The same vital points, continually drummed into a player in his training, are sure to influence the spectators who daily gather on the field to witness the practice. These attributes, personified in the ideal football player, dominate the entire student body and create a spirit which reaches out from the athletic field through the campus and into the very recitation room. The influence for good exerted in this way is incalculable.
In many cases students who would otherwise have been failures from the standpoint of physical development have been fired by the example of the football player and have developed ability which has been used for the glory of the college and the physical welfare of the owner in after life. The example of self-sacrifice engendered on the football field often extends in most surprising ways to the entire student body, and even those not participating in the active athletics are moved to habits of temperance and regularity. The perseverance which eventually brings success on the football field is an open book to every member of the undergraduate body and points the way to both athlete and student, not only during the college days but later in life as well. Independence of action and quickness of thought are sharpened by active participation in the game. Almost every college man is a conscientious and studious follower of the game. In no way is the utter futility of incompetence better illustrated than on the football field.
Aside from the better physical health resulting from a few hours spent on the field as spectators of the daily practice or the regular contests, the students return to their books or recitations with a mental exhilaration which is of great assistance.
From the opening of college in September, in all sec-tions of the country, to its close in June, football is the most potent factor in the moulding of spirit, in the making of men, and in the bringing them together in the democracy of a common cause in the collegiate life. In the autumn, when the candidates for the team are being tried out and selected according to their worth, thousands of healthy young men take their places on the athletic field every afternoon. These hours in the open air are spent in beneficial exercise and, even if the candidate does not succeed in making the team, he is storing up for himself a fund of health from which to draw in later years. Besides, to a candidate disappointed in making the 'Varsity team, or the second eleven, there are positions waiting on the class teams.
One of the most impressive structures in the country is the Harvard stadium. Massive in construction, with a seating capacity of over 35,000, contributed by a class which has long since left the immediate influences of the institution, it is built essentially for the future and for football. Long after many of the buildings now used for the dissemination of learning at Cambridge have been replaced by newer edifices, the Harvard stadium will stand, impressive and entire, a monument to energetic manhood illustrated in football, and will ring with shouts and songs as rival colleges meet in contests of skill and strength in years to come.
Throughout the country, at the different universities, have been and are being erected structures intended for the same purpose. They are being built with a view to the permanency of the game to which they are adapted. These edifices are being erected at an enormous expense, it is true, with a view to the future, but are nevertheless necessary to meet the present demands of those who desire to witness the playing of the scheduled games of each season.
Wherever the game is being played - and this scope is limited only by the presence of schools and colleges, for these institutions are practically unanimous in their support of football - representative people of that particular section are attracted by football contests as by no other athletic event of the year. If football answered no other purpose than that of drawing the hundreds of thousands into the open air, away from offices and shops, drawing rooms and clubs, for a few health-giving hours, this would be reason enough for its existence.
Anyone who can be present as a spectator at one of the big football games of the year and can look on without enthusiasm as the game progresses is lacking in red blood and can expect no pleasure in outdoor sport. Football has earned for itself a unique place in the life of this country and deserves the position it has acquired. It is the national autumn sport, without a rival, and as such will retain its position as long as Anglo-Saxon blood flows in the veins of the young American.
No better evidence is found of the popularity which football has attained and the natural attractiveness and benefit which it brings, than the rapidity with which the game has swept over the preparatory and high schools of the country. From the colleges, the original homes of football, have gone out each year football players who have adopted teaching as their life work. These men have carried into their new positions a knowledge of the game which has been eagerly received wherever they have gone. Every preparatory school now has one or more instructors, a regular portion of whose labors is the instruction of the pupils of the school, in football, and the development of a team which shall properly represent the school on the gridiron. By this method the game has gained myriads of friends and adherents who in their college and university courses keep up their devotion to football. It also develops the young players along the correct lines and moulds the play of the schoolboys in ways which not only benefit the player, but develop him for the more important contests that will come when he reaches his chosen school of higher learning.
The necessity for an adequate field on which the game may be played in the high and preparatory schools has generally arisen all over the country and often the popularity of the game from the spectator's standpoint has provided the means of equipping the field and paying the expense. Some preparatory schools are far better off than many colleges in this respect and many of them maintain a football field and equipment complete in every particular. It is true that ideals are not always carried out and that the game and its influence are not always for the best. This is true of practically everything in life.
The photographic reproductions accompanying this chapter portray better than is possible by words the great concourse of people regularly attracted to the big football games all over the country. Such crowds, while largely composed of college people, could not be gathered from these alone. The spectators at a football match come from all walks of life and include thousands who love the game solely as a spectacle and an exhibition of concerted pluck and action. There is no crowd so cosmopolitan as that at a football game and this is. after all the most effective testimonial to the hold the game has, east, west, north and south, on the hearts of the American public.
MARSHIED FIELD, Chicago - Chicago.
Photo by Geo. R. Laurence.