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Quotations about American Football

Only in a game like this do you see grown men playing patty-cake. It's the rawest of emotions out here. ~Cris Collinsworth, 2016 November 27th, Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos

ACADEME, n. An ancient school where morality and philosophy were taught.
ACADEMY, n. (from academe). A modern school where football is taught.
~Ambrose Bierce

      Only those who have sat for hours on a hard bench and watched Felton Taylor or Leroy Hunt "buck the center" for a fifteen-yard gain, or a Hittell or a Clemans run around the end, only those who have seen Henry get down under a punt by Oscar Taylor, or seen a long return by Tobin, while cold chills chased each other delightfully up and down the thousands of vertebral columns to the accompaniment of a pandemonium band of anything that will blow, ring, or rattle, and the air is filled with red and white, cardinal, or blue and gold, — only those who have been there can understand the strong hold that football is taking on the fancies of the public on this Coast. It is an imported infection, whose germs have been carefully propagated by Camp and McClung, though the disease has long lurked in the blood, and broken out in more or less violent attacks for the last ten years.
      The present inoculation bids fair to produce a mania.... High schools, academies and towns are throwing aside the baseball mask for the nose protector and the padded trousers. The tennis dude is substituting for his immaculate flannels the mud-stained canvas jacket and cultivating a football bang. In other words, football has become fashionable and popular beyond all precedent. ~Phil Weaver, Jr., "Inter-Collegiate Foot‑Ball on the Pacific Coast," The Overland Monthly, February 1893

To be sure, every football play is in a sense a short narrative. First come the signals of the quarterback. That is the preliminary exposition. Then the plot thickens, action becomes intense and a climax is reached whereby the mood of tragedy or comedy is established. ~Heywood Broun, 1922

If you're mad at your kid, you can either raise him to be a nose tackle or send him out to play on the freeway. It's about the same. ~Robert Perry Golic (b.1957),

      But, as a vehicle for transporting passionate patriotism hither and whence, as a valve for blowing off the surplus steam of pride, football is supreme. By the time a game is ended in friendly mud, blood and bruises, the only sentient sentiment left is the desire to park the personal pronoun on something deep and downy.
      If football were more plentiful than diplomacy there would be less war. It has been asserted that Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton. It's a great pity it wasn't. Had it been decided by football instead of cannon ball, by warm leather instead of cold steel, by booting instead of shooting, the face of History might have grown less grim.... Bonaparte, instead of dying on St. Helena, might have lived to play at Olympia.
      If the only battle-fields were football fields, Nationalism, Patriotism and all the other "isms" that simmer in the souls of nations, would be dissipated in the inspiration and perspiration of the football field. The League of Nations would be a referee's retreat, Geneva would be a place where nations could kick as much as they liked and no harm done. Stalin's Ogpushers and the Hitler-Mussolini fifteen would decide their differences and achieve their goals with boot and ball instead of blood and broil. All would be well with the world, and there would be no bitters in Geneva.
      ~Kenneth Alfred Evelyn Alexander (c.1890–1953), "Football Facts And Fancies," in The New Zealand Railways Magazine, 1937  [Context note: This NZ football is rugby. —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

A lawn-tennis mind cannot appreciate a football soul. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1903, George Horace Lorimer, editor

At the base of it was the urge, if you wanted to play football, to knock someone down, that was what the sport was all about, the will to win closely linked with contact. ~George Plimpton, Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last-String Quarterback, 1965

FOOTBALL  A clever subterfuge for carrying on prize-fights under the guise of a reputable game. ~Charles Wayland Towne, The Foolish Dictionary, Executed by Gideon Wurdz, Master of Pholly, Doctor of Loquacious Lunacy, etc., 1904

The game was ended, and the noise, at last had died away, and now they gathered up the boys where they in pieces lay. And one was hammered in the ground by many a jolt and jar; some fragments never have been found, they flew away so far. They found a stack of tawny hair, some fourteen cubits high; it was the half-back, lying there, where he had crawled to die. They placed the pieces on a door, and from the crimson field, that hero then they gently bore, like soldier on his shield. The surgeon toiled the livelong night above the gory wreck; he got the ribs adjusted right, the wishbone and the neck. He soldered on the ears and toes, and got the spine in place, and fixed a gutta-percha nose upon the mangled face. And then he washed his hands and said: "I'm glad that task is done!" The half-back raised his fractured head, and cried: "I call this fun!" ~Walt Mason (1862–1939), "Football"

They say football builds strong bodies, big muscles, rippling biceps. Not so. I watch it ten hours every weekend. Nothing! ~Robert Orben, 2400 Jokes to Brighten Your Speeches, 1984

is the world's motivation,
the student's constant companion.
On the college campus
      it soars with the pass
            and plunges with the tackle...
~Arizona State University 1967 Sahuaro yearbook, edited by Pamela Sisk, et al.

