Football. The very word sends shivers of testosterone through strong men's ovaries. But what IS American footballery? Who are the athletes behind this mysterious sport? How does one do a football game? The answers to no more than two of these questions will be found in this ... the Gentleman's Guide to American Football.
The Origins of Football
Football is, and always will be, a rough-and-tumble game. However, its mortality rate has dropped sharply now that the National Football League no longer issues jousting lances to players.
Originating in New York's Five Points district with teams like the Jets, the Sharks, and the Dead Rabbits, the game was played in the street, and ah, God! -- it was horrifying! Sir, you couldn't advance 3 yards without squelching a loose eyeball underfoot, but if you made a touchdown, you ruled that neighborhood and were allowed to collect protection money until the end of the game.
Women in those days went wild for a footballer, and to seduce a champion, many went so far as to bathe. The best portrait of the game's glory days comes from the autobiography Football & Me: Whaddayagotta Problem Wid' Dat? by defensive end "Jostling" Jim Joyce:
"And me when a hit to the lineman was good in these days for a bare shoulders tart, O! I should love to lick such lovely farty fannies. For me her hair came down but a swollen -- so was the cranium of my addled skully brains that the leather helmet would not take off and, it's alright, said Mara dear, 'tis alright, Jimmy, but her look of disappointment made me weep and then 'twas poverty aye much."
Joyce died of extensive brain damage while writing the book, and critics suspect his editor fabricated the bulk of the text. Its remaining 211 pages waver between masturbation tales and a battle with a cyclops, possibly as an extended metaphor for Joyce's rivalry with the Minnesota Vikings' Odin "Berserker" Borrson. Borrson had only one eye, but man could he scramble! (Interestingly, he was the game's first casualty, killed by a late hit from Skjornmir Icefang of the Shakopee Frost Giants.)
It's just a shame the Ravens weren't a team back then.
League Formation and Early Teams
The direct precursor of our National Football League was the Football Men's No Homosexual Touching League, which adapted its "NFL" moniker after incorporating the failing By Jehoshaphat, Fellows, This Is Cracking Fun Arrgh My Teeth League.
It was not uncommon in those days for coaches to sic lions, bears, and irate goats upon their players to motivate them forward, but as the game established a fast set of rules, these creatures were sidelined with honorary positions as mascots. This, in turn, led to local teams adapting colorful identities, unlike European football (soccer) clubs, who have simple geographic names like the Hottentam Shotspours, La Societe du Kicking de Paris, and Yo No Puedo Creer es Real Madrid.
The earliest known roster was compiled in 1910 by the League of Huzzah for the Football and Mustaches! The listed teams were:
Every single player on these teams died in World War I during a game of inter-company football.
By far the greatest player of the time was Oskar "Butterscotch Nipples" Jaskowicsz, also known as "the Polish Meat Grinder," due to his tendency to murder opposing players and serve them in a pie to unsuspecting officials before the match. These savory pastries curried a lot of favor with referees and allowed Jaskowicsz to get away with on-field shenanigans until his shocking crimes were discovered and then disregarded because he was too valuable to the Depression economy to imprison.
Other early stars include:
Mugsy "Two Knives" Marone (FB) -- The Kewaunee Coyotes
Patrick the Filthy Irishman (RB) -- The Liberty Island Wretched Refuse
Scribbly Mayer -- The Bangor Jews
Marty "Malignancy" Huckleberry (TB, which at the time was a player with tuberculosis who coughed on defenders) -- Dodge City Deadshots
Jimmy "The Iron Pants" Shenanigans (DT) -- The Olympia Olympians Not Affiliated With the Olympic Games
Knuckles McFistpunch (TE) -- The Chicago Violence
Bub Shambling (DZ, Defensive Zombie, a position eliminated from modern play) -- The Miami Sleepwalkers
Breaking the Color Barrier
History was made in 1901 when the league recruited Whitey Uptighterson (FS -- the Paleyville Lilies), an African-American whose light skin allowed him to pass for Caucasian in an overwhelmingly white area. Uptighterson shot to stardom in his rookie season when he intercepted a pass and ran 42 yards to win the Gravy Bowl against the heavily favored Rabbit Hash Recalcitrants.
With his picture plastered on the front of the paper, Uptighterson was soon outed as one Thomas Aiken, a local cobbler. There was much uproar, and some felt the new champions "hadn't really won the game" because a player's great-great-grandmother had been one-sixteenth black. But the mayor of Paleyville himself thanked Aiken for the victory at his lynching.
Ironically, that night at theater class the mayor learned how to pantomime "cognitive dissonance."
This guy thought he could excel at every sport he touched while being half-Native American. What nerve! Don't worry, the IOC stripped him of his medals against their own bylaws and he died destitute.
Other Minority Players
Oh, there were plenty, but we couldn't tell you who. We don't see skin color. We see achievement. Sorry for not partaking in your discriminatory social constructs.
Football as we know it came into being in 1969, when the NFL merged with the AFL and abandoned the shotgun euthanization of injured athletes (although many players continued to be put down by gentler methods off the field). New rules were adopted for the well-being of all, including caps on how high a bounty could be for injuring an opponent's spine, establishing a single spelling of "Houshmandzadeh," and sending an all-star team led by Maurice Jones-Drew to hurl the One Ring back into Lincoln Financial Field.
Now let's examine the game as we know it today ...