Today, TGC is hosting a a two-view forum on the ethical pros and cons of football. Bill Kynes’s article—“3 Reasons I’d (Still) Let My Sons Play Tackle Football“—argues the pro-football case while Dan Doriani’s article—”Time to Push Tackle Football into Retirement“—provides an opposing perspective. In connection with the forum, here are nine things you should know about America’s most popular sport.

1. In spring 2017, the number of people in the United States who played football within the last 12 months amounted to 17.09 million. Tackle football is also the most popular high1school sport in America, with more than 1 million participants a year, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. An additional 75,000 athletes play tackle football in college.

2. According to a 2017 study in the Journal of Athletic Training, football players suffer more concussions than any other high school athletes. During a game, football players are 16-times more likely to suffer a concussion than baseball players and four-times more likely than male basketball players. According to the Centers for Disease Control, during 2005 to 2014, a total of 28 deaths (2.8 deaths per year) from traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries occurred among high-school (24 deaths) and college football players (four deaths) combined. Most deaths occurred during competitions and resulted from tackling or being tackled. All four of the college deaths and 14 (58 percent) of the 24 high-school deaths occurred during the last five years (2010–2014) of the 10-year study period.

3. A longitudinal study published in the Journal of American Medicine in 2017 found no relationship between playing football and cognition or mental health later in life, when the men were 65. The study also found that playing football may have led to habits that had long-term health benefits. For example, men who had played football in high school were more likely than non-players to engage in regular moderate-to-vigorous physical activity at age 35.

4. In the late 1890s and early 1900s, football was such a brutal sport that many players died due to the injuries they received on the field. Between 11 and 20 deaths resulted directly from a football injury during the 1905 season alone. As David Dayen notes, that would be the equivalent today of he 95 on-field deaths. Public opinion was turning against the sport to such an extent that The New York Times ran op-ed on “Two Curable Evils,” listing football alongside lynching.

5. In an attempt to save the game, then-president Theodore Roosevelt stepped in by inviting the coaches of three biggest college programs—Harvard, Yale and Princeton—to the White House for a private meeting and encouraged them to make the game safer. In response to Roosevelt’s request, Harvard coach Bill Reid helped to organize the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (IAAUS), now known as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). In January 1906, representatives of 62 colleges and universities meet to appoint a rules committee for college football. In an attempt to “open” the game, the IAAUS made 19 changes, including doubling the yardage needed for a first down from five yards to 10; creating a neutral zone between the two sides of the line of scrimmage; requiring six men on the line; and establishing the forward pass.

6. To draw attention to the Pasadena Tournament of Roses, members of the Valley Hunt Club decided in 1902 hosted a matchup between two of the best college football teams from the East and the West. The inaugural Tournament East-West football game between Michigan and Stanford was such a rout (Stanford conceded defeat with eight minutes left to play) that the event didn’t host another game until 1916. In 1923 it was moved to a new stadium in Pasadena called the Rose Bowl. That game, played on New Year’s Day, took on the name of its new home, and the “bowl game” was born.

7. Because of the connections between individual colleges and bowl games, the NCAA did not initially hold a championship game. The AP college football poll, which began in 1936, became the unofficial designator of the “national champion.” Between 1992 and 2013, though, several playoff tournaments arose to choose a Division 1 winner. Since 2014, the national champion has been decided by the College Football Playoff National Championship game. The game serves as the final of the College Football Playoff, a bracket tournament between the top four teams in the country as determined by a selection committee, which rotates among six major bowl games (sometimes referred to as the “New Year’s Six”): Cotton, Fiesta, Peach, Orange, and Rose.

8. Footballs used in an NFL game must meet strict and specific requirements, including that they be hand-selected, produced by Wilson Sporting Goods, and bearing the signature of the commissioner of the league (currently Roger Goodell). Before a game, each NFL team must make 12 primary and 12 backup balls available for testing by the referee no later than two hours and 30 minutes prior to the starting time. For all games, six new footballs, sealed in a special box and shipped by the manufacturer to the referee, are opened in the officials’ locker room two hours and 15 minutes prior to the starting time of the game. These balls are specially marked by the referee and used exclusively for the kicking game.

9. Despite their popular nickname, American footballs were never made of “pigskin.” Footballs are made of cow leather, and since one hide can produce approximately 15 to 25 footballs, it takes 35,000 cow hides to manufacture a year’s worth of regulation NFL footballs. An estimated 1-in-952.4 cows that are slaughtered will see their hides turned into an NFL football. Of those, 1-in-58.11 will be used in an NFL game and about 1-in-158.5 of that group will make it to the Super Bowl. The odds a randomly chosen American cow seeing its hide made into a football used in the Super Bowl is roughly 1-in-17,420,000.

Other posts in this series:

The Opioid Epidemic (Part II)The Unification Church • Billy Graham • Frederick Douglass • Memphis Sanitation Strike of 1968 • Winter Olympics • The ‘Mississippi Burning’ Murders •  Events and Discoveries in 2017 • Christmas Traditions • Sexual Misconduct • Lutheranism • Jewish High Holy Days • Nation of Islam • Slave Trade • Solar Eclipses • Alcohol Abuse in America • History of the Homeschooling Movement • Eugenics • North Korea • Ramadan • Black Hebrew Israelites • Neil Gorsuch and Supreme Court Confirmations • International Women’s Day • Health Effects of Marijuana • J. R. R. Tolkien • Aleppo and the Syrian Crisis • Fidel Castro • C.S. Lewis • ESV Bible • Alzheimer’s Disease •  Mother Teresa • The Opioid Epidemic • The Olympic Games • Physician-Assisted Suicide • Nuclear Weapons • China’s Cultural Revolution • Jehovah’s Witnesses • Harriet Tubman • Autism • Seventh-day Adventism • Justice Antonin Scalia (1936–2016) • Female Genital Mutilation • Orphans • Pastors • Global Persecution of Christians (2015 Edition) • Global Hunger • National Hispanic Heritage Month • Pope Francis • Refugees in America • Confederate Flag Controversy • Elisabeth Elliot • Animal Fighting • Mental Health • Prayer in the Bible • Same-sex Marriage • Genocide • Church Architecture • Auschwitz and Nazi Extermination Camps • Boko Haram • Adoption • Military Chaplains • Atheism • Intimate Partner Violence • Rabbinic Judaism • Hamas • Male Body Image Issues • Mormonism • Islam • Independence Day and the Declaration of Independence • Anglicanism • Transgenderism • Southern Baptist Convention • Surrogacy • John Calvin • The Rwandan Genocide • The Chronicles of Narnia • The Story of Noah • Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church • Pimps and Sex Traffickers • Marriage in America • Black History Month • The Holocaust • Roe v. Wade • Poverty in America • Christmas • The Hobbit • Council of Trent • Halloween and Reformation Day • Casinos and Gambling • Prison Rape • 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing • Chemical Weapons • March on Washington • Duck Dynasty • Child Brides • Human Trafficking • Scopes Monkey Trial • Social Media • Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Cases • The Bible • Human Cloning • Pornography and the Brain • Planned Parenthood • Boston Marathon Bombing • Female Body Image Issues • Islamic State