John J. Miller is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College and writes for National Review, the Wall Street Journal, and other publications. He is also author of the book, The Big Scrum, How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football, which is the focus of our conversation in episode 106. I worked intimately with this book while writing papers at Rutgers & Georgetown. Many of the arguments made both for and against football in it's infancy are still relevant today.
Many described last Monday night's football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals as a brutal, violent and ugly game. I thought it was appropriate to post my interview with John where we discuss how the sport of football was saved by the 26th president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt after the death of 18 football players in 1905. There was a similar reaction among university presidents and the American public. Some people at the time even described the sport as "evil." What can we learn from the past? Find out by listening to our conversation in this episode.
Below are some topics of conversation from episode 106:
- The emergence and evolution of football after the civil war.
- Football's roots in rugby and soccer.
- The public's reaction to 18 people dying due to injuries sustained on the football field in 1905.
- Why historians will be talking about football's brutality and violence when looking back on our era.
- How football's problem with violence and brutality, ultimately led to a safer and more exciting game.
- Social and political movements like the progressive era fought to abolish football.
- Where the idea for the introduction of the forward pass came from.
- Why Roosevelt thought football was a positive social good that can turn boys into men.
- Why John referenced Malcolm Galdwell's Dogfighting article.
- Why there is no such thing as a risk free activity.
- Roosevelt's Rough Riders.
- John's reservations letting his kids play contact sports after writing the book.
- The evolution of football equipment.
- How long shaggy hair served as helmets before there were helmets.
- John's prediction of football's future.
- Why the benefits of sports often outweigh the risks.