As for the ball change, that came with the forward pass, making it easier to throw as passing became more prevalent in the 1930's.

When talking about football's popularity the NFL used to not be nearly as popular as college football. A lot of players held second jobs in the off-season to make a living. Tickets were sometimes given away and teams were folding and new ones popping up constantly (Detroit had the Panthers, Wolverines, Tigers, and Heralds for example). A few things really got changes started though. First was the 1958 NFL championship game. One which was nationally televised, went into overtime, and Johnny Unitas became a household name with. Pre 1958, 54 NFL teams went defunt. Post 1958 none did. The NFL embraced television rather than just ticket sales and radio, and saw an explosion in income and financial success. In 1961, the league also began its revenue sharing. Realizing that teams coming and going hurt the league as a whole, they began sharing TV revenue (and soon after, ticket and other revenue) and by protecting every team financially were able to put together a better overall product.



With this success in the NFL, the American Football League was started by a group of businessmen wanting to target new audiences with a new league. They gained popularity playing in area’s the NFL didn’t have teams mostly, and had a more open offensive game. They were considered by most to be an inferior product and when they staged a group of season ending games against the NFL (named the Super Bowl) between the few leagues, the Packers of the NFL proved that out in the first two games (the first Superbowl didn’t even sell out). But then with Superbowl 3, Joe Namath guaranteed an AFL Jets team win, and in Superbowl 4, the AFL chiefs won, which cemented the addition of the AFL teams to the NFL.

Another large change to increase the NFL’s success was the 1978 rule changes. Up to that point passing was... difficult. In 1977 the average team only threw for 140 yards and one team (the Buccaneers) threw 3 TD's against 30 interceptions that season. Rules were put in place to open up the passing game. WR's couldn't be hit and pushed around when they ran routes (pass interference today). Offensive lines could extend their arms and open their hands to pass block. NFL offenses blew up, as did the leagues fans.

With that came a bright offensive coach named Bill Walsh. He had come up with a new outlook on passing that focused on the efficiency of play. Throwing low risk passes and schemes to maximize yards gained after the throw, which completely revolutionized offenses and spread through the entire league over time.
 
Oct 2018
53
Minneapolis, MN
#5
As Chlodio says, the game gradually evolved from Rugby. E.g. The ball changed shape with the development of the forward pass--can't really throw an accurate forward pass any distance with a rugby ball or soccer ball.

Canadian rules are different because Canadians are quite contrary. (Just kidding--I have no idea why there is a difference)
Both leagues grew out of rugby, and while they evolved quite similarly, they didn't change together, thus the rule differences.

Kind of like the rule changes between international basketball and the NBA. 3pt lines, foul lines, goaltending all different as the sports grew independently.
 

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