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No Game for Boys to PlayThe History of Youth Football and the Origins of a Public Health Crisis$
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Kathleen Bachynski

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781469653709

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469653709.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.northcarolina.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of North Carolina Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NCSO for personal use.date: 19 September 2021

The Modern Knight Errant

The Modern Knight Errant

Nation, Race, and the Origins of American Football

(p.9) Chapter One The Modern Knight Errant
No Game for Boys to Play

Kathleen Bachynski

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter examines the rise of organized American tackle football for high school and college students in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The sport became most prominently associated with white, Anglo-Saxon, protestant students at elite colleges and universities. Early safety debates turned on whether football’s physical dangers were uncivilized and “brutish,” or whether exposure to its risks fostered American ideals of civilized manliness. These ideals were in turn intertwined with dominant understandings of race, gender, and national identity. School administrators and other leaders, including President Theodore Roosevelt, saw football as preparing boys for future business and military leadership. As a consequence, they contended that the sport’s perceived violence was civilized and conferred moral benefits upon players. By the early twentieth century, football was firmly established in elite American colleges and expanding at the high school level.

Keywords:   Tackle football, College, Gender, Safety, High school, National identity, Theodore Roosevelt, Race, Risk, Moral benefits

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