The Big Scrum
How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football
By John J. Miller
(Harper Perennial, Paperback, 9780061744525, 272pp.)
Publication Date: April 2012
Other Editions of This Title: Hardcover
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Football's first golden age was characterized by incredible violence and life-threatening danger, and the new sport's popularity grew even as the casualties rose. After dozens of players were killed in brutal incidents that rattled the national consciousness, a proto-progressive movement attempted to abolish the game.
At that critical moment, President Roosevelt, an outspoken advocate of "the strenuous life" and a longtime fan of the game, fought to preserve football's rugged essence. In 1905, Roosevelt summoned key football coaches to the White House for a historic meeting. The result was the establishment of the NCAA and a series of rule changes, including the advent of the forward pass, which not only saved the sport but transformed football into what it is today: the quintessential American game.
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.
“Football enthusiassts and Theodore Roosevelt admirers will both enjoy and learn from these little-known but important historic events that preserved from extinction one of America’s favorite sports.”
-Tweed Roosevelt, president of the Theodore Roosevelt Association
“In Miller’s hands, the story of Theodore Roosevelt’s love for, and defense of, ‘the great game’ has as much vigor and passion as Roosevelt himself. It’s a fascinating and thoroughly American tale.”
-Candice Millard, author of The River of Doubt
“A worthy addendum to the story of football’s rise . . . [and] a good yarn.”
“[Miller] is on target with a necessarily selective biography highlighting Roosevelt’s lifelong affinity for sports and physical activity, thereby providing context for understanding why a president would devote valuable time to what was then a minor sport. [An] enjoyable history of a seldom-explored turning point in American sports history.”