As anyone who lives in this country knows, we’re in the middle of football season. I’m not much of a football fan. That “Proud to be a Badger” bumper sticker I have on my car really refers to a different kind of pride. However, I have to admit I read the Sports Illustrated story recently about the Big-Uglies – the enormous line that is making Wisconsin football a powerhouse these days.
My pleasure in football is principally a vicarious one. I enjoy knowing that The Prof’s never-ending task of grading papers is made easier by watching a little football as she does it. I enjoy bringing her the occasional snack of chips and salsa while she watches. I enjoy asking questions and getting answers from her seemingly endless supply of football knowledge. She’s a lifelong Steelers fan and has the sort of understanding you only have by spending 40 years in study of the game.
In the latest Atlantic magazine, the cover story was “The Shame of College Sports.” It speaks of how college sports became and remains a multibillion-dollar business, and of the exploitation of college athletes within that system. But sure enough, I managed to find an etymology hidden therein.
In the early days of football a century ago. There were few rules, no pads, no helmets, many debilitating injuries, and not a few deaths. The story says that football started taking safety seriously somewhere around the year that they were 27 deaths reported among college football players.
Back then, the play began, and violent havoc ensued, lasting until the guy with the ball finally shouted “Down!” in desperation. Hence, four downs.