The New York Times
The Big Scrum: How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Footballby John J. Miller
John J. Miller delivers the intriguing, never-before-told story of how Theodore Roosevelt saved American Football—a game that would become the nation’s most popular sport. Miller’s sweeping, novelistic retelling captures the violent, nearly lawless days of late 19th century football and the public outcry that would have ended the great/sup>… See more details below
John J. Miller delivers the intriguing, never-before-told story of how Theodore Roosevelt saved American Football—a game that would become the nation’s most popular sport. Miller’s sweeping, novelistic retelling captures the violent, nearly lawless days of late 19th century football and the public outcry that would have ended the great game but for a crucial Presidential intervention. Teddy Roosevelt’s championing of football led to the creation of the NCAA, the innovation of the forward pass, a vital collaboration between Walter Camp, Charles W. Eliot, John Heisman and others, and, ultimately, the creation of a new American pastime. Perfect for readers of Douglas Brinkley’s Wilderness Warrior, Michael Lewis’s The Blind Side, and Conn and Hal Iggulden’s The Dangerous Book for Boys, Miller’s The Big Scrum reclaims from the shadows of obscurity a remarkable story of one defining moment in our nation’s history.
The New York Times
The unlikely—and perhaps slightly overblown—tale of how Teddy Roosevelt flexed presidential muscle to save the fledgling game of football.
The story of football's rise from a haphazardly organized game dominated by Yale and Harvard to America's favorite sport is a fascinating one, requiring the contributions of many men—not the least of whom, writes National Review correspondent Miller (The First Assassin, 2010, etc.), was President Roosevelt. An advocate of the "strenuous life" that helped him overcome childhood asthma, the president admired those who sacrificed their bodies on the playing field and felt it was the job of America's universities to spend as much time molding young men's bodies as they did minds. Football's popularity grew in lockstep with Roosevelt's political success, though the game became increasingly controversial, the result of a style of play that led to numerous deaths and countless debilitating injuries. Trailblazing Harvard president Charles Eliot, himself a firm believer in exercise, crusaded against football as a dangerous endeavor that encouraged deception and cruelty, making him the perfect foil for Harvard grad Roosevelt. Even as Eliot led efforts to ban football, Roosevelt called the game's most influential coaches—including legendary Yale coach Walter Camp—to a White House summit to discuss the state of the game. Though the tangible results of that meeting—a joint statement by the coaches in which they promised to be more vigilant in upholding the rules of fair play—were minimal, the author contends that the meeting had a profound impact on the game's development and set Roosevelt up as a behind-the-scenes influencer who ensured the game's survival long enough for new rules (including the forward pass) to make it safer. It's a worthy addendum to the story of football's rise, even though the case for Roosevelt as a cornerstone of its development feels overstated.
A good yarn, but might have made a better chapter than a full-length monograph.
- HarperCollins Publishers
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Meet the Author
John J. Miller is director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College, national correspondent for National Review, a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, and the author of five books, including the novel The First Assassin.
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Many paragraphs of this text are spent on TR's hunting and health and other tangential issues. Little is spent on TR and football because there is little to say. TR did some crucial bully pulpit work in 1905 to push reforms. That's about it. 70% background of TR, 30% about football, which never had a big scrum.
This was a great book in terms of the history of football and the history of Teddy Roosevelt. However, I'm not sure it really ever got to the point where it brought Teddy Roosevelt and football together. It almost read like two seperate stories, and I am not sure if the point ever got made as to how TR saved football. All in all though it was insightful, well researched and very interesting in terms of the founding of the game with the rules as we know them today.
A very good book about the beggining of college football, with some information on Roosevelt's life. It gives basically a walk through the events of the Industrial Revolution that were important to the start of College Football and the life of Theodore Roosevelt. It also introduces you to other men that aren't as well known as Roosevelt.