Football is a miniature war game played under somewhat more civilized rules of conduct, in which the team becomes the military force of the school or university which it represents. In fact most of the combat principles of the Field Service Regulations of the United States Army are applicable to the modern game of football. ~Percy D. Haughton, Football and How to Watch It, 1922

"Time out," yells the referee as twenty-one players untangle themselves from a seething, struggling mass of humanity. ~Percy D. Haughton, Football and How to Watch It, 1922

Whether we gain it, leap by leap,
      Or whether forced by fate to yield,
There is no music like the cheer
      That soars and eddies down the fought-for field.
There is no rapture like the game—
      The rush—hot faces fleeing by—
The press of heaving side to side—
      The reeling stumble and the falling sky!
~Virgil Markham, "The Feel of the Game," 1926

I'm not a good radio listener, but then very few fans are... Radio football is football reduced to its lowest common denominator. Shorn of the game's aesthetic pleasures, or the comfort of a crowd that feels the same way as you, or the sense of security that you get when you see that your defenders and goalkeeper are more or less where they should be, all that is left is naked fear. ~Nick Hornby, "Filling a Hole: Arsenal v Liverpool, 1.5.80," Fever Pitch, 1992  [This is about soccer "football," or fútbol. —tg]

—FIRST DOWN, n.  The first drink out of a flask.
—THIRD DOWN, n.  The last drink out of a half-pint flask.
—QUARTER BACK, n.  Where your seats look to be on the diagram.
—BACK, n.  Where they are.
—FAIR CATCH, n. fem.  The girl any friend of yours happens to bring to the game.
—FORWARD, adj.  The attitude of your old classmates toward your girl.
—PASS, n.  What you are tempted to make at that big zob sitting in front of you, but don't.
—LAST QUARTER, n.  What you spend on the taxi going home.
—RIGHT END, n.  The side the other fellow bet on.
—SAFETY, n.  Situation of players as compared with that of spectators in the homeward scramble.
—GOAL, n.  As far as you are concerned, home and fireside.
~Tip Bliss, "Football Fan's Glossary," 1926

Is there a point at which every Sunday during the NFL season ceases to make a man feel like a kid on Christmas morning? ~Mike Alexander, @MADfit, tweet

I quickly learned what many Sunday widows already realized — that football is not a game but a religion, a metaphysical island of fundamental truth in a highly verbal, disguised society, a throwback of 30,000 generations of anthropological time. ~Arnold J. Mandell, "A Psychiatric Study of Professional Football," 1974  [An interesting predecessor by 75 years: "So when women take to Golf they ought first of all to realise that it is not a game but a religion, that it is calculated to improve both body and mind, that it ought not to be taken in hand, as the marriage service says, unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, discretely, advisedly, soberly. It is no use for a woman to announce her intention of going in for Golf unless she is prepared to... put away foolish things." ~John Strange Winter, "Ladies on the Green," Golf Illustrated, 1899  —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

"Are you ready...?" The referee blows his whistle. It is a supreme moment. The pent-up feelings of the past year are suddenly released and one is brought face to face with the realization that within the coming two hours the pendulum of the Fates will swing either to victory or defeat. ~Percy D. Haughton, Football and How to Watch It, 1922

Football hardened men to greatness, Camp swore, much like the Western frontier had until the 1890 census confirmed its closing. He liked to think that he was merely compensating for the loss, creating a new frontier that was equally rugged, delineated by chalk marks and nestled in less open spaces in urban centers, where American males needed outlets for their energy.... When critics lambasted Camp for the roughness of his game, [his college teammate, artist Frederic] Remington implored him not to kowtow to their namby-pambyism. There was no longer anything in American life—not a mythical West or an Indian war—that counteracted the forces of feminization like football. ~Julie Des Jardins, Walter Camp: Football and the Modern Man, "Introduction: The Forgotten 'Father of Football,'" 2015  ["Camp was popularly known for making football a rougher sport, and yet his daughter remembered him as a gentle man who wrote poetry." —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

I love to watch football on TV, and I will tell you exactly why: I have no idea.... Whatever the attraction is, a lot of women seem to be immune to it. I have seen women walk right past a TV set with a football game on and — this always amazes me — not stop to watch, even if the TV is showing replays of what guys call a "good hit," which is a tackle that causes at least one major internal organ to actually fly out of a player's body. The average guy cannot ignore something of this importance. ~Dave Barry, "Fools For Football," 1994 January 16th, The Baltimore Sun is inherently an American game and essentially a college game. In it we find most of the red-blooded ideals which we are proud to believe are particularly American. ~Percy D. Haughton, Football and How to Watch It, 1922

The televising of football right now is just off the charts, it's so phenomenal between HD and cable cam and all the rest. I was just sitting in my living room the other day watching those two games and you're there. You're right there. You're in the game and the sound is great. It's phenomenal. It's the essence of live television. It's unscripted and beautifully choreographed. The technology is terrific. If you're in this business, there's no better day than this. ~Al Michaels, NBC Sports press conference, Super Bowl XLIII (2009)

Mike Heck:  Look, I'm trying not to find out the scores of three football games. And every second I spend out here is another second I risk somebody telling me who won. Imagine you had three books you didn't know the endings to and you're out in a place where a lot of people know the endings.
Brick Heck:  I don't understand — if I had three books, why would I go out?
Mike:  Exactly.
~The Middle, "Halloween VI: Tick Tock Death," 2015, written by Tim Hobert  [S7, E6]

