10 Things About the History of College Football

Monday night the NCAA College Football National Championship game was played. And, at the risk of sounding like Anna from Frozen, for the first time in forever I didn’t watch. We recently ditched traditional TV service in order to save money. We like to watch live sports, but pretty much everything else we watch is through a streaming service these days anyway. And our internet package affords us access to several big sporting events, so we’re covered for now. We might have to revisit our options before next Fall, but we’ll see. The point is, I could have watched the game, but I didn’t.

It was the same ol’ teams, playing the same ol’ match-up. To be fair, I did read the recap and even get some live updates during the game so I know that it wasn’t actually just “same ole, same ole” all night. But I was very busy and not altogether upset over missing it. That was a new feeling for me. Even when my oldest child was born and I was knee deep in hormone changes, new infant insomnia, and new parent panic I still watched most of the game. Maybe next year.

A lot of my friends, especially the writers I know, have different interests from me. They don’t watch or follow “the sportsball”. Totally fine. I don’t judge. We’re allowed to have different passions. In fact, it means we bring different things to the table. I value that. But I also realize that there has been a lot of talk about using sports and/or holidays to make your fictional world/culture feel more real and true. How are you supposed to build a believable sport when you don’t like sports to begin with? Where do you start?

It might help to start with the history of a game that already exists. Sports didn’t appear out of the ether one day with complete rulebooks and defined playing surfaces. Each game we know and love has evolved in some way or another, and many continue to do so in small ways. Looking at that evolution could be helpful while trying to build a fictional sport. So let’s jump in with some examples.

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10 things about the history of college football (American football, that is).

  1. American Football as we know it today evolved from a game commonly played in Britain called “mob football”. The same game is also the precursor to rugby and was mentioned as far back at the 9th century. Versions of this original game are still played at special events in parts of the United Kingdom.
  2. While mob football became a more organized tradition at Princeton (then the College of New Jersey) first, it was also part of a traditional at Harvard that began in 1827 when the sophomore class challenged the freshmen to a game. This became known as Bloody Monday and was an annual tradition until 1860 when university officials and local police banned it due to violence.
  3. The first intercollegiate game was November 6, 1869 between Rutgers and Princeton. There still wasn’t a formalized set of rules, and the game was often played differently from school to school, so the team captains came together to decide which rules to play by. A round ball was used and the field and number of players were both considerably larger than they are today.
  4. Walter Camp played at Yale in the late 1870s and was instrumental in formalizing the rules. He reduced the accepted number of players per team on the field from 15 to 11 (1880 – though this would officially change once more before returning to eleven), reduced the size of the playing field to the current 120 yards (1881), created the line of scrimmage, and adjusted the scoring rules and points awarded. And for those of you who don’t follow the game and are asking “But I thought the field was only 100 yards,” you aren’t crazy. However, each endzone is ten yards. Two endzones+field of play=120 yards.
  5. Officials were not mandated (or paid) for games until 1887 when two became the requirement. We commonly call them all referees, but that’s not accurate. A referee is only one member of a team of officials who all have different roles. This is true for most sports, but it’s just easier to angrily scream “Hey, REF!” than it is to keep that same angered tone for “Hey, Line Judge!”
  6. The new, more organized game spread from schools in the East, to the Midwest, and then to the South by 1873. It would travel to the Southwest and then the Pacific coast by 1888. However, the game was still very violent by nature and between 1890 and 1905, 330 players died on the field or as a result of their injuries. The game was banned at many colleges around the country. President Theodore Roosevelt, who was a fan of the game and had sons who played, met with leaders from several schools to find a solution. The Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (IAAUS) was the solution. In 1910 it would be retitled the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and is still the governing body over collegiate sports.
  7. As the sport grew in popularity and more schools began to play, groups of schools began to form conferences to better govern the game on more regional levels. The Southeastern Conference (SEC) and the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), the conferences represented in Monday’s game, are both descendants of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SIAA). Alabama and Clemson (the two teams from Monday’s game) were both charter members (so was my alma mater, Mississippi State then known as Mississippi A&M). The SIAA boasted the first accepted forward pass, the first game decided by a field goal, some of the first trick plays, John Heisman, and Pop Warner.
  8. While the SIAA claims the first ever forward pass in 1895, the forward pass wasn’t technically legal in the game until 1906. The game sometimes evolved faster than the official rules.
  9. The most lopsided victory in college football history was Georgia Tech over Cumberland in 1916 with a score of 222-0. That’s not a typo.
  10. “Modern Era” college football has more or less been the same since 1958. However, meetings are held each year at both the conference and national levels to discuss rule changes and adjustments and reassess any changes from the previous years. Most of these are minor, but the sport continues to evolve, especially when it comes to player safety.

I’m not going to lie, being both a geek and a sports fan I could keep going on this for a while. Lucky for all of you, this is clearly a “10 Things on the 10th” situation so I must stop. Hopefully, though, this shows you how sports come into being and gives you some ideas for what sports in your fictional world might look like.

