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Rex Lardner
December 02, 1963
The 1963 Silver Anniversary award winners compare the value of the game today with the 1938 version
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December 02, 1963

A Very Hard Look At Football

The 1963 Silver Anniversary award winners compare the value of the game today with the 1938 version

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Would they play football again? Almost unanimously, yes. The Reverend Robert Green, however, would not. A former captain of the Harvard team and currently rector of St. Matthew's Parish in Wilton, Conn., Mr. Green thinks football took up too much of his time. "After viewing it from a perspective of 25 years," he says, "I wish I had divided my time into more activities."

Almost all the rest speak highly of football, citing benefits derived from it that cannot be obtained anywhere else. "There is the travel, the sense of achievement, the solid friendships," says Dr. Holland. "You learn to budget your time and make it meaningful. What I learned under Coach Snavely was to take defeat without becoming frustrated. To look forward to a better day. Some kids can go all through college and not learn defeat. But in football you may get your head knocked off one day and go right back the next, determined to do better."

"Perhaps I would have gotten better grades if I had not devoted the time to football," says Dr. Sprague, "but the experience I gained more than offset what I missed from not taking part in other student activities. There's something about hard physical contact that is valuable to a man. At the time it's an outlet, but in addition it teaches you to accept adversity and to profit from your mistakes."

Brigadier General Dobson points out another value. "The basic problem of prejudice," he says, "is a failure to develop respect for the other fellow. In a contact sport like football, where everyone on the field is accepting the same blows and trying to win for his team, you develop that respect and there is no room for prejudice."

"Football is good for the player," says former All-America Marshall Goldberg, now a vice-president of Emerman Machine Corp. in Chicago. "General MacArthur has stated many times that if he had to pick a man to carry out an important job, he'd pick the one who had played college football. He can stand the knocks and disappointments better."

Nearly all the award winners would recommend that a boy play football at college—but with qualifications. Dr. Hartley believes the football player should take up at least one other sport that has carryover value, such as tennis, golf or swimming. Several thought too many pressures were brought to bear on the big-time college player and recommended football at the smaller schools, but NBC Foreign Correspondent John Hlavacek thinks the choice should depend on the boy's size. "If he is small in size," says Hlavacek, a former tackle at Carle-ton, "he would be better off at a small college. But if he is big and talented, I would recommend a larger college, to let him realize the most from his ability. Small-college football is a lot of fun to play, but I see nothing wrong with a boy attending a big school, forgetting about the fun and working hard to make it with the pros. Football players are valuable pieces of property. There is no reason why the boy shouldn't benefit by letting someone make use of that property."

"I would advise a player," says Davey O'Brien, "to choose a school that offered him what he wanted to study. Next I would tell him that he should play football under the best coach he could find—and I don't mean the best football strategist or the coach with the best record. I feel the character of the coach the boy plays under is more important than whether he plays big-time or smalltime football. I played under Dutch Meyer, and there's no keener competitor. But he always taught us that there was something more to the game than having to win all the time. His first concern was always each boy as an individual."

A kicker and passer at Yale, Gilbert W. Humphrey, chairman of M. A. Hanna Company of Cleveland, has two sons at that university. George is center and captain and Watts is a sophomore on the varsity. Like O'Brien, Humphrey stresses the importance of the coach. "I can't say enough for John Pont," he says. "His relationship with the players is much closer than the one we had with the coaches 25 years ago." He is pleased that players get no special privileges at Yale. "My sons have to take the same courses, and they must maintain the same grades. They don't have to play football. They play it because they like it."

Thus the game of college football—with its rule changes, more intricate formations, greater wealth of plays—remains, despite overemphasis at some schools, as much a builder of the character of today's sophisticated players as it was 25 years ago. As for the alleged increase of abuses, the situation is best summed up by Herman Weiss, who played football at Case Institute and is now a vice-president at General Electric.

"Twenty-five years ago, social, political and economic problems seemed quite remote," he says. "Today we are all involved in them. We are also involved more in morality. Exposing abuses in any field is a popular activity. What might have gone on 25 years ago in collegiate football and been completely overlooked is carefully scrutinized today. I don't believe there was much corruption in college football when I played, and I don't believe there is much corruption today. And I don't believe it will grow corrupt. The people interested in the game won't let it."

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