— "Yes, sir! I'm going to get the game on the little old radio, play by play, better than you could see it, with the singing and cheering thrown in but without the discomfort of the crowds, the long trip to college, and sitting in the cold all afternoon."
— "I couldn't get tickets either."
~LIFE, 1926

FOOTBALL. A system of manslaughter very fashionable with boys. From the Latin words "footibus," meaning "put the boots to him," and "balloona," meaning "up in the air, or, who hit me with a public building?" A body of college students surrounded by ambulances. For instance:
      Sing a song of football
            Pockets full of salve;
      Four and twenty legs all
            Punctured at the calve.
      Captain in the hospital
            Fullback in the soup,
      Twenty-seven faces
            Broken in the group.
      Sophomores and Freshmen
            Punched around the ring;
      When the war was over
            The boys began to sing!
~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905

...the study of the Theory and Practice of Gridirony... the proper academic designation of a course in football, a game which is played on the gridiron. It is more euphonious than goalology or leather spheroids... ~John Kendrick Bangs, "On Short Courses at College," The Genial Idiot, 1908

October is not only a beautiful month but marks the precious yet fleeting overlap of hockey, baseball, basketball, and football. ~Jason Love,

When somebody tells you nothing is impossible, ask him to dribble a football. ~Author unknown

Weekends don't pay as well as weekdays but at least there's football. ~S.A. Sachs

Life was a damned muddle… a football game with every one off-side and the referee gotten rid-of — every one claiming the referee would have been on his side… ~F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise, 1920

I felt like a racehorse in a world without racetracks or a champion college footballer suddenly confronted by Wall Street and a business suit, his days of glory shrunk to a little gold cup on his mantel with a date engraved on it like a date on a tombstone. ~Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, 1963

Ye distant grid of white on green,
      Ye twinkling football star,
Oh, how I wonder in my bean
      Just who in heck you are.
A number's on your tiny back,
But mud has turned it rather black,
      I strain an eagle eye,
But all remains a mystery
To me in Seat 2-90 Z,
      'Way back up in the sky.
Who blocked that kick? Who made that run?
      Who urged that flying ball?
I will not know till all is done
      And "Extras" me enthrall.
But to my cold yet uppricked ears
There drifts the sound of far, faint cheers,
      So I, too, yell and rise.
Perhaps the play I cheer amiss,
But still, where ignorance is bliss,
      'Tis folly to be wise.
~Fairfax Downey, "Ode on a Distant Prospect of a Football Field" (Apologies to Tom Gray, Eton), 1926

All of us watch the man with the ball. Accordingly football has come to be thought of in terms of individuals. The artisans engaged in a manœuvre are forgotten because of the glory of the hero who actually completes the play. ~Heywood Broun, 1922

The Eisenhower way could be compared to a football team — elaborate planning, great attention to coordinating everybody, and interminable time spent in the huddles. The Kennedy team was more along the lines of basketball: everybody was on the move all the time. Nobody had a very clearly defined position. The President had a habit of throwing the ball in any direction and he expected it to be kept bouncing. ~Douglass Cater, Power in Washington, 1964

We in the United States operate like a hastily organized football team of individual stars, with each player thinking of next year's contract; and we have an elected quarterback whose popularity fluctuates with the success of each play. We work out our game plan as we go along, sometimes in the huddle and sometimes in angry debate at the line of scrimmage. ~Gerald Raftery (1905–1986), "Choosing sides," December 1973

I'm very concerned about the growing number of injuries caused by football. Last Saturday I got a shock turning on my TV set, cut my finger opening a beer can, and almost choked on a pretzel. ~Robert Orben, 2400 Jokes to Brighten Your Speeches, 1984

Sharks are hardy creatures.... Sharks are as tough as those football fans who take their shirts off during games in Chicago in January, only more intelligent. ~Dave Barry  [This is a mash-up quotation, that is, not a complete quote that you will find anywhere else in one place. The first part is from Barry's book I'll Mature When I'm Dead (2010) and the second part is from "Sex And The Single Amoeba: What Every Teen Should Know," 1986 January 26th, Chicago Tribune. —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

You'd have to have huge, I-can-barely-walk-with-these balls to start any of these guys in the fantasy playoffs, but fortune favors the large-testicled. ~Alexander Hough, "Fantasy Football Week 15: Wandering the Waiver Wire,"Chicagoist, 2011 December 13th

The tactical difference between Association Football and Rugby with its varieties seems to be that in the former the ball is the missile, in the latter men are the missiles. It is the difference between modern and ancient battle-practice. ~A. E. Crawley, The Book of the Ball, 1913

For several weeks now I have had the sense of something about to come to an end — that old September feeling, left over from school days, of summer passing, vacation nearly done, obligations gathering, books and football in the air. But different now... Another fall, another turned page: there was something of jubilee in that annual autumnal beginning, as if last year's mistakes and failures had been wiped clean by summer. ~Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose, 1971

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