And if not then at least you have some new tidbits for your next trivia night. You’re welcome.

 

10 Things About the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 (Pt. 1)

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School is about to let out for summer vacation and all over the country (the United States), fairs and festivals are gearing up. From now through the fall, Ferris Wheels, funnel cakes, and (mostly) family-friendly fun are the orders of the day. To celebrate that, this month’s 10 Things post will be about the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. This will be part 1 of 2 because there are several fascinating things about the World’s Columbian Exposition and I plan to share more of them with you next month. Buckle up, my friends. It’s time to get your history on.

The Chicago World’s Fair, otherwise known as the World’s Columbian Exposition, was held in 1893. The area for the fair covered more than 600 acres and spawned such attractions as the Ferris Wheel, but that’s not all. There are some really interesting things associated with the Fair that you might not know, especially if you’re not a history geek like me, so I thought I would share a few things that might spark your interest.

  1. One of the principal designers and builders of the Chicago World’s Fair was Daniel Burnham, who also designed the Flatiron Building in New York City and Union Station in Washington, D.C. Frederick Law Olmsted was another principal designer (but he worked with the landscaping, while Mr. Burnham worked with architectural structures). Mr. Olmsted is most famous, however, for co-designing Central Park in New York City.
  1. The design of the “White City”, the nickname of the part of the Fair officially known as the Court of Honor because all of the buildings were white (and because of the extensive use of streetlights actually made it possible to use the area at night), was actually the inspiration for L. Frank Baum’s Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz. It also was the inspiration for the “alabaster cities” referenced in the poem “America the Beautiful” by Katharine Lee Bates.
  1. The world’s first Ferris Wheel, so called because it was designed by George Ferris, debuted at the Chicago World’s Fair. It was 264 feet high and had 36 cars, each car could carry 60 people. In fact, in some parts of the world today the Ferris Wheel is actually known as The Chicago Wheel.

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  1. Walt Disney’s father was one of the laborers who helped build and paint the buildings used for the World’s Fair.
  1. It was the Columbian Exposition because it was meant to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ “discovery” of the New World.
  1. When it was originally suggested to have such a celebration, it drew little interest. However, in 1889 Paris hosted a World’s Fair during which the Eiffel Tower was unveiled. At that time, the Eiffel Tower was taller than any American Building, and during the fair France made sure that their exhibits seemed more elegant than those of any other nation, including America. Wounded pride is a driving force, and soon the idea of having a World’s Fair, with the excuse of it being the Columbian Exposition, that would top anything France could offer seemed only right. It took a vote of Congress to decide where the Fair would be held and Chicago won over Washington, D. C., New York City, and St. Louis. Chicago lobbied for votes by saying that this was their chance to show the world they had rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1871.
  1. The Decorations Director for the Chicago World’s Fair, Frank Millet, died in the sinking of the Titanic, while Daniel Burnham, by now his close friend, rode a sister ship, the Olympic, going the opposite direction across the Atlantic. The Olympic made an attempt to answer the distress call, but it was too late. Mr. Millet invented spray painting as a way to speed the process of painting all the building facades white for the Fair.
  1. Chicago’s Mayor, Carter Harrison, Sr., was assassinated two days before the Fair’s Closing Ceremonies. The Ceremonies were canceled in favor of a memorial service for the late mayor.
  1. Both General Electric (backed by Thomas Edison and J.P. Morgan) and Westinghouse (backed by George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla) made bids to provide the electricity for the event, but Westinghouse won, and the Tesla alternating current system was used, instead of General Electric’s direct current proposal.
  1. All of the 200 buildings that were built for the fair were intended to be temporary. Two of them, however, still stand in place today. One now houses the Museum of Science and Industry and the other is home to the Art Institute of Chicago.

To be continued…

Origin of the Mason-Dixon Line

I love history. We can learn so much from it when we’re not busy memorizing names and dates for that big test. So today, we’re going to have a little history lesson. Partly because I’m a history nerd, and partly because this is a post from my old site and I forgot to write a sparkly new post for today. Just being honest.

Let the learning commence!

I know what you’re thinking. You’re asking what credentials give me the right to teach you history. None, actually. I don’t teach history. I’m certainly not a historian. I don’t have a degree in history of any kind. What I did have were two excellent history teachers in high school. My tenth grade history teacher made it fun. She told us the untold stories that weren’t in our history books. She read to us out of books like Lies My Teacher Told Me and One Night Stands in American History. That last one isn’t exactly what you think. I also had an AP US History teacher in the eleventh grade who was small, but fiery and just a little bit scary. She reminds me of the character “Hetty” from NCIS Los Angeles. She made me a better writer, too.

Thanks to those two ladies (and the other great teachers I had along the way) I am quite well versed in the history of these here United States. And today’s topic hits close to home because I’m from the south. South of the Mason-Dixon Line. Which isn’t what you think.

Did you know the creation of the Mason-Dixon Line has absolutely nothing to do with the division between North and South? Not a thing. Nada. Zilch. Nothing. The Mason Dixon Line, for the most part, runs along the southern border of Pennsylvania (it also dips down the western border of Delaware). In 1861, Maryland (south of the Mason-Dixon Line) became a “border state”, meaning it was a slave state that did not secede when the Confederacy did. So the Mason-Dixon Line was drawn to separate slave states and non-slave states, right? No. Actually, it existed quite some time before that.

MasonDixonPlaque

The Mason-Dixon Line was “drawn” because of a completely different fight. Approximately a century before the Civil War. The line is named for the two surveyors (just called scientists back then, by the way) from England, who were sent to settle a disagreement over the city of Philadelphia.

The original Maryland charter placed part of its border in Philadelphia. The Penn Family (you know, of PENNsylvania –just in case you missed it) was none too happy about this. Philadelphia was theirs, and they would have none of this Maryland nonsense. In 1681, when the disagreement arose, they took the problem to King Charles II. The King’s answer was to give Delaware (originally part of Maryland) to Pennsylvania, as a satellite colony, and to give Philadelphia to Maryland. Again, William Penn wasn’t happy. He had already decided that Philadelphia would be his colony’s capital! Outrage! This border dispute continued. In fact, in 1732 a war over it broke out, known as Cresap’s War. The result? The offended parties went back to the King. He came up with a new solution and sent two scientists, Mason and Dixon, to enforce it.

Mason and Dixon surveyed the land and drew the line, based on the stipulations they were given (I should add here that the timeline is quite drawn out. It took a while to get from England to the colonies, and it took much longer to survey land). The two scientists used crown stones, which were actually created in England and then shipped to the colonies, at five-mile intervals to mark the line. One side of the stones had the Calvert Family (Maryland) crest, and one side had the Penn Family crest. This line was created sometime in the 1760s.

Crown Stones

So, there you have it. It may have become famous for other reasons, but that is the real origin of the Mason-Dixon Line. It was the center of disputes between states long before the Civil War. It doesn’t change what it has been used for in the time since, but like I said, I’m a history nerd. Plus, this was the best I could do last minute. I’m a hot mess mom today, what can I say.

10 Things About Mississippi

Today is the tenth! As promised, here is my first 10 things on the 10th post. Since it’s a quick turnaround, I’m going to share with you about something I already know a bit about–my home state of Mississippi! While there are far more than ten interesting tidbits I could share with you about Mississippi, rules are rules. So sit back and get your learn on.

 

  1. Many people know that Morgan Freeman, Jim Henson and Oprah Winfrey were originally from Mississippi, but you may not know that Lacey Chabert and James Earl Jones are also from Mississippi, and Parker Posey–while not born there–grew up in Laurel, MS.

 

  1. Again, while many know that athletic stars such as Archie Manning and Brett Favre are from Mississippi, you may not know that Cool Papa Bell–said to be one of the fastest players to ever play baseball–, Steve McNair, Travis Outlaw, Walter Payton, and Jerry Rice were all born in MS too.

 

  1. Musicians from the state include 3 Doors Down, Lance Bass, Brandy, Ray J, Jimmy Buffett, Bo Diddley, Faith Hill, Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Denise LaSalle, Elvis Presley–he moved to Memphis as an adult, but is from Tupelo, MS–, Leontyne Price, Charlie Patton, Charlie Pride, LeAnn Rimes, Conway Twitty, Muddy Waters, Tammy Wynette, and Hayley Williams. This list is, of course, not all-inclusive.
  1. Root Beer, as we know it today, was invented in Biloxi, MS in 1898 by Edward Adolf Barq.

Barq's Plaque

  1. The Teddy Bear gets its name from President Theodore “Teddy Roosevelt”. President Roosevelt was invited on a hunting trip in Mississippi. When the party caught a bear, they offered to let the President fire the kill shot, but he deemed the situation unsportsmanlike and refused to fire the shot. The toy, originally called “Teddy’s Bear” appeared on the market almost immediately after the story hit newspapers.

 

  1. Burnita Shelton Matthews, the first woman appointed as a judge of a U.S. district court was from Mississippi.

 

  1. Dr. James D. Hardy performed the first human lung transplant in 1963 in Jackson, MS.

 

  1. The X-Men Comic Book character Rogue was a self declared Southern Belle from Mississippi.

 

  1. S.B. Sam Vick from Oakland, MS played for both the Yankees and the Red Sox. He was the only player to ever pinch hit for Babe Ruth.

 

  1. William Faulkner, John Grisham, and Eudora Welty are well known writers from Mississippi. However, you might not know that Richard Wright, Angie Thomas, Charlaine Harris, and–contrary to what his nickname might suggest–Tennessee Williams are also from Mississippi.

 

So there you have it. A lot of very talented and very smart people, not to mention some cute toys and delicious drinks, hail from Mississippi. There are many other interesting facts about the people and places of Mississippi. This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface, but I thought I would share a few things with you to whet your appetite. Don’t let the drawl fool you. For all our faults, we’re a pretty interesting crowd.